A successful producer of wine about the personal choice of being rich
Interview with Luben Rabchev
In this issue I am meeting you with a man, who leaves Bulgaria years ago to seek his happiness. Back then his heart leads him to America, where he becomes a millionaire and makes the so called “American dream” come true. Many years later, it is again the calling of his heart that brings him back to Bulgaria to continue his family tradition by becoming a producer of wine. Here in Stalpishte, Mechka, near the town Rousse, he creates the winery complex “Seven generations”, which highlights the natural beauty of the area. Now several years after its opening, the hotel part of the complex exceeds the expectations for success and begins to fill in so, that it requires planning the construction of another twenty new luxury villas in order to be able to respond to the enormous demand and desire for leisure there. In the wine cellar of the complex there are wines from three sorts of grape, his own production, with guaranteed quality and origin, without any chemistry, which allows them to retain the natural flavor and the beneficial ingredients. Today, this businessman will share with us the interesting story about his path towards the realization of his goals and dreams. His name is Luben Rabchev.
Plamena Petkova for Success Stories Mag:
Hello, Mr. Rabchev. Tell me briefly about the young “YOU” and what made you leave Bulgaria so many years ago? How did this happen?
Hello! This was the time of the “Cold War” and the times were very different. I have never been interested in politics. The only way for someone who has ambitions to succeed was to leave the country. Except that when I left, in our time, we were refugees, traitors, frauds… all the “good” names, you can think of. It was extremely difficult to get out of Bulgaria – no more than 150-170 people a year were managing to do that, reaching the camps in western Europe. Many more were caught and returned to the country. It was another world.
But all these names don‘t matter when you go to pursue your dreams in another country. If Bulgaria is lagging behind now, then it was much, much, much more falling behind, beyond recognition. You shouldn’t be very smart to understand, to see that freedom is not at all what was said at that time. Freedom gives you the right to everything – trade, development… I left in 1968 and back then it was pure terrorism. Whatever music they play to you, you must play along. You go to the free world and whatever happens. Nobody cares what you are. I was brave and smart, I started almost immediately my own business and had many successful businesses since then.
© Seven Generations Winery Complex
In the US you start from scratch, sweeping the floors in a factory, but soon after that you begin climbing the ladder of success and this with the speed of a lightning. Share with the readers of Success Stories Magazine a little bit about your first couple of years there and the first successes you’ve achieved.
Sweeping was for a very short time – 2-3 weeks, then I operated a machine – first small one, then bigger… And while I operated it, I was seeing the machines, I was seeing that I can start my own business – any kind that I wanted. At that time you had to give 5 dollars in the municipality and two minutes later they were giving you a document that you’re a businessman. Nobody cared about anything. You have strenght, you have money, you want to try – try. I started repairing cars, I bought an old gas station that was closed 4-5 years ago.
After that I continued with a business – sales of spare parts for cars. I was just extremely successful because I changed the way how trade was being done. Until then it was like everywhere in the world – you go in the store, go to the counter and tell what you want, as at the pharmacy. But when you don‘t know English, you cannot say what you want. And it wasn‘t just me who didn‘t knew English. There were many immigrants in America at the birth. So we laid out the goods. The business was very successful – I started with automotive parts in 1973, and in 1976 I already had one million dollars, which was a lot of money at that time.
After I sold the stores in Jersey, I bought a very large boat, a 60-ton yacht. You spend your money – you have collecting them for a while, you stop working and start sailing, enjoying them.
But when I sold the stores, the people who bought them kept on asking me “What do we do now?” I told them “If I should change your diapers, I would have kept the business and making money, not to teach you what to do. You’ve had money, you have bought it, now deal with it. You are businessmen, right? ” Those businessmen who bought it were proud Irish – Italian, mixed blood. They couldn’t tolerate neither Jews nor Bulgarians, Russians, Puerto Ricans, which was the clientele. We worked with the poorest clientele because they were buying old cars as well as I was fixing them. The cars back then were very simple and very easy to repair and we were showing them how, we were selling them guiding books and we were teaching them something. We were making courses on how to replace this and that – we were gathering 20-30 people and we were explaining to them. They were all like us – new immigrants – trying to save some dollars. So it was an ideal situation.
© Plamena Petkova
After I bought the boat and as the new business owners kept on reaching out to me for everything, I decided to move to Houston. I bought a house on the shores of Clear Lake, by the water, so that I can put my boat there. But this made me tired. A whole life everyone dreams of retiring, but when you actually do retire, there is nothing to do. So then, to keep myself busy, I opened a store for automotive parts again, this time in Pasadena, Houston, Texas and until I turned around, for nearly four years, they became 16 stores. At that time the system was such – you open a shop, you have certain profit and if you do not continue to grow, you will pay most of the profit as taxes. But if you want to make money, you are capable person – you don’t pay taxes – you take those profits, the capital and you reinvest them in a new store. This way they were making people to become rich. So after the second store, after the third, they began to make so much money that I had to open a new shop every three months in order not to pay the money as taxes. So for these taxes that I otherwise had to pay to the state, my new shop coasted me absolutely nothing.
Many democracies, many republicans passed since then. At that time it was the old capitalism, you are capable, you want to achieve something – you work. You want to live in the ghetto – it’s your choice. Those 16 shops of mine were bought by a then huge company that had more than 500 stores. And the big ones you cannot beat and when you cannot beat them, you join them, merge with them. Love is love, but when it comes the time for separation, you separate. Especially when you go as a winner with a lot more money.
Then came the construction business. From there, from Houston I moved to California, Laguna Beach. I began with construction in Palm Springs. I made a complex of 49 luxury apartments, which were situated on floors in nature, so that everyone could see the valley without anyone to cover the other, with a swimming pool with mineral water.
Those apartments bring you a good income, but you decide to sell them after all. Why?
They brought me five hundred thousand dollars profit. At that time it was a lot of money. I didn‘t want to sell them at all, but when someone puts a big bone in front of you, no one judges winners. If there is profit – you take it.
I invested in other buildings and a factory for plastic packaging. And gradually this factory for six years from about hundred people went up to a thousand people. After Los Angeles – California we went to Ontario, Bowling Green – Kentucky, Salamanca – Mexico and Santiago – Chile. In this business I parted with my partners with a war. Both sides have lost, they – much more than me.
Then again you have tried to give yourself the so deserved rest, but again without success. Why so?
It cannot happen. I then moved to Vegas. I built a huge house, actually enormous. Then I retired, but in Vegas I wasn’t doing anything. I got tired of doing nothing and started doing something, this time in Bulgaria.
© Sedyankov & Kartchinski studio
In fact, you have gone through various stages of profitability of your businesses. Was there a moment when you felt some kind of change in the way you perceive your business and yourself as an entrepreneur and is there a difference in the mindset of a leader who manages a business which is worth thousands, one million and for example ten million dollars?
The basis of the business is the same. For a man who knows the mathematics of business, it’s not important what it will be. This doesn‘t mean that when I know the business, I must also know how to turn bolts and nuts. Many people misunderstand the money and wonder why those who have money work. Money cease to matter. You’ll have 100 of this, and 100 of this, and 100 of that, and 5-6 cars and they will have no value for you. What matters is to build, to create .. Now I started 5 brand new business without having a clue of them, but that doesn‘t hinder me, the bulgarian bureaucracy does.
What made you return to Bulgaria?
I have never had nostalgia, but when someone is aging, he returns to his roots. That’s it, when it comes the time to retreat, you come to withdraw to the stillness, to the quietness, to nature. I am born in a village and I have lived under duress in the largest cities of the world.
© Seven Generations Winery
What do you think of the current state of Bulgaria?
Bulgarians are very capable, very adaptable persons and this country can change for the better future stunningly fast. If the Bulgarians who are abroad return and unite, things can be fixed.
The Bulgarians who have, send money here to support their family, but this money goes to food, or fame, or clothing, they do not go for investments and Bulgaria continues to stay on the same level.
If they come back and apply what they have learned and create, they won‘t be sending money anymore, but they will make twice as much. Bulgaria is hungry for everything. There are huge opportunities for development.
Then it would be very easy to fight the bureaucrats, because when there are many bureaucrats, many inspectors, and there are fewer objects, they have nothing to do. To keep their salaries and not get fired, they come and begin to look for something. They sit down and start to write, tear a piece of paper and give it to you, read it, translate it .. what is it written – you can not decipher it ..
© archive (picture above – the old winery from1941)
© Seven Generations Winery (picture below)
Since your return to Bulgaria in 2009 until now, you have invested more than 6 million euro in the construction of the winery complex “Seven generations” in the area of Stalpishte, Mechka, near Rousse, which opened in the fall of 2014 and it’s just the beginning of your big bulgarian business project. Why “Seven generations”?
I invested here and in other areas and cities. I named it “Seven generations” because I am the fifth generation, my daughter is the sixth – she is much, much better business professional than me. The seventh generation are my grandchildren and besides them, there is now also eighth generation. My great-great-grandfather founded these things (author: the winery business)
What does the rest of your overall project include and are there any other projects you are engaged in?
I do not want to go into details for now, but I can tell you this about this project: Last night we received an email from the World Wine Competition in San Francisco, where we sent three wines – we do also export, we sell in the US – and from those three wines, the Merlot takes the gold medal, the Cuvee – the silver and the Cabernet – the bronze. After competing with over 4600 other bottles of wine – it is a huge success the Bulgarian wines to win. San Francisco is the most serious and tough, because it is the heart of Napa, the US wine industry.
© Plamena Petkova
What does the wine want before you start making it? It wants a warm day and a cold night and it makes the best wines. South Bulgaria makes wines, but they are not long-lasting. They do not have this flavor. The flavor disappears. Out there they have a warm day and a warm night. At the same time near the Black Sea is also not good because of the cold air and the humidity. We don’t have humidity here, because the river lowers the temperature and the wind comes against us, the river makes a turn and it all comes to us. Then there are those clayey soils, exactly what is needed for wine.
Two years ago Robert Parker
came here and gave the wine extremely high marks. If you haven‘t heard, he is the most famous wine critic in the world, and asked us to send him the wines to test them and to taste them, because generally if you want to test them you have to pay from 20 thousand to 25 thousand dollars. He asked us to send them on his behalf, to check them, for the simple reason that there were several groups of American tourists who liked the wine very much and have praised it highly to him after that. Back then this was a bulgarian wine, only a year, year and a half old. Now it matures, it improves itself. We have 330 oak barrels in which the wines are aging.
© Plamena Petkova
© Seven Generations Winery Complex
What is your reason to create and do all of this and do you expect a return of your investments in the near future?
The return of my investments is not in my cards at all. The world continues to exist after me. We are eight generations, yet it will be good for someone. If it is not, there will always be someone who will take over. Money doesn’t matter.
If you go down to Stalpishte, you can see what it is. It was cruelly destroyed, we restored it and now we destroy it. We had to ruin it, because the documents were not properly filled in. There was a 120 years old building – you restore it fully. You make a toilet and a bathroom – you can’t do that before 7-8 months to pass for this person to approve it, that person to approve it… there has been an old bathroom at this place once before…Stupid procedures.. Before us you can go, enter the Danube river and drown without knowing you are in the Danube – everything was overgrown – you show up suddenly with the car and if you drive a little bit faster… After we cleared everything, they came and told us that we have violated the integrity of the ecosystem of the river. Well, go from here to Ruse – everything is overgrown. Go from here to the end of Bulgaria, reach Belgrade… ecosystem… Last year I traveled with a ship from here up on the river through the countries on purpose – the whole of Europe is facing the Danube – the levee, people riding bicycles, every two-three kilometers there is a little restaurant, there are places where the people can sleep over, the people with their bikes with their children are resting. That is eco. This eco of ours – mosquitoes like sparrows. How can it be that there isn’t a single mosquito throughout the whole western Europe? Here we have the latest technology against mosquitos. It doesn’t hurt the plants in any way. It doesn’t kill the bees, but if you spray on them, the other bees do not let them get back into the hive. That is why we do this thing late at night. It doesn’t kill a single fly, it only kills mosquitoes. We spray only our area and my house. We are not allowed to spray anywhere else.
© Seven Generations Winery Complex
Are you preparing any further surprises for us in the near future?
Currently, Colibri publishing house
is at the process of finishing a book, on which we work together with Svetlio Jekov and Raymond Wagenstein
. It is expected to be published in about a month, month and a half and it is about all these things that we are talking about right now, but in greater detail.
Which one is better: the life in an international metropolis with millions of people in the US or the life in a peaceful small village in Bulgaria?
It will always be more wonderful for a young person to live in the big city. When you grow older, you begin to mellow and to seek peacefulness.
© Seven Generations Winery Complex
As far as I know, you think that being rich is a matter of personal choice. In this regard, what is the formula of your success and what are the ingredients of a successful investment?
The most simple thing you can do – write a figure (author: the amount of money) on the ceiling above your bed, as much as you choose. Every day look at it and tell yourself “I have to reach that figure.” You’ll wake up with it, you’ll go to sleep with it. This way you concentrate yourself on what to do, no distractions. You decide what to do with your life. If you want to win – you win, if you don’t want to win – you don’t win.
What would you advise our readers in order to better the quality of their lives?
In no case can I be a doctor. Some people say: „This is the law – no, it cannot happen” instead of thinking how to make something happen. Everything for them is negativity. Their first reaction is: “I guarantee you that it cannot and it will not happen.” And if you guarantee me that it will not happen, how will it happen? Why not start thinking how to make it happen, how to achieve it and forget this mindset “I guarantee you that it cannot and it will not happen”?
Honesty is very important as it was in Bulgaria many centuries and years ago. The world did not exist throughout long contracts, but throughout an honest word, shaking hands and everything goes smoothly. And if you lie you just drop out. Many cannot understand this now.