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The Power of Citizen Diplomacy

My name is Cathy Lieberman, and I am the Board Chair of WorldChicago. I have been a member of the WorldChicago board for four years. And I have seen first-hand the power of citizen diplomacy.

One of my favorite memories was when my partner Bart and I hosted Ina Abadjieva from Sofia, Bulgaria in our home. Ina was part of the Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative for emerging European leaders, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.

Ina is a passionate and ambitious young woman.  Ina and her sister started their own company, Rosey’s Mark, in 2012. They specialize in the development of creative food products that incorporate oil from the Bulgarian oil-bearing rose, and their current product portfolio includes chocolate, tea, jam, and rose water.

While in Chicago, Ina interacted with local wholesalers and retailers to understand the supply chain and customer demand. The international conversations she experienced during her Chicago visit seemed to inspire her success.

A year after her visit, Ina’s company’s chocolate recipe was the first patented in Bulgaria, and Ina and her sister began pursuing specialty food importers and distributors to the United States.

Ina was a delightful guest, and this was an incredibly fulfilling opportunity.  Not only is it fun to have conversations with fellows and learn about their personal ambitions, but you also learn about their family, their local government and their culture.  Ina benefited from gaining ideas to grow her business, and her visit provided a cultural enriching experience for all three of us.

Connecting fellows with business partners in Chicago is not only revitalizing economic development but building new relationships and citizen diplomacy.

The YTILI Fellowship Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and supported in its implementation by WorldChicago.

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