It’s not rare that what ignites a business idea is simply thinking about how you can improve your own life; and if it can also improve someone else’s – you may have just found your winning streak. Marius Tudosiei (37) admits this sounds just about right.
Inventures.eu sat down with the owner of Bacania Veche to talk about entrepreneurship, counter-intuitive business strategies and changing people’s lives by selling them quality food.
By all standards, Marius Tudosiei seems to be a courageous guy. In 2010, in spite of having gone through two failed startups in the area of PR & Media, he decided it was time to take the entrepreneurial road again. Only this time, doing something that he felt “just had to have something to do with food”.
Marius Tudosiei“I loved the idea of centering my business on food” he confesses “so I put it out there. The catalyst was, I guess, a mix of things: my child, the overall context, the project itself, my unwillingness to sit around and wait for the next paycheck. I just knew that if I were to start a new business, it just had to be about food and about helping people eat better.”
That’s how the grocery store Bacania Veche (“old grocery”) came to life. The initial feedback he received was mixed. His family got behind him. His friends were at first skeptical but they soon began believing in his project. “And my former boss?” he smiles “Well, he didn’t believe me when I said I’d quit, until he started noticing that I wasn’t coming to the office anymore”.
All of the good stuff at Bacania Veche“Things happen when they are meant to happen.”
Marius’ business idea was bred on fertile ground. Romania has, in recent years, witnessed the rise of the slow living movement, with an increasing number of people making more conscious choices about their lifestyle – from the food they eat (which had to be at the opposite end of the fast-food and supermarket “surrogates”) to how they spend their time (more travelling, less TV). We’re talking of course about a certain demographic: mainly 30 to 50 year olds, with above average income, educated, highly preoccupied about their own health and that of their families. Basically, people like Marius.
Bacania Veche was launched during the much talked about financial crisis, but Marius was optimistic from the get-go: “I have this theory: things happen when they are meant to happen. It wasn’t easy but you won’t see me complain. I’m the kind of guy who always expects the best; the good things just kept on coming.”
And even though the general business thinking (and common sense) may tell us that businesses don’t just work simply because you expect the best, you can’t argue with Bacania Veche’s success: its 25.000 euros of starting capital soon saw a healthy return on investment. The business currently employs eight people and one of its major plus points is the product selection, which is exactly what has attracted a steady following and a growing and loyal customer-base.
Marius gets some help from his mother on his cooking show“Just give me a great product and I will get people to buy it.”
But the real hard work starts and ends with the day-to-day management which, he admits, isn’t easy: “I guess you could say that, since it’s a small business, it’s all very easy. But I can tell you – it’s the fact that it’s small that makes it all the more difficult. I’m at a very honest stage in my life. Where I grew up, people were very straightforward, relationships were simpler, more honest; there was nothing artificial about them. I guess that, in a way, in my relationships with the suppliers and my customers, I wanted to recreate that.”
But, he admits, the business wouldn’t be where it is, were it not for the product-focused strategy: “The product is key – just give me a great one and I will get people to buy it.”
For this reason, Marius pays extra attention to the selection of his suppliers. He goes to great lengths to make sure they understand that all products have to meet a clear set of criteria: they have to be all-natural, with no additives or preservatives or “nasty chemicals”, they need to be fresh and, if need be, even home-made or freshly cooked on the spot.
“The truth is I know very little about success”
By the looks of it, Marius is a very busy guy. He is at the helm of several projects: apart from Bacania Veche, he runs Basilicum Food, a catering company delivering – what else – but healthy food and is planning to open Bacania Veche 2 in a new location. Also, he hosts a cooking TV show (Sanatatea in Bucate), gets regular invitations to speak at conferences about topics ranging from food and cooking to business and entrepreneurship and, when he’s not honoring various media requests, he avidly lobbies for small local producers.
“There are people who tell me that they’ve never met anyone busier than me. That’s not necessarily praise; it’s just the way things are. A normal work day is such a whirlwind. I wake up around 7 am. I have coffee with everyone; we start negotiating with our son about getting dressed and leaving for kindergarten. Then I get to Bacania Veche, spend time with customers, draw out the menus, start filming for the show, talk to suppliers, run around town with errands, meet interesting people and do all sorts of things – depending on where the projects take me.”
Still, Marius feels it’s too early to be asked about success. “I know very little about it. I’m too busy to even think about whether or not I’ve reached some form of success – and frankly I can’t be bothered to investigate this subject. Maybe some people would tell you that Bacania Veche is successful. But what I’m really concerned with is how many people’s lives are better because of what I do.”
Marius’ mission is to help people eat better“The plan is to make no plans”
Despite a fast growth that would indicate razor-sharp business planning, I’m surprised to find that Marius’ expansion strategy is rather quixotic:
“Ok, here’s how I see things: don’t make any plans because the plans usually make themselves. For instance, on the day on which we decided to start Basilicum Food somebody suggested I open Bacania Veche 2, which will be a fabulous project – the first charity shop in Romania. I also want to open a small tavern – a place with just 5-7 tables and an open kitchen where I can spend time with the people I love. In my opinion, life isn’t about numbers and figures. My big plan is to change the lives of as many people as possible.”
And, for someone whose business reasoning seems a little counter-intuitive as well as deeply rooted in morality, a certain dose of idealism couldn’t have been missing:
“Being an entrepreneur woke me up but it also let me dream more; it helped me do the things that I believe in, stand firmly on my own two feet but it also made me want to really change the world. In my head things are pretty simple: if you’re a good person, the odds will be in your favour and you’ll get all the help you need.”
I’ll admit: this is not your average entrepreneurship advice, but since there is never any definite set of rules, who’s to say his are less efficient?