“God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6, ESV).
UniQa’s story is one of light out of darkness.
From the light, literally, of glittering Swarovski chandeliers in palaces, hotels, and mansions, to the darkness of a Soviet-era factory with limited windows, God called co-founder Anatol to lead this company in bringing light and hope to the families of Moldova.
A land-locked, eastern European country of 2.5 million bordering Ukraine and Romania, Moldova is relatively young as a country and suffers from economic, constitutional, and other political crises. Nearly three quarters of its workers leave the country to find work, often for months or even years at a time. Almost half of its GDP comes from its foreign workers sending remittances back home.
Family separation and poverty have social consequences Anatol and others could not ignore. Trafficking, high divorce rate, and orphans are among the most disturbing and disruptive consequences for a society.
As a college student, Anatol studied business and helped launch InterVarsity at his university. He then interned with Schonbek, a high-end lighting company in upstate New York. The business owner who mentored him had a heart for developing kingdom-minded entrepreneurs from around the world.
After fourteen successful years in sales and marketing for Schonbek, which was eventually purchased by Swarovski, Anatol’s heart began to return to his native country. He knew he needed to create economic growth that could reduce the poverty that often leads to family breakdown.
“What can I do?” Anatol asked God. He knew that business done with integrity would be necessary, but difficult in a culture prone toward corruption and compromise. He prayed for a sign in the form of someone who could join him in sharing the risk and burden of establishing a business in Moldova.
“Not just food, but fathers”
God answered his prayer in the form of a businessman from the Netherlands who, for years, had brought volunteer teams to Moldova to renovate orphanages. Over time, this person realized that the children he was serving didn’t need “just food, but fathers.” Like Anatol, he realized that starting a business to allow fathers to stay with their families would better serve these children and stabilize communities. The two began a business partnership that eventually attracted another Dutch partner and grew into what UniQa is today: a company that builds prefab wood homes that can be shipped anywhere around the world for assembly.
The start of the business highlighted the change for Anatol from one of glittering chandeliers in palaces and high-end buildings to a drab Soviet factory, whose light shines bright in the atmosphere, product, and prayer that characterize his business.
UniQa Wall Systems, LLC, (pron. “OON ee kah”) accomplishes multiple bottom lines: its compressed wood paneling technology is energy efficient, creative, and disruptive to the typical brick and mortar style of building materials. Its success is inspirational to other entrepreneurs and investors who can consider Moldova a viable country in which to start or expand an existing business, building up the Moldovan economy. The company’s employees gather daily for prayer and model kingdom values like serving each other and doing business with integrity. Equally important is UniQa’s social impact. The company employs over thirty skilled construction workers, one of whose story below is the reason Anatol wanted to build his company. He says,
I received a phone call from a person who wanted a job. He’d heard good things about our company. He had a four-year old at home, and was often gone for six months at a time for work. One time recently he had come home and his child clung to a neighbor, unwilling to approach his father whom he didn’t recognize. “I don’t want this kind of life,” he told me.
To the Uniqa team, the opportunity to help a family stay together shines brighter than any crystal chandelier.
“For such a time as this”: February, 2022, Russia invades neighboring Ukraine
On the day Russia invaded Ukraine, fear and confusion gripped the UniQa employees. Only thirty kilometers from the Ukrainian border, UniQa’s employees awoke to the sounds of bombing. Should they pack and leave or stay? When they saw the flood of refugees, they decided to stay.
They took a week off from production and converted their warehouse into a food bank from which they eventually shipped food to churches, shelters, city halls—any facility or family hosting refugees. Two UniQa customers from outside the country sponsored mobile kitchens and food trucks. Nearly one hundred volunteers worked with UniQa to distribute food and hygiene items. Eventually, World Vision and other partners asked to help, offering shelter, child sponsorships, and trauma support. More light spilled from UniQa into the surrounding country, as they were able and equipped to serve their neighbor in their time of need. Hundreds of thousands of their neighbors.
While the war disrupted operations for a time, UniQa is resuming its production and distribution. They have acquired a second facility nearby in order to meet the increased demand for their high-end product in the Netherlands, the United States, Germany, across Europe—and now in Ukraine. On September 2, 2022, sponsored by US and Dutch customers, UniQa delivered a home to a family in Ukraine whose home had been destroyed. The family can move within a week after delivery.
While they face many challenges as they grow, the team is learning to adapt and be flexible. They aim to add another thirty workers by the end of 2023 and double their monthly output of completed houses.
(An opportunity is upcoming for you to donate towards additional homes for Ukrainian families. More details will follow in the next few weeks.)
Finally, UniQa’s founders hope that the presence and growth of their Moldovan company will provoke additional investment and business development within the country. There is already a growing ecosystem of entrepreneurs in Moldova who have successful businesses and these businesses may be good investment opportunities in the future. Please pray for like-minded business owners and investors to impact and transform Moldova.
If you are interested in talking to an advisor about investment opportunities in UniQa or companies like it, click over to our sister site, Steward Advisors Group