Skaptobara Celebrated Its Second Birthday
In the fall of 2013, AUBG alumni, current students and guests gathered at the opening of Skaptobara, a new bar in Sofia meant for the AUBG community. Now, two years later, we talked to the co-founders Angel Ivanov and Georgi Georgiev to share with us some interesting stories.
When did you open Skaptobara?
Georgi: A little over two years ago, even though it seems like decades. Time is relative, and all that.
Angel: We just celebrated our second birthday but it really seems it was such a long time ago. So much has happened during these two years. It is a very dynamic business.
Remind us, how did you come up with the idea?
G: We were drinking beers and discussing what our AUBG friends were doing. It seemed that we have lost contact with a lot of our AUBG fellows after graduating.
In a flash of pure inebriated “ingeniousness” we decided that we should open a bar. The goal was for AUBGers to have a place just for them, where they can gather, socialize and be among like-minded people. For the next three weeks we kept working and drinking, so that we don’t “chicken out” of it.
A: Of course, we had no idea what we are getting ourselves into.
Now two years later, what do you think, has Skaptobara changed? Have you achieved what you aimed for? Is this how you intended it to be?
G: In those two short years Skaptobara evolved and changed way beyond what we thought was possible.
We went from a students’ bar, to an American bar, to a chill bar with cocktails, to a bar with a lunch menu and soups until we finally arrived at a “Beers, Burgers & Buddies” bar.
I guess that is what “pivoting” means. We have now settled on what our identity truly is, and it will be much easier to build it up from here.
Skaptobara now is far broader than what we thought possible or desirable at the beginning.
It now encompasses a greater audience of liberal and cultured people, in addition to the core of AUBG-ers.
Most of them were first brought in by AUBG alumni and are close friends or colleagues of theirs. Some of our regulars did not got to AUBG, they went to Sofia University, they studied in the Netherlands, the U.K., the U.S., and all of them are great people worth meeting.
So, in that regard we did not really end up where we were aiming for. It is better this way, now you can keep in touch with fellow alumni, and you can also expand your network by meeting other great people.
A: What we aimed for was a self-sustaining scalable business and it took us almost 2 years to find the right formula, but I think we’re pretty close. So, in this regard we have achieved what we aimed for. The way we achieved it was completely different from what we expected. We made most of the possible mistakes, but learned quickly from them, made amends and pivoted in the right direction.
You told us one year ago that Skaptobara was aimed at AUBG students mostly. Is this still the case? Has it become more popular among other people from Sofia?
G: Through all that “pivoting” our AUBG friends were right there next to us. They were putting up with our mistakes, jumping behind the bar to help us out, and even waiting tables and cooking on several occasions.
We could not have come this far without all the support of the AUBG community. We are extremely thankful to the AUBG community and it is very important to us.
It is “the core” of Skaptobara, and I don’t think that there will ever be a moment when Skaptobara is not “aimed at AUBG students and alumni”.
A: This year we won a burger contest against the biggest and oldest gourmet burger restaurants in Sofia. If it wasn’t for the AUBG community, we’d never get that award.
G: And yet, the bar has certainly become more popular among local people, and we try to balance that, while staying true to our “core”.
We organize AUBG related events, such as the regular InFocus, where we invite AUBG alumni to be bartenders for a night.
We just had our first live AUBG band play at Skaptobara about a month ago. It turned out much better than we expected, so we might do something more in that direction.
We plan on doing even more AUBG related things in the near future, and we are always open to any suggestions from the community.
A: And yet again, we learned that the AUBG community is not a homogenous body where everyone is the same and has the same taste for entertainment. So we had to take a decision whether to try and satisfy all the various inclinations of our fellow alumni or work on something that we like and enjoy, and can devote our passion to. We went for the latter and I am pretty happy about it because that’s how we are forming an identity. Without one we would die in a pool of mediocrity full of drowning food and beverage businesses.
Hence all the hip hop, for example. That’s what we listen to mostly and are comfortable enough to share with our visitors. It serves our passion and will be part of Skaptobara’s identity along with the beers, burgers and buddies.
What does Skaptobara mean to you?
G: Work 24/7. No lazy weekends. Emergency calls. Disputes with the police. Quarrels with the neighbors. Mistakes. Painful feedback.
ALL worth it. Great people. Great parties. A lot of laughs. A lot of smiles. Positive feedback. Joy.
A: My unofficial MBA. There must be little that can scare me now. And the endless arguments with the other founders – sometimes borderline lethal. I don’t know how we managed to remain friends.
What are the future plans for Skaptobara? Do you still think about opening one in Blago? And about the night club in Sofia?
G: At the cost of a lot of dead nerves, quarrels, and trials and errors, during the past two years we managed to come up with a handful of burger recipes that we think deserve to reach a wider audience.We are currently on the lookout for a place which we can use to share our tasty recipes with more people.
As for opening Skaptobara in Blago, the idea is still alive. In the past two years we learned that long term planning is pretty much useless, nevermind what it says in the textbooks. Hopefully it will be sooner, rather than later.
A: As Joro (Georgi) said, we are working on our expansion strategy. Maybe now is a suitable moment to mention that we are interested in attracting investors for our future projects. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can arrange a meeting.
You told us that you are open towards collaborating with students and student clubs. Do students approach you? If yes, with which clubs have you collaborated?
A: Yes, we are constantly open to ideas on collaboration with any member of the AUBG community – not necessarily clubs. We can help with promotion, event organization, catering, etc. We are partnering with several event organization teams, we are regularly hosting #tbb (twitter bloggers’ beer), Silicon Drinkabouts, Sofia Pub Crawls, company meetings, etc. We are organizing events on our own and often partner up with alcohol distributors to bring different activations and promotions to our visitors. Two weeks ago we supplied 110 burgers to a conference taking place miles away from the bar and the feedback was very positive. As we expand, we will be capable of taking on ever greater responsibilities.
Tell us some interesting stories that have happened during these 2 years.
A: This we are doing almost every Friday at the bar and there are new stories every week. If I try to boldly define them in terms of genre, they’d range from absurdist comedy to crime thrillers to reality dramas. When you learn not to let it get to you, it is a lot of fun. We’ve been screwed by almost anybody since we started that endeavor and would love to tell everyone, but it has to be in private. Meet us in person at Skaptobara and we will be telling you stories without you even having to ask us.
Check out more photos from Skaptobara’s birthday here. Photo courtesy to Hristo Mihalkov.