Interview with Gerti Pershkopia - Participant in the ITP of 2015

Gerti Pershkopia participated in the ITP programme in 2015 as a small business owner of four bakeries. Now he has managed to expand his business through new skills in networking and marketing.

Gerti owns five bakeries in Tirana that he runs together with his family. We meet him in the newest one, Le Bon that opened one month ago. The bakery, located in the city centre, is decorated in a modern way with brick wales and glass counters overflowing with various pastries and breads. Behind the counters, the staff rushes forward to serve the costumers.

“There are not many qualified to work in bakeries so we try to train our workers ourselves. This year we managed to recruit students trained in baking and pastry making at vocational school. We also provide staff with coffee and food. The staff works the shifts in pairs, so that while one works the other one takes a break. It’s humans before business.”

Gerti participated in the ITP programme in 2015 together with other small business owners from Moldova, Georgia, Kosovo and Ukraine. He first heard about the programme at a networking event at Rogner hotel and applied to the programme by submitting a business plan, including the business objectives, financial analysis and a business strategy.  

“The business environment in Albania is really difficult and this sector is especially complicated as it requires work, day and night. The ITP programme is one of the best training programmes that I have taken part in. After the programme I have been able to see and touch concrete results. As a family business, our company has not had a clear structure but now we have a vision of where we would like to go in the future.”

One of the main lessons from the programme was the importance of marketing. Ahead of the ITP programme, Gerti and his family did not prioritise advertising their business. But through their new focus on marketing on social media they have evolved from being a local bakery to offering catering to companies and different kind of events, including weddings.  

The ITP programme also developed Gerti’s way of thinking about his business: “I thought my business was quite large at a time of the programme, with four running bakeries and one starting up. But then I met another participant with over 60 bakeries. I realised how small my business was but at the same time I also saw the potential of expanding my business further.”

By participating in the programme, Gerti has been able to extend his network. He is regularly in touch with the other participants in the programme. They have started a group on Viber in which they are updating each other on how their businesses are going and giving each other advice and tips of opportunities and staff recruitments. Gerti has also invited Albanian participants who have previously taken part in the ITP programme to a meeting at the new bakery in order to create a national network.

Through the programme, Gerti has also gotten in touch with experts in bread from Germany and experts in pastries from Italy.

“I now hope to establish the Swedish concept ‘fika’ in Albania.”