Polish monks build business empire
The monastery, perched on a cliff above
the Vistula River in southern Poland, is home to a budding business
Its boss sports a hooded robe rather than a sharp suit.
Father Zygmunt Galoch is head of the abbey's year-old commercial arm,
Benedicite, which has big plans for its
range of good food with offbeat labels.
"Our added value is our thousand-year-old tradition," said Galoch.
The monks of Tyniec currently sell dozens of products on their
website, www.benedicite.pl, as well as through a Polish supermarket
chain, but are bracing for a wave of expansion.
"We want to open more than a hundred franchise outlets by the end of
the year," Galoch told AFP.
"They will only stock our products, which are made following the
monastery's ancient recipes, with ecological ingredients and no
Benedicite's wares are made either by the monks or by small family
businesses located, like the monastery, near the southern Polish city of
Krakow, Galoch said.
"The Infidel lemon jam is my personal favorite," said Galoch.
"Why the name? Well, lemons don't grow in Poland. They come from
exotic, non-Christian countries," he said. "The names were dreamed up by
marketing specialists to help better sell our products, which often had
very simple names."
Also on offer are pear and apple "Angelic" jam; cinnamon, raisin and
apricot "Prayer Book" jam; cardamom and plum "Meditation" jam; and even
"Teutonic Knight" cherries in an alcohol syrup.
lacking a sweet tooth can instead try "Novice Brothers'" pickled
mushrooms, or, for those with a taste for it, "Monks' Dripping," which
mixes pork fat, garlic and herbs.
The monks' current range, which they plan to expand to 300 products,
also includes herbal teas, honey, picnic baskets, wooden beer jugs and
liturgical music CDs.
Benedicite also sells the wares of the Polish monks' foreign
brethren, including Pinot Noir and Riesling wine from the abbey of
Pannonhalma in Hungary.
The seed of the business grew from a remark by a participant in a
spiritual retreat at Tyniec, who was smitten by the monastery's cheese,
"He told us, 'You should make more so you can sell it,'" he said.
The monks have a head for business and know how to drive a hard
Slawomir Tomala, a Polish entrepreneur who has been based in Ireland
since Poland joined the European Union in 2004, is considering setting
up a franchised chain there.
"The idea is very interesting, but the monks are asking a lot for the
franchise rights," he said.
According to Galoch, Benedicite is "a business like any other."
"Either you do things properly, or you don't do them at all," he
He kept tight-lipped about the company's finances, declining to
reveal its turnover or provide details of its investment plans and
"The loans come largely from private individuals. Banks cost too
much," he said.
Unwilling to leave the company's fortunes to providence, Galoch has
decided to boost his curriculum vitae, which already includes a
doctorate in theology and Church history, and has started studying
management in the nearby city of Krakow.
He is currently writing a thesis about financial analysis.
But to stop the monks getting sidetracked from their spiritual
calling, Benedicite has taken on 12 lay employees.