With an inherited apiary and some money from crowdfunding campaigns, Guzel Sanzhapova was able to revive a rural village in Russia by starting a business in honey production. Through this initiative, the residents of the tiny village have found new purpose and light after living through some rough times.
After collapse of the Soviet Union and the flight of young Russians from rural areas, the older generations have seen jobs and opportunities leave their villages. While the elderly get pension, it’s not enough to restore an economic comfort or a sense of dignity. With a new job, more income, and a chance to innovate, the women of Maly Turysh are beginning to revive the village.
Sanzhapova wanted to find a way to sell their honey and help the community. She found that instead of simply harvesting the honey and selling it raw, she could produce a product with a comparative advantage over others. With that, she crowdfunded for some starting money, founded Coccobello, and employed the elderly women of the village. Workers collect honey from the apiary and berries from the village to make flavoured creamed honey. They also make a variety of products such as jams, honey mousses, and herbal teas. The company now has an annual turnover of 20 million rubles (around 300,000 USD) and employs up to 25 people in good seasons.
While she is making a difference, Sanzhapova admits that it will take some time to see a true transformation in the village: anywhere from 5 to 20 years. While the initial establishment of the business was a success, its development, growth, and maintaining will definitely be challenges faced in the future.
No matter what the future holds, Coccobello has given the elderly residents of the area a better income and a sense of purpose. They are no longer simply elders who do nothing and rely on a pension; they are hard-working Russians who take pride in the work they do. As more people leave rural parts of Russia, initiatives like Coccobello might need to be proposed more frequently. Maly Turysh is an example of how the younger generation can help out the older ones without simply giving money or creating a financial dependency on them. For the residents of this village, the sweetest thing they got was not the honey, but the sense of purpose and economic freedom they earned.