Reporter REGIO: episode 16

Wood essence extracted with REGIO funding

Success stories, possible with the support of Regio Nord-Est 2014-2020                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

What do modeling, wine, and wood have in common? Apparently, nothing. However, these three elements tell the story of a business that has overcome the challenges of time and production with the help of substantial European financial support. The Olariu spouses, Gabriel and Laura, founded Dias Wood SRL in Botoșani City nearly 14 years ago, focusing on wood processing. With one million euros in funding from the North-East Regional Operational Program 2014-2020, Dias Wood’s operations were fully technologized through the acquired machinery. Now, the Olariu couple eagerly awaits new calls dedicated to SMEs because, as they say, „European funds are addictive.

Modeling and Wine

After finishing high school, Laura went to Greece to work and save money for her studies. She wanted to attend college in London, but her calculations didn’t align with reality. Initially, she did modeling in Greece, then got a job at a luxury restaurant, and later enrolled at the Faculty of Economics in Athens. Juggling modeling, studies, and waitressing became exhausting, so she left the restaurant and joined a small consulting firm specialized in European funds. She worked on projects for startups, and one of her clients became interested in Romania and the business opportunities there. Although Laura showed him several places during a visit to Romania, he didn’t invest. However, the idea of starting a business got into Laura’s mind. „During that time, I visited many vineyards. I knew a bit about the industry because, at the restaurant, I held the position of sommelier. I thought we could try it out. Initially, we wanted to import bottled wine, but we learned from industry insiders that we had no chance. Instead, there was an uncovered market segment: bulk red wine imports. Soon after, we started our own business, with storage space and tanks. We packaged the wine in boxes and sold it to taverns and local wine producers. It was a beautiful business, dealing with wonderful people, family-run businesses. It was different. Until… it ended! By law, bulk wine imports from non-EU countries were prohibited„, Laura recalls.


The moment they had to close the wine business coincided with a customer’s request for oak barrels from Romania to age wine. Barrique as French barrels for this purpose are called, were very expensive. „Back then, we imported oak barrels from Romania, and the customer loved them. He said we had great wood. After the barrels, he asked for lumber. That’s how we shifted towards a wood-related business„, Laura explains. They tried to trade wood in Greece, but it didn’t go as planned. Gabriel would come to Romania for acquisitions, and Laura handled sales in Greece. While there was demand, they struggled with the acquisitions – delays, insufficient quality, and other issues. So, they decided to come together to Romania and attempt to open a factory. Initially, they processed wood at another company’s facility, learning the industry and saving some money. Eventually, they rented a space and acquired a few second-hand machines. They stayed there, paying rent, for 15 years. „That’s how we started, in 2005, with primary wood processing. We didn’t know what we were getting into, we had no idea what production meant in Romania. The first company we had went bankrupt in three years, in 2008. We opened another one in 2009, which is the current one. This field is very challenging. Wood is difficult. If you don’t have technology, you need people, and back then, we lacked technology. We depended on people. We adapted, but it was very hard. We got into the rhythm, we had loans, we played the game. Gradually, we gained important knowledge„, Laura shares. Today, Dias Wood SRL supplies engineered flooring and solid wood flooring to the domestic market and veneer for the international market.

European funding

The first project, submitted in 2010, was a small one, Laura says, with funding of around 300k euros. Everything went well, and the project implementation was successful. They then prepared for other funding opportunities through the new North-East Regional Operational Program 2014-2020. To avoid paying rent, they wanted to change the location and bought land in a neighboring commune of Botoșani. „When the guide was published, we saw that the location had to be in an urban area. We struggled a lot to find the place where we are now, and it came with many hardships. It was the edge of town, nothing was there, no utilities, nothing. We bought the land, then got a loan through the IMM Invest program for the factory’s construction, and after obtaining the building permit, we finished the factory in three months. We started construction in September, and it was completed in December. It was a titanic effort, but we managed to change our location”, Laura recalls.

Since they started wood processing, the Olariu couple had been eager to work with a specific client from Switzerland. However, they never met the required technical standards. After installing the first three machines out of the 15 acquired through the North-East Regional Operational Program 2014-2020, they began working with that Swiss client in 2019. „In our field, we deal with millimeters. We produce veneer for multilayer wood flooring, which is a bit niche. With the newly acquired machines, our cutting became more precise. We needed to achieve a maximum deviation of 0.05 millimeters”, Laura explains.

The lottery win

In 2021, they started production at the new location after the year of 2020 with no activity due to the relocation. It was financially challenging, with the move and the pandemic. Laura remembers they didn’t even have money for fuel. Unexpected help came on a Sunday when they won like 15k euros in the lottery. However, they couldn’t even rejoice over it because the money vanished so quickly. In the meantime, the Swiss client they maintained close ties with and who showed them trust provided an advance payment to start the operations. „When we were learning to use the machines, we wasted a lot of wood. We learned bit by bit. When there was no technology, it was physically hard. Now it’s different; it’s a challenge, and you don’t have time to get bored. The nice part is that technology saves a lot of effort. Furthermore, all the new machines are connected to the internet, and technicians anywhere in Europe can guide us on problem-solving” Laura says.

The Olariu couple believes that Dias Wood SRL has evolved significantly with the technological upgrades made through European funds and eagerly awaits the next funding opportunity. Besides the technological upgrades, the company also purchased a thermal plant that uses wood chips from production as fuel, providing the necessary thermal agent for operating the wood dryers and heating the production hall. „We didn’t inherit anything from our parents; we didn’t steal anything. European funds are our only chance to thrive. Each machine costs at least as much as an apartment. Where would we get the money? With this funding, we hit the jackpot. Once you receive funds, it becomes part of you, addictive, and I’m already thinking about all the things we could buy with the next funding. Now, with all this experience behind us, it’s an opportunity we can’t miss”.

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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