Date: 04 Apr 2023
I Can Too is one of the few organisations in the world that can boast more than 400 celebrities, including Antonio Banderas and Dolph Lundgren, as its ambassadors. And over 250 music concerts dedicated to its causes. Despite all the support and popularity in Europe and America, maintaining a foundation is no easy task. This task becomes close to impossible when the pandemic prevents events and reduces the willingness of businesses to make donations.
In the beginning of 2020, after her usual daily meditation, Nelly Radeva, founder and president of the foundation, decided it was time to change its funding model. For years, she relied on business people to support her. Instead of being dependent on them, she chose to create her own company and fund the foundation through it. This is how the Naturelle brand of biocosmetics was born, entering the market in the autumn of 2021 with its first product – rose water toothpaste. Then came a serum and a facial oil with seaweed, with a mouthwash with rose oil to follow.
I Can Too is becoming more and more popular and people are starting to look it up themselves. This is how several filmmakers came forward and offered to make videos for the Foundation for free. The Ministry of Transport also contributed to the cause by putting I can too banners in vehicles and public transport bus stops.
“I don’t remember how much it was. I only know that I could have bought two or three apartments but instead I set up a foundation.”
Sofia Municipality allowed the foundation the use of its billboards. "They gave us a lot of billboards. If we had to pay for them, they would have cost us over BGN 1 million a year."
In 2008, the I Can Too Foundation partnered the parent organisation Children with Developmental Challenges. The Foundation focused all its efforts and identified companies to donate their products and labour towards the construction of a medical centre for children with multiple disabilities in Student's Town.
Meanwhile, actress Diana Lubenova also wanted to help. “Her husband works in Hollywood productions and decided it would be a good idea to have famous actors pose for us,” Radeva says. This is how stars like Antonio Banderas posed with I Can Too T-shirts and become ambassadors of the foundation.
In order for the photo shoots to make an impact, funds for Bulgarian children with disabilities could also be raised in the United States. Therefore, in 2012, Nelly Radeva registered the Foundation in the USA. In the same year, she and her team started working on the construction of a centre for children with autism in Plovdiv. They started from scratch, but found sponsors for everything. In 2015, the centre was already in operation and is the largest of its kind in Bulgaria.
In the meantime, the Foundation helps to adapt housing to the needs of children with disabilities and continues to organise concerts and art exhibitions for its cause.
“There were companies that we had worked with, which wanted us to only work with them. That couldn't happen because we were organising hundreds of events. We tried to alternate so that we wouldn't offend anyone.”
In 2018, the I Can Too Foundation and Fantastiko raised BGN 100 thousand for a “Mobile Therapist”
a specialised vehicle to be used by the Centre for Hope to transport children. “This is the same vehicle for which I founded the Foundation 12 years ago. We finally found a donor,” says Radeva.
t the beginning of 2020 the pandemic put a stop to live events, and Radeva began to toy with the idea for her own business.
She became interested in organic cosmetics and considered whether she could develop her own products in Bulgaria and export them to the USA, where the organic products market is much more developed. She found an investor for the project and created Naturelle.
However, the supply chain suffered setbacks. In the autumn of 2021, her first product, toothpaste, was ready, and Radeva's friends from Bulgaria purchased several units. This served to change Nelly Radeva's mindset and she decided to start selling in Bulgaria after all.
However, she was unable to achieve large turnovers from toothpaste; turnover was important so that she could find additional investors. Thus, she embarked on further products. She showed our team products that have not yet been introduced to the market. These are a moisturising body cream and a designer cosmetics bag that can fit several of the products from the cosmetics line. She shared that for the bags she collaborated with a company which makes some of the world's most iconic brands.
Over the years in which she has worked for the Foundation, Nelly Radeva has created important contacts. With their help, she was able to position Naturelle in 60 stores, including a beauty salon in New York and a boutique in downtown Beverly Hills, all within three months. She says she didn't have to convince anyone to work with her, because this is their way of saying “I Can Too” – I can help Bulgarian children with disabilities.