On the surface and without research, Iliyan Kuzmanov may seem like a best-selling author with financial success in the London business market, but that doesn't begin to tell his story.
Kuzmanov grew up amidst poverty on the streets of Bulgaria, a nation that still ranks in the top ten poorest countries on Earth. Almost 700,000 people in Iliyan's home country are considered to be extremely poor, whole four in ten are at risk of falling into poverty.
While he experienced a sheer lack of wealth in his childhood, Iliyan eventually found his own path to riches, but that does not necessarily go hand-in-hand with glory.
Now a best-selling author with his book, If You Meet Buddha, Kill Him, as well as running a financially successful business in London, Kuzmanov is far better off than many back in his homeland. However, it is not wealth that defines the man, but how he has chosen to dedicate his fortune, his time, and his blood, sweat, and tears.
Working as a prominent social activist and social entrepreneur, Iliyan Kuzmanov has now devoted his life to fighting social injustice, racism, human rights issues, and gender inequality back in his corrupt place of birth, Bulgaria.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe, impacting those below the poverty line most of all, Kuzmanov has spearheaded a Bulgarian vaccination campaign.
In recent times, he has also poured money and effort into projects that tackle the insufficient Bulgarian prison system, domestic violence, gender inequality, human trafficking, and more, all issues which heavily involve the poorest parts of society.
However, such projects are not funded by charities or governments but out of Iliyan Kuzmanov's own pocket, privately financed from his successful London businesses.
Our most recent glimpse into the mind and journey of Iliyan Kuzmanov comes in the form of a best-selling novel, If You Meet Buddha, Kill Him.
Kuzmanov's work, which explores what it means to be human, has already hit the top 15 rankings for non-fiction books on Amazon, as well as receiving a Readers' Favourite five-star rating and a place in Greenwich Book stores as a Reader's Choice in Bulgaria.
'For me, it was a journey, spiritual, deep, and honest. The title and the book's main purpose was to create a notion of critical thinking, questioning, and living a happy life,' Kuzmanov explained.
'I am coming from a place with huge problems, corruption, racism, gender inequality, anti-western notions, anti-civilizational, anti-capitalistic, anti-science. I wanted to create something that will make people think more. To provoke them to think more!
On the common struggle people have with understanding the difference between their spiritual and physical selves, Iliyan added: 'I will use the concept of Yin and Yang, that everything is containing the opposite.
'It is not about fragment and opposites, but about movement. I was living in a Totalitarian state, ex-communist country, where there is White and Black, and was no notion that Black can be good as well, and White could be evil. It was coming from the top, and all that was coming from the top was only White and Good.
'Before the country was Atheistic, for the same reasons, The True is One, and was Dictated. The reason why now one of the most popular spiritually religious movements is called The White Movement- that demonises all out of their framework.'
When explaining the ideas he explored in If You Meet Buddha, Kill Him, Kuzmanov said: 'Individualism and Egoism are not a stigma, it is a matter of personal choice. To choose to be good or not. And even if you made many wrong choices in your life, you deserve redemption.
'You have to love yourself in the first place. We do not have to follow tyrants, who preach to us nationalistic ideals, which deny our personalities, our happiness. There is nothing wrong with making money, to be rich, it is up to you how you will spend them.
'We have to be free, to be able to be creative. We should explore our imagination, our fantasies. We should look for pleasure and love. If we love more, we will do all the things with love!'