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Yakov Elizarov left his home country of Azerbaijan at age 14, in 1993. Today, his business has brought him full circle. His Elizarov Consulting Group helps other business owners make the type of international connections that help them grow in emerging markets.
“We create opportunities where they do not exist," Elizarov says.
Elizarov serves as the official Representative on Business and Economic Development in Eurasia, Central Asia and Baltic Regions for the state of Maryland, as part of growing his business. His business was recognized as the 2015 Startup of the Year by Montgomery Country, Maryland, in the Washington, D.C. suburbs.
1. What sets your business apart from your competitors?
I came to this country at the age of 14 in 1993 from Azerbaijan. I started a new life from scratch and worked my way up with [finance] companies. I graduated from Wayne State University in Michigan while still working, and started my company the same year my wife and I learned we were having our first child, in 2013. This company is part of our family—it carries our name. In four years we have made significant strides and participated in organizing trade missions, including working with the U.S. Commercial Service [a trade promotion agency]. Our under-promise and over-deliver approach, along with high integrity and credibility, continue to position us for referral to new and exciting projects.
2. Why did you start your business?
My goal was always to be a business owner, and I felt it was time to utilize my experience, skills and education to create a legacy for my family as a first-generation wealth builder in United States. I wanted to create a firm that would help become a bridge between countries, those looking to work in collaboration and complementary ways while promoting innovation in United States and emerging markets of the world. My goal was to become a go-to business development firm strategically connecting our clients with what they need to succeed while building a positive legacy for ECG.
3. How do you describe the potential that lies in emerging markets?
Significant, bold and long-term. The strides taken by many countries in Eurasia, Central Asia, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia are significant. Azerbaijan presents great opportunities for international partners as a minor gas supplier to the European Union, with other projects in the works like East-West Transit Corridor, becoming a free-trade zone, the Trans-Anatolian natural gas pipeline and the Shah Deniz gas field, among others. And then take Kazakhstan, for instance, with their accession into the World Trade Organization. They're putting together the 2017 World Expo on Future Energy and creating the legal framework for an international financial center that will be on current expo grounds, which will be guided by international principles. Their industrial and natural resource potential is driving many to look at the country.
4. How has your business grown since you started it?
We have grown in our strategic value significantly. We have become a resource for governments, businesses and schools.
Our work includes:
- Connecting entrepreneurs with new opportunities
- Bringing valuable projects to investors
- Connecting buyers with commodities
- Organizing trade missions
- Representing unique products and services
- Impacting economic and social developments in the U.S. and in global markets.
We plan to expand through growth hack marketing, which will allow us to utilize new technology and explore unconventional means of growing our company and services—innovation, but with a personal touch.
5. What hurdles have you overcome in running your business?
As an entrepreneur and small-business owner, you are overcoming hurdles every day. Just the ability for someone with a family and no outside help to run a business and deal with financial challenges of growing a business and not quitting is a daily hurdle. Believe in the fact that you are going to succeed. You see the impact you are making and you keep going. Believe in yourself and your mission.