Valentina Buhnă, founder of Flavorya, on being an entrepreneur and the unusual tastes of dried fruits
The desire to cultivate healthy habits in her family and identify alternatives to trade sweets motivated Valentina Buhnă, a young entrepreneur from Nisporeni district, to launch and manage a business based on diverse tastes, flavours and colours. Her company, Flavorya, comprises a wide range of dehydrated products: fruit leather with unusual tastes, crackers made with germinated seeds and fruit chips. For several years, she has been reinventing the essence of nature through these healthy dehydrated products.
“I did not start [Flavorya] based on a business idea but rather out of my personal need to consume only healthy products – products without preservatives, sugar, artificial flavours or dyes, products abounding in vitamins and nutrients. Pregnant at the time, I was being more careful when choosing food to eat, so it came naturally. I tasted the fruit leather for the first time, and it seemed extraordinarily tasty; I couldn't believe it was only composed of strawberries and baked apple. Called ‘pistil’ in Romanian, fruit leather is dehydrated fruit pulp that resembles a thin sheet. My parents have a wide variety of fruits and berries in their garden, grown organically, and this motivated me to buy a small dehydrator and experiment with all the possible tastes and combinations. This is how I ended up creating over 30 types of fruit leather that I initially adapted to my tastes and preferences and, later, to market demand and consumer suggestions. But that's not all: much bolder combinations followed, such as beet and pomegranate, then carrot and orange. My family and I grow more than half of the raw materials used in Flavorya products in Nisporeni.
Gradually, I started going to local fairs in Chișinău and selling my products there. I started receiving more encouragement and positive reviews, and this gave me wings to continue and expand my business.
Along the way, I realised that if I wanted to offer options for all taste preferences, I had to think about creating something salty. This is how crackers from germinated seeds appeared in the Flavorya portfolio. Healthy and tasty, crackers from germinated seeds dehydrated at low temperature are a rich source of vegetable proteins, fibre, fats and immune-boosting minerals. At first, I didn’t intuit that it would be such an appreciated product, but the response from my customers made me adore these crackers as much as they do. With the fruit chips, it was simpler. I knew exactly what I wanted – an easy and healthy snack for weekend evenings, when we gather with our family to watch a movie.
The business I own allows me to be financially independent, and that's one of the best feelings. Even though I initially didn’t have enough self-confidence, I discovered over time that customers understand the value of my products and that they are appreciated locally and internationally.”
In November and December 2022, Flavorya, along with several other small businesses run by women, participated in the International Charity Fair – United Nations Women’s Guild Bazaar in Riga, Vienna and Geneva. These charity fairs are organised to promote local Moldovan products in the international market while also supporting people in need. The funds raised during these exhibitions will go toward financing several projects aimed at helping vulnerable children and women.
“I received a proposal from UN Women to present my products at international exhibitions and was pleasantly surprised to find out that the fruit leather captured the attention of visitors. I was later contacted by a legal entity interested in exporting this product to Riga. After I test the new equipment and prepare an additional set of documents, we will come back to negotiations. In Geneva, too, the options we proposed piqued curiosity, and I am now in discussions with representatives of an embassy about offering my products, which they would give to officials and diplomatic missions.
During my entrepreneurship journey, the trainings, mentorship and financial support I received have been tremendously helpful. In the spring of 2022, I participated in the Voucher Support Programme* and, based on a competitive process, I received 30 thousand lei, which I budgeted toward a product photo shoot, social media services and paid online promotions. Grants like this are a huge contribution for small businesses because, beyond financial aid, it is very important when somebody supports and believes in you and your business.
For women just beginning their entrepreneurship journey, I recommend identifying a business idea that excites them so much that they can, through this passion, overcome multiple obstacles and crises.”
*The Voucher Support Programme was implemented by Sweet Mary SRL at the initiative of UN Women, with financial support from the Government of Sweden, during the project "Support to local women entrepreneurs in business development, for sustainable growth and resilience against the COVID-19 pandemic".