Since 2016, Open Sofia Foundation and the international community online, the “Foreigners in Sofia & Friends” Facebook group, have been the main source of connection, information sharing and support for the internationals in Bulgaria. A success. In 2021, Open Sofia is strategically growing into Open Bulgaria.
The International community of Bulgaria is growing day by day. With tens of thousands of foreigners coming to this beautiful country to work, start a business, create a family, retire or study. They are not only newcoming foreigners and seasoned digital nomads from all over the world, they are also Bulgarians who lived abroad and have come back, or residents with lots of international connections through work, study, or family.
History of Open Bulgaria
A man : Giuseppe Di Benedetto (and his community)
It all starts with Giuseppe Di Benedetto – a social media professional and social entrepreneur from Italy who arrived in Sofia in 2014 for work. Back then, he had only himself to figure out how to create an enjoyable life in a country completely different from his native land. To gain some knowledge about Bulgaria, Giuseppe founded the Facebook group “Foreigners in Sofia & Friends” in 2015. His vision is to create a space for internationals to openly share their experiences and ask for advice. Five years later, the group has grown to become the largest international online community in Bulgaria with members from every corner of the world. A success !
The Open Sofia Foundation was founded in 2016. The goal was to support the community and develop an active network for internationals living in Sofia. It has become the backbone of the international society in Bulgaria. Today, more than 30 passionate contributors work to create content for foreigners to make their lives easier and more enjoyable. The team’s mission is to create an informational space, full of resources, for the international community in Sofia and Bulgaria.
A website : Open Sofia
On 30 March 2020, Open Sofia Foundation launched its official website. The purpose of the online platform is to become the main point of reference for the international community in Bulgaria. It provides information and practical advice on various topics concerning life in Bulgaria and its capital.
In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the team decided to launch the website earlier than anticipated. With the aim to provide important support and information. The current situation made it more evident. The primary goal of the project is to provide readers with reliable and useful information about these challenging days.
In 2021, on the way to Open Bulgaria
In 2021, Open Sofia is strategically growing into Open Bulgaria. Not only is their audience far beyond the Bulgarian capital. They are also strengthening partnerships with communities in Plovdiv and Varna, and working into adding more cities on our map.
The website Open Bulgaria will be launched on 15 september 2021. It contains around 200 articles on the everyday life of an international citizen in Bulgaria. It treats about healthcare, legal matters, real estate, business, culture and leisure, and so much more. They also provide service listings, jobs and real estate offers. In addition to the website, they organize cultural, corporate, networking events, trips, and social gatherings.
Their major partners are Russian, Portuguese and Egyptian Cultural Centers, National Opera and Ballet, Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce; key local NGOs like Caritas Sofia, Best Foundation, Multi Kulti, Synergy Bulgaria, Erasmus Student Network, Teach For Bulgaria; businesses like Edno school, First driving school for foreigners, Trending Topics SEE, Networking Coworking Premium, Hightstreet Magazine, and many more.
The community consists of 32,000 people, active online daily. They give a huge amount of their passion and dedication to their mission of connecting the international community in Bulgaria and organizations that make a difference in this country.
The passionate team behind the project consists of an outstanding international group of professionals and dedicated contributors. In the fields of IT, marketing, communications, production, editing, social sciences, legal, event management, and business development.
Quotes from the planning team
Giuseppe Di Benedetto, Founder
“Foreigners in Sofia & Friends” has been like a family, a neighborhood, a virtual hometown for many of us. We have provided information and connected our people within the international community of Sofia. These days, which are challenging for anyone in general, and for our members particularly, we need more than ever, reliable sources of information, a sense of belonging and connection. With the community and for the community we’ve built a common house for all of us. Open Bulgaria is an ambitious open project where many great people and amazing professionals from all over the world have already contributed. I am proud and happy to be one of them.
Anastasiia Dehtiarova, Marketing and Partnership Director
Open Bulgaria has turned into a miracle for me. Giuseppe pitched his idea of an online platform for the international community in Sofia at the “Pitch 2 Pitch” event in late July 2019. When I heard about it I ran to him because I’d worked for a similar project in Belgium, loved it, and had the necessary experience with content, events, and marketing. Giuseppe, Manuel, and I started working on it, and in October that year, we found volunteer contributors to help us build the platform.
Not only dozens of foreigners and Bulgarians alike came to us in the course of this year with a desire to collaborate. Our network of country-wide partners is growing daily and we’re only looking into growing even more.
As I moved to Bulgaria two years ago, having something so impactful in my life made me feel at home here. Our international family is everything to me!
Manuel Gajo, Co-founder
I’m thrilled to be part of the biggest international community in Bulgaria. I know it will soon be worldwide. Originally from Italy, I’ve always identified as a global citizen as I moved from country to country throughout my life. When I met Giuseppe at a start-up pitching event, I appreciated how this humble fellow Italian managed to grow such a big and resourceful community. It was an instant spark. I had the chance to leverage my technical skills to build the ex. Open Sofia site, as well as strengthening my leadership skills, work with smart, restless ambitious people helping each other to grow and feel at home. What Open Bulgaria really meant to me is friends – and personal growth – I never had such a strong desire to create a personal connection and extraordinary growth opportunity for the people I work with.
Agita Jaunzeme, Lead Project Manager
I joined the Open Sofia project in November 2019 as the Lead Project Manager and I love it! The team is amazing, this project is exactly the kind of work I was looking for – it’s very creative, diverse, and fun. I’m proud to be part of the driving force behind this initiative. I think it’s a game-changer for foreigners in Sofia. I’d be happy to have such a page when I just arrived here.
It was a long way for Open Sofia to become Open Bulgaria and I’m proud to be part of this transformation. I can’t believe it’s been only a year. Not only have we totally rebranded, made a new website and logo, but also personally changed. Now more than ever before, we are on the path to grow bigger and help more people to discover Bulgaria as their home. It is beautiful to watch this path of personal, professional, and technical development. Expanding to Bulgaria for sure is a challenge but together we’re up for it.
Scott Green, Editor in Chief and Web Content Manager
I joined Open Sofia in late 2020. A few months prior I had started my own personal blog and was looking at learning new skills and changing my career, to something that was easier for a traveler to do. Open Sofia has given me so many opportunities to learn, grow and develop my skills, both personal and professional. I have gotten a major boost by being given the opportunity to prove my skills and willingness to learn. I will be forever thankful to the entire OS team for how they’ve helped me to grow and what they’ve taught me, and I look forward to continuing this venture with them into the future. Bring on Open World.
Emil Shekerdiiski, a partner, founder at Networking Coworking Premium, Sofia and Plovdiv
I am grateful to have the chance to know and give a part in the contribution Open Bulgaria has to our country. Most of the new companies opened in Bulgaria in 2020 are by foreigners. Open Bulgaria effect will be felt in the whole national ecosystem.
Ellie Zareva-Hristova, a partner, founder at Edno School, Sofia
Open Bulgaria is the first organization to address the needs of our international community in Sofia and now Bulgaria. With their generous, timely, and high-quality contributions, our beloved Sofia can finally rise to the level of other European capitals. Open Bulgaria is certainly the most welcoming, helpful, and tolerant local community from which both internationals and Bulgarians can benefit.
Ana Tzvetkova, a partner, founder at Highstreet Magazine, Plovdiv
Open Bulgaria contains its mission in those two words. It’s time we connected with the rest of the world and made the expat community feel at home and welcome.
Madame Bulgaria is a webzine launched in June 2016 in English. Our aim is to show to the world how Bulgaria is a very nice country, full of potential. We cover all kind of topics – Lifestyle, Culture, Places, Food, People, Tourism, Beauty, Fashion, Business, Ecosystem, and More. We try to be as objective as possible. Madame Bulgaria crew works every week to offer a new, fresh and dynamic content on Bulgaria.