A Hobby Turned Into a Business | Tamar Mikeladze

Traveling and residing in different countries has the potential to inspire new ideas, and this was precisely the case for me. While I was overseas, I became fascinated by local soaps, their design and packaging. Soap usage has a deep-rooted history in Georgia, and this led me to conceive the idea of creating handmade soaps that included Georgian character while also being useful and environmentally friendly.

In 2017, I began experimenting with soap making, and my knowledge of English proved valuable in acquiring relevant information. In just six months, I felt it was time to establish a business. During this time, I produced several types of soap at home in Telavi and delivered them to a local store. Although the locals showed interest in my products, I often had to explain the benefits of handmade soaps in detail.

The company I founded is named Kumpa as it embodies Georgian traditions. According to the dictionary of Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani, Kumpa translates to soap, and we aimed to revive this ancient Georgian word. Our range now consists of twenty different types of soap, including designs for added diversity, and we have incorporated an artistic touch. Our soaps are effective for various types of problematic and acne-prone skin. Additionally, we produce candles, dry perfume, and lip balm.

Since 2019, my business has taken on a more serious look after receiving a stainless steel table and shelf as inventory from a grant project. This served as new motivation, and we designated a space in our yard to build a special workspace. This coincided with the first year of the Covid pandemic, which, like other businesses, had a negative impact on Kumpa as business contact with Tbilisi was halted. However, we responded to this challenge by switching to online sales, establishing our reputation in the internet space during the pandemic. Even after the pandemic, we continue with online sales.

I primarily run the business alone, with occasional assistance, and now offer master classes as well. Without the support of the GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit), I would not have taken the risk to do so. The project, where I am involved at – “Clusters4Development” supported the preparation of the master class package. Donor support is vital for businesses in the region, as they are not as strong as those in the capital. Awareness raising, training, and business guidance are necessary.

As part of the “Clusters4Development” project, funded by the European Union and the German government, I received valuable advice from field experts who have a deeper understanding on market needs in a region and a wider perspective. This project groups businesses not as competitors, but complementary to each other, achieving various synergies among the tourism cluster representatives in Kakheti. As part of the support, we were given the opportunity to participate in the Christmas market, which is the best way to connect with related productions and generate new business ideas.

The capital city always provides better opportunities for businesses to develop due to various factors. As a project member, I had the chance to showcase my products to customers in the capital, which resulted in increased orders. My next goal is to expand beyond Georgia and consider exporting my products. However, before that, my focus is on ensuring stable production and establishing a reliable system for master classes.

Through this business, I have realized my potential and am gratified by the positive feedback received. In conclusion, I am determined to make a difference in Georgian soap production and set new standards in the industry.

The Article is prepared within the women empowerment campaign #ProudHer. The Campaign is implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and funded by the European Union and German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).