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Mentors and mentees – Bags and environmental protection.

Mentors and mentees – 
Bags and environmental protection.

Boglárka Lay graduated as a cultural organizer and worked as a librarian for a long time, later on she became marketing assistant, market researcher and customer service assistant. After losing her job, she tried to get back into the labour market for a long time, but unsuccessfully. That's when she thought a big and started doing business. This year she was awarded by the title of Parent Company of the Year in two categories. In order to grow her business, she applied for the Personal Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program.

How did your business come about and what are you dealing with?

I always liked to sew. At first, I was just doing it at a hobby level, but my family and my friends said that I was making such beautiful and good products that they could even be sold. This is how my first sale was realized. I started my own business, BogBag, two years ago because my former job was lost. I am preparing eco-friendly shopping bags, fresh bags and packaging made from certified cotton for replacing the disposable nylon bags. These are made in more sizes and more colours. In addition, I have cleanable and washable napkins, including beeswax napkins and bags being reusable. For order I am also preparing custom backpacks and different bags. I have mainly individual customers buying from me either through my web shop or directly at fairs. My permanent selling place is the Retail Market, where I offer my products on Sunday in every month. I also have corporate clients usually ordering bags with logo and sacks from me. Moreover, I am producing individual products as well.

I consider it important that I am a qualified seamstress. It's enough rare because most entrepreneurs like me don't have such qualifications, they are participating in designing at most, they have products sewn by others. At BogBag, I do everything beginning from the procurement of materials, through tailoring, sewing all the way to the packaging and sales.

Environmentally friendly approach plays an important role in your business. Today, as more and more people should like to do something for the planet due to climate change, your products may mean solution to a problem in this field. Do you feel in the activity of your company this type of focus change?

For me, this is not a new thing, even ten years ago, when this topic was not so high on the agenda, I was paying attention to the environment, for example by collecting waste selectively. It seemed to be a really good solution then, but today we see that this is not enough: we have to strive for prevention, not to produce rubbish at all and not to buy unnecessary products. I try to emphasize this not only with my products, but also, for example, by giving lectures in elementary schools and trying to give this approach to the children. I call attention to such small things that anyone can do without much effort. For example, I show them that plastic straws can be replaced by bamboo, paper, metal ones.

If I know well, you've also started an environmental protection movement.

Yes, the under the title „Nude campaign - only textiles can stay!” In this, I want to draw people's attention to environmentally conscious shopping. I teach them to put vegetables, fruits, and possibly bakery goods „nude” into their bags instead of disposable plastic bags. I offer solutions for this as well. This campaign has three parts: from one hand, as I have already mentioned, I have been giving lectures to schoolchildren, and from the other hand, I have business partners helping to promote this idea, and thirdly, my individual customers "preach the word" on their Facebook and Instagram pages. Perhaps this is why I won the competition „Parent Company of the Year” in two categories this year, which was announced by Gazdagmami.hu. Such moms having children are participating at this competition who are working from home as entrepreneurs.

I was honoured with „45+ professional awards and audience awards”. The latter is surprising to me because there were much better lecturers than me, but it seems that this time people were mainly interested in the environmental issues.

So, it is a lucky thing that your environmental and seamstress „veins” have met each other in your business.

Yes it is, because I have been trying to live and work environmental consciously not only for two or three years, but at least for a decade. As for sewing: when I started my business, I thought that in order to sew and sell such products, I had to learn this job in a professional way, because that is how I consider it fair. Just because this profession also has the acquired catches of small subtleties to be mastered, just like any other job. There is something else being important to me and not negligible for my business, this is the communication. I was always dealing with people, I have communicated a lot helping me for example in sales.

Were you not scared of becoming entrepreneur? That's completely different than being an employee.

It was very scary, but I had no choice. Over forty years old, with two small children, people are not much in demand on the labour market. I tried to go back for two years, but nowhere I was hired to work, therefore I had to move forward alone. Getting a lot of help from other women entrepreneurs at the start of my business made my situation easier, that is why I am grateful to them even today.

Why did you think you needed outside help when you found the SEED Foundation and the Personal Entrepreneurship Mentoring Program?

It would be great to have more clients ordering my products. A mentor with an extensive network of contacts could be of a great help to me. I would like to get encouragement, confirmation, or just constructive criticism from a much more experienced entrepreneur concerning what I am doing well and what I can do better. We may say in favour of the mentoring program that it is possible to get help of a special advisor in a 25-hour time frame, so if there is something that neither of us knows, then we are not lost. I think these are opportunities being worth to take off.  

Károly Bognár