Reporter REGIO: episode 18
A business for our safety
Success stories, possible with the support of Regio Nord-Est 2014-2020
It began as a family business in 2014, in their parent’s backyard, in a niche field: the production of chimney cap hats. Since then, they have implemented two European-funded projects from the 2014-2020 ROP (Regional Operational Program), surpassed a turnover of 3.5 million euros, and have become a significant name in the field of professional chimney systems with ceramic and stainless steel ducts, certified at the European Union level.
Răzvan Anăstăsoaie and Liviu Baltă, one from Bacău city and the other from Cluj city, met in their childhood at a camp and kept in touch over the years. Life brought them to the roles of in-laws, as their wives are sisters, and as partners in the company they founded together in Comănești city, AB Group Ceramics SRL. Under the name Kaminhorn, they set up a kind of garage in their parents’ yard and organized a small production line for concrete chimney cap hats.
From chimney accessories to ceramic chimneys
Răzvan came from the sales field in construction materials, and in his last job, he sold chimneys and ventilation components. Customers from all over the country were asking for chimney accessories, the cap hats. There was demand, but not much supply. There were only two products on the market. This is where the idea of a business came to life. They copied an existing model, developed it, and took it to another level. In a few months, they certified the product, and within a year, the chimney cap hat made in Comănești was on sale in major DIY stores nationwide. „In 2015, we realized that this part of the business is quite a small niche. We weren’t making huge figures. In the first year, we had a turnover of 50,000 euros. It was little. We thought about how to develop further. We had two options: to make only concrete elements like blocks, pavers, and curbstones, or to make the entire system of professional chimney caps. The latter idea appealed to us much more. When we researched it more, we realized that a chimney cap is the most sensitive part of a home. And by doing what we do, we secure our customers’ homes. In 2016, we started producing ceramic chimneys, and we are the only Romanian brand of ceramic chimneys. Our competition includes multinational companies from Europe,” says Răzvan Anăstăsoaie.
The first European project
The need for development, production capacity expansion, and product diversification led to the first European-funded project in 2017. They obtained 160,000 euros in non-refundable funds, which were invested in state-of-the-art equipment that helped them grow, Răzvan says. „It was our first experience with European funds, and it helped us increase our production capacity. In the beginning, everyone told us we wouldn’t get any funds. But we had a goal, and we pursued it. We didn’t let others influence us. One of the keys to success is not giving up. We made a plan, we knew what we wanted, and we felt that this was what we wanted to do. Beyond all the financial benefits that a business brings, there is also the fulfillment of the purpose you have in life, professionally speaking. Entrepreneurship involves an aspect of intuition, and we felt that this was right,” says Răzvan. In 2019, they also started producing stainless steel chimney caps.
The second project
At the beginning of 2020, the second project followed through the 2014-2020 Regional Operational Program, with a total value of 4.4 million Romanian Lei, including 2.6 million Lei in non-refundable financial assistance. This project started more slowly due to the pandemic and its implications: long response or equipment production times. For example, equipment initially designed for an 8-10-week production timeframe took 200 working days. However, the project was successfully completed this year in June and focused on diversifying production and products. They turned to a future trend they noticed at international fairs they attended: building ventilation. Malls, restaurants, and large buildings require ventilation systems to remove stale air and introduce fresh air. „In Romania, there is a more developed market for restaurants, but it is developed with galvanized steel ducts, while we work with stainless steel. Abroad, only stainless steel is used. Here, we saw an opportunity to diversify the product range through a large-value project. We thought it would be better to dream and think big, with high values,” says Răzvan.
The only Romanian producer exhibiting at the Verona Fair
Last year, through the project, Kaminhorn participated in the largest industry fair in Verona, Progetto Fuoco, which brings together the most important heating system manufacturers. Out of 800 participants, Kaminhorn was the only Romanian producer to exhibit. They received many inquiries at the fair, including from Uruguay, and realized that participating in such large-scale fairs gives them confidence that they are doing the right thing. Even though not all equipment had reached the ventilation production line, they stayed in touch with customers and resumed discussions recently when the line was complete. Răzvan and Liviu pledged to participate in such fairs at every opportunity because they provide valuable information and high visibility.
Shared values have formed a team
The two brothers-in-law say they rely heavily on the team they have built. They have 40 employees in all departments, and in recent years, they have managed to attract high-quality individuals from various cities across the country with experience, who inspire and encourage others to flourish. They are motivated, bring forth ideas that develop the company, and energize those around them. These people share the same vision and believe in growth and evolution. At the same time, their partnership, built on shared values, bears fruit and brings them fulfillment and growth. „If you start a journey with the sole idea of making money, you start alone. If you start with the idea of developing something, you can’t help but attract others. In our case, we are two partners, but we have also selected 3-4 people from the company into a top management group that we involve in decision-making and from whom we listen to ideas. A well-done business with integrity and trust offers the opportunity to build a relationship with someone. We have traveled across Europe together, attended fairs, taken our families with us wherever we went, and spent time together. Our business has enabled us to create memories together that have developed our relationship,” says Răzvan Anăstăsoaie.
Kaminhorn currently holds around 10% of the market share in Romania’s chimney cap market. The turnover has visibly increased each year, from 50,000 euros to 3.5 million euros, an evolution that would not have been possible without the two European-funded projects through ROP, says Răzvan. They opened a showroom in Cluj at the end of last year, and this year, one in Bucharest. Their goal is to start selling in Western Europe and expand to another continent within three years. They already have a direction for the future: automated lines with robots. „Since we submitted this project, we started thinking about the next one. The project that was just completed was designed for this location, but we realized that we needed more space. Regarding equipment, we already know what we need to move to the next level. What is the next level? A project of 2-3 million euros. We know the manufacturers; we’ve been to see them, and we know what robots and automated lines entail. Our competition from Poland, France, and Ukraine is already operating at this level. If we want to reach that level and cover a market share in Europe or other regions, this is the level of investment required. Probably the next project will be at a minimum of 2 million euros. We are always looking for projects because, in production, you need continuous improvement to maintain high expectations,” says Răzvan.
Reporter REGIO is a new North-East RDA initiative, which focuses on promoting the successful projects of our beneficiaries, projects that have managed to stand out by bringing added value and impact to the community. At a time when negative news predominates, we offer you beautiful but true stories for reading, meant to strengthen the belief that „it is possible”! Be part of the story!
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