High school English teacher Shpejtim Thaqi moonlights—but usually only if there’s sufficient sunlight. For that is when Thaqi, 32, cranks up his second job as Kosovo’s only blackboard chalk manufacturer.
A recent sunny spring day found Thaqi back home from teaching, standing in his yard amidst several thousand brilliantly white sticks of chalk laid out to dry on net beds. Boxed by the 100, Thaqi sells the dustless chalk wholesale, $1.40 (1 euro) a package, to bookstores and school supply distributors across Kosovo.
“The idea came to me while I was teaching,” Thaqi says in explaining the genesis of his company, Rizoni. “Whenever I picked up a piece of chalk, I saw the labeling on the box was written in another language. And so I thought, ‘Why can’t people produce something here that is so easy to make?’”
Thaqi launched Rizoni in 2012, thanks in large part to USAID. The Agency, through its Young Entrepreneurs Program, contributed approximately $5,500 (4,000 euros), a matching grant to purchase a year’s worth of calcium carbonate and calcium sulfate, which Thaqi combines to make his dustless chalk. The World Bank through its Community Development Fund joined USAID to match the grant with the necessary equipment to produce chalk.
“It’s not so complicated but it makes a lot of chalk,” Thaqi said of the machine, which sports six honeycomb molds capable of churning out 30,000 pieces a day. Since August 2013, 60 net drying beds, each laden with chalk, will routinely fill Thaqi’s yard.
For now, Thaqi says he still earns more from teaching. However, he recently landed a 10,000-box order from a Pristina-based office supply distributor with stores in Kosovo, Albania and Montenegro.
USAID's Young Entrepreneurs Program, which ran from September 2010 through September 2013, was designed to assist young enterpreneurs by strengthening their business skills and providing small grant assistance.
Last updated: March 10, 2014