A dream cast in carbon steel
SMEs require trustworthy financing partners for their survival and growth. Many small businesses start as an idea, with little else backingthem. This was certainly the case of Romanian husband and wife team Adrian and Adela Căţoiu who embarked on a dream with only USD 100 as starting capital.
Some 23 years ago, the fresh-faced mechanical engineers on their first professional placement in a carbon steel fittings factory found themselves faced with the stark reality of their industry. While in Europe large companies had the benefit of resources to move with the times, in Romania the fittings industry was underdeveloped and simply did not respond to the needs of the customers it was serving. Existing factories were old and the technology used was obsolete.
A regal dreamOn 26 August 1991 the Căţoius set up their company as a beacon to guide their industry on the journey into the 21st century. Their business, which they named SARA – “the name of a princess” as Adela informs us – produces carbon steel fittings. Among other uses their items are mounted in chemical industry installations, refineries, shipyards and water supply deadend mains.
Adrian and Adela’s ambition has always been to produce the best possible product. Whilst the couple freely admit that it has not always been easy, setting up their business has clearly been a labour of love: “We have enjoyed every minute of it and we always will. It has all come so naturally. The only thing which is exceptional in all of it has been the output.”
Loans fuelling developmentBut dreaming can only get you so far when you have a mere USD 100 in your pocket. SARA soon realised that to move forward they would need to start contracting loans. They began their partnership with EIB intermediary CEC Bank who accepted Adrian and Adela’s business minds as their capital. “We believed from the start in our partnership with the bank. And the bank believed in us too. We have always observed credit contract clauses and in this way we gained the bank’s confidence.”
In total SARA has received loans amounting to EUR 9.9m and their dream is becoming a reality. In terms of the size of their manufacturing range they rank first in the world and they are among the top three European companies when considering their monthly production volume.
“Our company champions product quality and answering customers’ requirements and expectations. Throughout our journey banks have fuelled us. The good brains and the wonderful employees would have been useless in the absence of loans. The reason behind the loans has always been development, continuous enhancement of the business, but also the wish to prove that the dream can come true even if it starts with no capital at all.”
From humble beginnings the company, based in the small town of Buzău, has grown to provide employment for almost 200 people. Plans for expansion continue; their vision is to create another 200 jobs in the next four years and they are now investing in capacity building to develop employee expertise. “We feel that CEC BANK stands by us. We feel that our town is proud of us. We feel that employees and their families suffer and rejoice with us. We won’t stop here. We have always wanted more. Our dream shall go on.”