For the years of successful operation the BSC SME has developed the following instruments for SMEs support:
o Business Incubators for support of start-ups – the first business incubator in Bulgaria has been established by the Business Support Center for SMEs in 1997 as a pilot project in conditions of hyperinflation. In spite of the hostile economic environment at that time, BSC SME has proved that the world practice of business incubation can be applied in Bulgaria. After its success the business incubation practice has been adopted as national policy by the Bulgarian Government to fight unemployment and foster entrepreneurship. BSC SME helped the establishment of incubators all over the country. BSC SME has also started and developed a second and third business incubator along with a so-called “Virtual Incubator” – the companies use the start-up credit or the machine leasing system or both without using the premises. Two of the companies from the virtual incubator are high-tech. The Business Support Center supports the initiative of the Ruse University for Business Incubator JUNIOR. It is assisting prominent students in their preparation for the real business environment. BSC SME has transferred its know-how to the University Business Incubator in Giurgiu, Romania. The greater part of the tenants have never had their own business till the moment they entered into the incubators. From this point of view the Business Incubator is a great opportunity for the support of start-ups and contributes to their future development. In total 97% of the incubated business is production – high-tech, food, agriculture and industry. The remaining 3% are companies offering services.
o Machine Leasing – with the financial support of the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs BSC SME has implemented successfully the “Machine Leasing” project and founded BC Leasing Ruse Ltd. as a trading company, whose main activity is conducting leasing transactions. Currently only finance leasing contracts are being signed. The mission of the company is to support the development of the Bulgarian industry by offering the opportunity for purchase on leasing of machines, technical equipment and vehicles.
o Guarantee Fund – In 2001 with the financial support of PLEDGE Program of the US Department of Labour has been established a regional Guarantee Fund as a pilot project. It is providing guarantees as collateral or co-guarantee for obtaining of bank loans, thus enhancing easier bank crediting for the small businesses.
o Small loans for environment friendly agriculture – Business Component of the World Bank Project “Wetlands Restoration and Pollution Reduction Project” – The project covers the territories of Natural Park “Persina” and “Kalimok/Brashlian” including Ruse Region and is financed by The World Bank. The business component of the project is financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Austrian Government and its aim is to support the sustainable development, creation of jobs, providing conditions for starting business and permanent employment through supporting the environment-friendly farming.
o Small credits line – BSC SME also offers small credits line to its clients in order to facilitate SMEs access to loans in order to develop their activities. The leasing company of BSC SME manages the line.
o Approved Consultant for HVB Bank Bichoim and Hebros Bank for a period of one year: On 23rd March 2006 BSC SME and HVB Bank Biochim Jsc. have concluded a Framework Agreement for creating conditions for absorption of financial resources under European Union and other international grant programmes.
o Enterprise Europe Network – for the period 1999-2007 BSC SME has been the host organization of one of the 8 Euro Info Centres in Bulgaria, part of the official network of the European Commission in support of SMEs. From the beginning of 2008 the Euro Info Centres Network united with the other European network – the Innovation Relay Centres to form the largest information and consultancy network in support of SMEs in Europe – the Enterprise Europe Network. With the help of modern online technology the contact points connect among themselves and directly to DG Enterprise and Industry of the European Commission in Brussels, thus having access to up-to-date information on almost every topic of interest to the SMEs (business cooperation, EU legislation, innovation and technology transfer, SME Feedback mechanism to the Commission). The network comprises of more than 600 contact points with more than 3000 experts in about 60 countries. BSC SME participates in the Sector Group “Tourism and Cultural Heritage” and in the Sector Group “Creative Industries” of the Network.
o FirstClass Information System – BSC SME has developed and supports SME Information System by use of licensed FirstClass Intranet Server (FCIS) with 20 permanent and 20 distance users working at one and the same time, for the needs of the Bulgarian Association of Regional Development Agencies and Business Centres (BARDA). The Information System is divided into conferences. Some of them are public and allow free access for exchange of information, best practices, documents, knowledge.
o Internet Provider – The Business Centre started operating as ISP by participating with 75 % shares in ELITS Ltd. in 1997. Then it instigated the incorporation of ELITSAT Shareholding company as Internet wholesale provider via the only full-duplex satellite connection with Loral-Orion until May 2002, and at moment with UUNet Vien for Northern Bulgaria, where BSC SME - Ruse still holds percent of the shares, using optic connection from Level3 Frankfurt. Currently the construction of a new optical and wireless communication in small towns in the region has been started.
Services, consultations and trainings
o Possible support of potential investors in identifying the right partner;
o Consultations in Bulgarian legislation, taxes, accounting and others;
o Developing Business Plans;
o Identifying the right partners for establishing joint ventures and cooperative productions;
o EU project writing and management consultations;
o Establishment of social enterprises – support to disabled people;
o Organizing seminars, trainings and public events on different topics – “Start Up Your Own Business”, “Improve Your Business”, organic farming, waste management, IT topics, regional development;
o Cross-border cooperation – Business Support Centre has worked on CREDO Programme (the predecessor of PHARE CBC) as an Interim Secretariat and Contracting Organization of the cross-border region Bulgaria - Romania. It helped applicants develop their projects and was responsible for the monitoring of the implementation of 7 projects for cross-border development;
o PUM – BSC SME has been regional representative of this senior experts programme of the Dutch Government since its establishment. The Programme has provided Dutch senior consultants to interested companies in order to solve their specific problems and increase their competitiveness. It has been closed with the accession of Bulgaria to the EU;
o SES – Senior Experten Service – since April 2010, BSC SME is the official representative of SES Programme for the regions Ruse, Razgrad, Silistra and Svishtov. SES supports small and medium enterprises by providing senior experts, which after finishing their active professional life have joined the programme to grant their knowledge and experience for free.
o Experience with foreign investors – BSC SME also has an experience with foreign investors – German and Italian – in consultations about the general economic situation, legislation, tax regulations, accounting in Bulgaria, as well as registration of their companies in Bulgaria. It has large Database about regional companies available and organizes direct meetings between Bulgarian companies and foreign investors and cooperation partners, providing assistance in finding eligible Joint Venture partners. In one of the cases of investing of a personal risk venture portfolio of a German entrepreneur, a consultant of Rousse Business Support Center has been a general representative and acted on behalf of the German owner and the company itself was registered in Rousse by the Business Center. BSC SME provides assistance in concrete foreign investors enquiries as well as in cases when the investor has a venture capital portfolio and is interested to find eligible companies to invest it, registration of the company, selection of personnel, office services, etc.;
o Cluster establishment – BSC SME staff provides consultations and technical support for the creation of cluster structures. Up to now it has assisted companies to establish two clusters: a Poultry producers cluster in North Central Planning Region of Bulgaria and an Industrial cluster “Agricultural equipment” in North Central Planning Region of Bulgaria.
o Regional and national economic development strategies – Business Support Center for SMEs is a member of BARDA (Bulgarian Association of Regional Development Agencies and Business Centers) since its foundation in 1996, as a co-founder, till April 2010. The Executive director of the Business Center is member of regional and national workgroups and Steering and Planning Committees of government, regional authorities and NGOs for development of strategies for SME support and economic development, Structural and Pre-accession Funds.
o BSC SME was the only regular Bulgarian member of the European Association of Development Agencies – EURADA and has received recognition by being entrusted the organisation of the 9th EURADA CEEC Congress in Ruse, held on 9-10 September 2009.
o Specialization – BSC SME staff has been trained by DG Enterprise and Industry of the European Commission as well as by Canadian and American experts in establishment and development of cluster structures, e-market services, EU Structural Funds and regional policy, development and implementation of EU projects, venture capital funds, export marketing, regional development management and facilitating economic transition, business and management, management of financial instruments.