The AUBGers go-to place that adapts to the needs of its customers just like a friendly Chameleon – Hangout, celebrates its first anniversary.
Coffee and breakfast. Study spot. Or a chill night out.
Choose the time of the day and Hangout will offer the best atmosphere as the nearest hangout place around the AUBG campus.
The inception of the business idea happened during a summer in the United States for Work and Travel Exchange program. Darina Stanoilova (’22), who was a third-year student at the time, and Ventsislav Trenchev, a current forth-year student at AUBG, talked about the experience they were gaining at the workplace during the summer and how they would like to transfer it to Blagoevgrad to fill the niche of a place to hangout at around campus. This is why they decided to apply for the Elevate Accelerator and became part of the third season of the program. In April 2022, they were among the winners of the season winning a fund that helped them secure the physical space to start their business.
“We were very shy and worried at the beginning and had almost zero confidence and even less knowledge about how to run a business,” Darina said. “Nevertheless, once we got accepted at Elevate and started attending the workshops and mentor’s sessions – we cleared our idea and vision of Hangout, validated the problems we had defined and came up with our solution – a chameleon type of a place that adapts to the students of AUBG’s needs and wants.”
The place functions differently throughout the day which gives the opportunity to solve different problems:
- In the morning it operates as a workplace where people can study, have breakfast, and drink coffee;
- In the afternoon the place becomes crowded with people who want to hangout and socialize;
- And in the evening we turn it into a cocktail bar with signature drinks.
The mentors and the Elevate team were helpful and supportive throughout the whole program. Their advice and stories of challenges and success helped the Hangout team stay motivated and determined.
“They gave us those additional push which was very much needed especially in times of low motivation.”
“The investment that we won was another boost that not only stabled us financially put mentally as well, because when there is someone who believes in your idea and is ready to invest – your motivation for achieving this idea is way higher.
The Chameleon Traits
Quality and innovation are the key values of Hangout. Their syrups, cordials, infusions and premixes are meticulously crafted in-house in order to yield the best results for the final drinks which give the unique element of the bar. The team pays attention to each detail of the menu and not only.
“We are constantly developing new seasonal menus which again the very adaptive and chameleon-like characteristic of Hangout.”
We work only with clear ice which is created with a Japanese Hoshizaki machine. The machine makes big ice cubes that do not dilute the drinks as dilution is one of the most important processes in the craftsmanship of cocktail making.
Work and Travel Impact
Even after starting their own business, the couple decided to still go for Work and Travel (WAT) to support further their financial investments in the business and gain more insights of the field. In the summer of 2023, they dived into the Manhattan’s restaurant world.
“Our WAT experience played a great role not only for developing the idea at the very beginning, but also for building our philosophy for the hospitality industry. This experience taught us good and bad practices, set up some basic standards that we aim to cover and provided us with a diverse experience of front and back-house.
First Year Recap
Hangout opened on Dec. 12, 2022 and although it hasn’t operated fully for 12 months, as they were closed for the summer, the team the team has already expanded both in terms of team members and of business offerings.
“Looking back to that day, I remember me and Ventsi being very nervous about what is going to happen. It was a very busy day for us and honestly, I have no idea how we managed to do it. Nevertheless, since then we have grown a lot, improved and developed so many techniques.”
The Hangout Team at the Halloween Party 2023
During the past year they managed to keep the place running from morning until the evening, transforming the place to embrace the spirit of various holidays and seasons’ mood. Hangout became the go-to place for in-between classes chill and late night socializing during the thematic events.
“Our small team also grew. Boryana, a third-year student at AUBG, joined us last year and has been of great help for us. She is super creative, motivated and passionate. This semester my sister, Malvina joined the team as well, starting her own branch of bagels and sandwiches. Thanks to her, Hangout is now a place where people could also have homemade snacks or other things to eat. She is very careful, precise and hard-working. We are very grateful for having both Boryana and Malvina at Hangout. Without them it wouldn’t be the same.”
As Hangout looks toward the future, the goal is to expand way beyond the campus. The chameleon-like adaptability that defines Hangout continues to evolve, ensuring its place as a vibrant hub within the heart of AUBG’s community.
“We use the time when Hangout is closed during the holidays to develop new menus and recipes or take new courses.”
“There are many other techniques that we looking forward to bring at Hangout, both for our coffee and alcoholic drinks. We are also hoping to expand our target audience outside its AUBG’s boundaries and attract other guests from Blagoevgrad or Bulgaria in general.”