Who are the people who dare to put effort, fail, stand up, adapt, and continue trying to influence the social and business environment in Bulgaria? How many of them are out there? Are they all entrepreneurs in a certain way? In his book The People Changing Bulgaria. Inspiration in 30 Stories (AMG Publishing), freelance journalist and translator Daniel Penev looks for the positive examples of people who’ve chosen to stay in the country and drive positive change here, instead of just pursuing a career somewhere abroad.
The book consists of 30 stories of tech founders, sportspeople, artists, activists, business leaders, and teachers, and was released on November 1, the Day of The National Revival Leaders in Bulgaria. It’s been in the making for a bit over a year and builds on his work as a writer with TrueStory.bg, a website where he contributed stories about individuals he found inspiring between 2015 and 2018.
Here’s what Daniel Penev told us about his motivation to put together exactly these 30 stories on paper:
Trending Topics: For whom is “The People Who Change Bulgaria” written?
Daniel Penev: It’s for everyone who needs inspiration, regardless of age, gender or location. But above all, I hope this book reaches students and young people aged up to 25, who are now looking around and thinking of their careers and what they want to achieve. And if we reach the skeptics and manage to convince them that there are great things happening in Bulgaria and there are positive examples, this would be a win.
What unites the 30 stories in the book and why did you choose exactly these people?
An exceptional business or social achievement, social engagement, and give-back mentality – these were my criteria for choosing the people whose stories I tell in the book. I’ve featured a wide palette of personalities – from teachers to entrepreneurs, to artists, they all have different qualities, backgrounds, and stories to tell, but what unites them is their values. All of these people see the challenges and problems in their environment as an opportunity to invest their knowledge, energy, and resources in finding solutions. They don’t complain. It’s interesting to see the pattern – regardless of whether they face walls and burdens, these people try to find a way to go around them. Probably the most inspiring part is that all of them have risen above their individual material well-being and want to contribute to a community. Noteworthy, all of them are doers.
How often do these changemakers fail?
I don’t like words like failure and success. I’d say that the people I’ve featured in the book don’t give up just because there’s a burden. One example of this is Hristo Tenchev, one of the co-founders of SoftUni. Part of his story concerns the challenge he and his colleagues faced at the beginning of their undertaking. Initially, they intended to establish an accredited university for software developers. However, when they identified the deficiencies in the Bulgarian higher education system and when they saw how slow and heavy the accreditation procedure is, they decided to create a more flexible private academy focused on equipping students with practical skills and, thus, helping them find a suitable and well-paid job in the IT sector.
Why 30 stories?
In November 2019, we mark the 30th anniversary since the beginning of the collapse of the communist regime in Bulgaria and the beginning of the country’s transition to democracy.
Which story or person was the biggest surprise for you?
Probably Kiril Petkov. Before I interviewed him, I had seen him only on television, but I found him through a friend of mine. I got really inspired by his humility. At the end of the day, he’s a successful entrepreneur who’s conquering the US and other markets with his innovative product, he’s initiated and is still involved in the affiliated Harvard Business School courses at the Sofia University, and he started the biotech Center for Applied Studies and Innovation (CASI), where Sofia University students aspiring to become scientists have all they need to do high-quality scientific work. Not only does he invest in developing the ecosystem and the environment around him but he also contributes to other causes, such as helping with the organization of the search of Bulgarian mountaineer Boyan Petrov who disappeared in the Himalayas in May 2018.
What’s the one thing you wish the reader takes away from your first book?
The change does not have to be as grand as the creation of the next Facebook or the development of a theory that will bring a Nobel prize to its creator. Instead, it’s the small decisions we make every day to make our environment a bit better that will ultimately make the change we long for reality.
The People Changing Bulgaria. Inspiration in 30 Stories (AMG Publishing) can be found in bookstores across Bulgaria and online. More information about the book can be found on its Facebook page.