Business women
success stories

with the support of Center-invest bank

Helping women pursue their dreams

Today, many successful business projects are set up by women.
Women are entering business for various reasons: some see it as a necessity, as the only way to achieve their career goals, while for others it is about seizing attractive business opportunities.

Women take a balanced approach to addressing issues and use their intuition. Business ladies are always reliable, organised and conscientious. It is said that women are by nature prudent and meticulous, and this also applies to how they handle money. Center-invest Bank believes that this view is borne out by the evidence.

In 2012 Center-invest Bank launched a new loan programme to support female managers and business owners in southern Russia. Under this programme, we offer one-year loans of up to three million rubles, with a six-month grace period, and an interest rate that is 25% below the standard rate.

To date, Center-invest bank has lent 300 businesswomen a total of 400 million rubles to develop their businesses.

In addition, Center-invest bank holds business breakfasts for businesswomen. In Russia, these events have been held in Rostov-on-Don, Krasnodar and Volgograd, while in spring 2016, Olga Vysokova began organising similar events for Russianspeaking businesswomen in London. There have been seventeen business breakfasts to date (ten in Russia and seven in London) and they have been attended by more than 400 proactive and dedicated women. The topics for discussion have included: social and environmental responsibility, philanthropy, business education, corporate culture, and succession in business dynasties.

This first book about women in business brings together eleven success stories, which will inspire many others. The sheer variety of business ideas is impressive. And while all the stories are different, they also have something in common: the support and backing of Center-invest Bank.

Tatiana Gilmutdinova: «However difficult it is, I like running my own business»

Everyone knows that it is largely a man’s world. And for some reason many types of business are considered strictly “male”. But times are changing. Today, women quite often hold senior managerial positions in large companies or are working in areas which until recently were considered the preserve of men.

Traditionally, in Russian society, and indeed elsewhere, women have been given a fairly modest role. A woman should look after the house and be a good wife and mother. This is all fine and good. But in my case it turned out that I was to work in a “male” business sector, freight transportation.

Our company has been transporting freight across Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine since 2011. We have ten trucks. I won’t lie; setting up this business was pretty challenging.

My advantage is my working style. I am guided by the principles of empathy, trust and transparency. This has allowed me to create my own “female” management style.

People often ask me how I have managed to succeed in this area. I know the answer: everything is fairly simple in the male business world. They use unwritten rules that have emerged over the centuries. They have their set ways of resolving conflicts, and their social interactions are very basic. So the men were probably somewhat disconcerted when I arrived on the scene. They had to put aside their usual ways of doing business, and I think this helped me to be successful.

The considerable differences in management style are also important. I always try to base my relationships with colleagues on the principles of collegiality and mutual trust. This allows people working under me to feel that they are part of a creative process and to contribute to the company’s overall success.

There is a comfortable working atmosphere within our team. Every employee can count on assistance and support whatever the situation, and they know that their own small contribution is important to the success of the company. I believe that this is a win-win situation for the company and our employees. This is why our drivers have stayed with us for many years.

My background is in finance. I studied banking. I could have had a tranquil job, working 9am to 6pm in a bank. But instead I went into the transport sector and it turned out that this was to be my life. And however hard it is, I really enjoy working in this area. My friends who work in banks often can’t understand what is good about my job. But I like the pace of the work, the way that the situation keeps changing and I have to react quickly to different, and sometimes unusual, situations. There is never a dull moment. And I even manage to have enough time for my personal life. I have two children and a husband, who always need my attention. I try to give my family as much attention as possible. The main thing is to be able to manage your time properly. I can do some of my work at home, and some of it online.

We have worked in partnership with Center-invest Bank for a long time. We like it that the bank assesses loan applications quickly. The bank takes an individual approach to each customer, and continually provides support. I tried a different bank, but I didn’t like the interest rates, and I wasn’t happy with the service or the excessive documentation requirements. It suits us to work with Center-invest Bank. Any issues are addressed very quickly. In the near future we plan to upgrade our fleet, to buy new vehicles.

Tatiana Kizilova: «I really love my business»

Today the company VEST has its own factory in one of Russia’s industrial centres. The company’s priority is manufacturing modern, fashionable and high-quality clothing for women who love to stay on trend.

Our company manufactures and sells clothing. We have been in the fashion clothing business since 1993. It was during that challenging time that we opened our first shop. There was little good-quality, fashionable clothing available then, and we decided to fill this gap. Having assessed the situation carefully, we decided to set up our own manufacturing unit. At first it was just a small workshop, with five sewing machines. Business started going well, and after a while we wanted to operate on a slightly bigger scale. That was when we first approached Center-invest Bank. They gave us a loan even although at that time we didn’t have any collateral. Thanks to this loan we were able to increase production, purchase equipment, acquire several shops of our own, and buy our own office. Now we turn to Centerinvest Bank when we are expanding.

We are entirely capable of competing on an equal footing with European and Turkish clothing manufacturers. It is vexing that we don't produce fabric in our own country. Without this, it is hard to see how full import substitution is possible.

For example, two to three years ago we were receiving very large orders from customers throughout Russia. We needed to expand production, but we couldn’t finance this by ourselves - opening a factory is an expensive undertaking and takes quite a long time. We needed additional working capital during this period and the bank helped us with this. We obtained premises in the city centre, which is where one of our best shops is located today. We have had a productive relationship with Center-invest Bank for years, and we have reached a position of almost complete mutual understanding. We have a good credit history. I hope that we will continue to work together for many years to come. We have 13 shops in Rostov, shops in Taganrog and Novocherkassk, and we are planning to open a shop in Krasnodar.

We do, however, have to import material. We purchase fabric from Italy, France, Greece and South Korea. And although the dollar exchange rate is very important and affects the cost of production, we still try to keep our prices affordable, by cutting costs.

We also import clothing from abroad for our shops. We still have quite a number of customers who want wellknown foreign brands. But we have substantially reduced our clothing imports lately. People who previously would only buy imported clothes are now buying our clothes. We have 5,600 loyal customers, who we keep in regular contact with, inviting them to various events and promotional activities.

I trained as an economist. I have a Ph.D. in economics. So I had no connection to the world of fashion, and I had to learn a lot. I attended various seminars in Moscow at the Institute of Light Industry and I took courses in management. But the most important thing is practical experience. Moreover, if a person doesn’t have passion or talent, there is absolutely no point trying to teach them.

I really love my business. I can’t imagine my life without it. And with a reliable partner at our side, namely, Center-invest Bank, we can make longterm business plans, knowing that we will definitely receive assistance. We are grateful to the president of Center-invest Bank for establishing a professional team of understanding and responsive individuals, with whom we enjoy working.

Natalia Nechayeva: «We have always had a wide range of interests»

Natalia Nechayeva, chief accountant at the Elefant energy service company, says that Russian energy efficiency equipment is just as good as imported equipment, and that the energy service sector is a complex but promising area, both for business and in terms of communal infrastructure.

Although there is a lot of talk about energy services, they are not yet widespread in Russia. Why did you choose this area and how long have you worked in it?

We only began operating as an energy service company as such in 2014, and we have not yet managed to implement any notable projects in this area. However, we have been working in the field of energy saving technology for five years. Prior to that we sold metal products and metalwork, and we supplied kaolin (white clay) from Ukraine to the Kubanfarfor factory, until it was transferred to new owners. Then we supplied components for electricity networks. We sold fittings, cables, and couplings, basically everything designed for electricity supply.

We started thinking about what we should do next, and we chose the energy efficiency sector. Firstly, it’s the spirit of the time, and secondly, Elefant is not your standard trading company. We have always tried to market high-quality goods and new technologies, and to offer comprehensive services. For example, we were one of the first in the Rostov region to offer technologies using selfsupporting insulated wires, which can withstand very high loads. They are very advantageous: once they are installed, you can forget about them for the next 15 years.

Did you think that housing management companies might be potential customers?

No. I think that it would be quite risky to work with our housing management companies. As an accountant, I can see that an awful lot of money is being taken out of the sector. When a company’s accounts show that its profitability is less than 1%, but its employees are getting f lats, cars and so on, that have nothing to do with the company’s operations, then it would be dangerous to work with this company. Energy services are about long-term relationships, several years. It would be quite risky to bank on these companies still being in existence and able to meet their obligations to counterparties even in three years time.

It is not enough to assess the energy efficiency of a facility; you also need to convince its owner that they need to spend money on making it more energy efficient, and to convince the investor that the client is reliable.

Which regions do you operate in?

Where don’t we operate! We are a dealer for several manufacturers of LED devices, which we supply to companies throughout the whole of Russia. Of course, our range includes both Russian products and products manufactured abroad. We always offer the customer a choice. We are honest with them, saying, “This product is good, but expensive, while this one is cheaper, but not such good quality.” We have, for example, worked for a long time with our tram and trolleybus department, and they see the sense in using the couplings that we supply them with.

It’s not the first time I have heard that Russian LED devices are just as good as foreign ones.

Yes, they are highly competitive. However, Russian LEDs are generally manufactured from foreign components: Chinese, French or Finnish, and this is reflected in the quality of the end product. But our companies do a great job of assembling the components. When we started working in this area, we scoured the whole of Russia in search of decent manufacturers. We bought samples from everyone and then tested them: we kept them switched on for several days, and we looked at their output, how warm the casings got, and so on. And I can say that the products made by a Taganrog manufacturer, which started operating on a very small scale, are just as good as the products of most of the companies in this sector. And now the Taganrog company has a large manufacturing facility. They are expanding their operations.

Irina Klimenko: «Our mission is to make natural products accessible for our fellow Russian citizens»

Chairman of the Board of Directors of Center-invest Bank, Dr Vasily Vysokov: “Social enterprise today is generally viewed as a kind of charitable activity, because the social needs of society are not being met by the government. The gap between supply and demand in the social sphere is so large that it makes the services offered by social enterprises fully competitive with those provided by government agencies and local authorities.”

The desire to have things that are real and genuine is a modern-day trend. This applies to all sectors today, but it is particularly noticeable when it comes to choice of food products. After all, in the information age, everyone can find out about poor quality foodstuffs.

Manufacturers are responding to this trend in various ways: some are investing in rebranding so as to emphasise that their products are natural; others are conducting extensive advertising campaigns to demonstrate their connection to nature and the environment. Meanwhile, others are changing their recipes and upgrading their technology. But the enormous list of Russian products also includes goods that have been a source of Russian gastronomic pride for centuries, and this in itself can ensure their success.

The idea behind Irina Klimenko’s project was to find manufacturers of such products and then distribute them through local and independent retailers and companies operating in the hotel, restaurant and catering sector.

“Our suppliers are domestic food producers for whom the words “tradition”, “environmentally friendly”, and “quality” really mean something. The products made by these companies evoke enduring associations with authentic Russian cooking, with freshness, naturalness, and a return to the source. Today such products are often called “authentic”, that is, unique, original, and in keeping with the original source.

For example, there is Belevsky pastilla, a confectionary which in accordance with the original recipe is made just from baked Antonovka apples, the whites of fresh hens’ eggs, and sugar. Even during the “iron curtain” years, this product was flown directly to Britain for the royal table.

A current project involves the Kolomna Pastilla Museum Factory, which continues to make Kolomna pastilla using traditional recipes and equipment from the pastilla factory that belonged to a local merchant. Thanks to the current trend for setting up culinary business incubators, such as the Moscow-based Mabius Centre, we are able to find new and interesting projects in the food sector, projects that prioritise quality and protection of the environment.

The growing demand for hypoallergenic and functional nutrition, especially for children, led to our project in partnership with the Rostov company Coffee City. We are selling products made of natural and hypoallergenic ingredients via vending machines supplied by Coffee City. I really hope that this project will be of interest not only within the region, but also throughout the whole country.

Yulia Fedosenko: «Treating each child as an individual»

New entrepreneurs often have to decide where to look for funding. They might choose to work with one of the many programmes that support young business people. Yulia Fedosenko talks about her experience of setting up a specialist children’s hairdresser with the support of Center-invest Bank’s Start-Up programme.

“Where should I get my child’s hair cut?”

My sister and I came up with the idea for this project. I have two nephews and when the question arose of where to get their hair cut, it sparked our idea to set up a specialist children’s salon with comfortable children’s chairs, and cartoons to keep the youngsters entertained.

As there are no other specialist children’s hairdressers in Shakhty we don’t have any direct competitors. The main challenge we have faced is the mentality of the town’s residents. For them it is still a very novel idea that children should get used to having attractive haircuts from a young age. There is also the challenge of finding expert hairdressers. There are many good hairdressers, but only one in a hundred will agree to work with children.

❝Our service is based on an individual approach to children. We comply with parents’ wishes, but we also try to ensure that getting a haircut is not stressful for the child, and we are guided first and foremost by the child’s opinion.❞

Showing new companies the way forward.

When we won STARTUP 2012 in Shakhty we became interested in the loan programmes available for new young entrepreneurs. Our regional bank, Center-invest Bank, is the only one that undertakes to support young business people who have ideas, but no experience. We also felt that their Start-Up finance programme was the most suitable for us. We received a loan with a six-month grace period and we got free advice from the bank’s loan specialists.

After a few months we realised that we needed to expand our range of services. Demand among parents was increasing: they wanted the salon to offer services for other family members too. So we used a loan from Centerinvest Bank to expand our services. We bought equipment for beauty services and manicures, and this has been very successful.

Mentoring was also important for us when starting up our business. This is when experienced entrepreneurs give newcomers advice and suggest different ways of addressing a whole range of issues.

Aesthetic mission

We specified an age limit of 12 months, but we do get even younger children coming to us, and of course, we don’t turn them away. Our youngest client so far was just 8 months and 16 days old.

Many factors come into play when working with young children — dexterity, speed (as a child cannot sit still for long), and the ability to get on with children. Psychology is also very important.

A visit to the children’s salon has a positive psychological effect on a child in several respects. They develop important communication skills and they experience new emotions: shyness, embarrassment, pride. They start to develop an appreciation of aesthetics. They experience a positive reaction to something that is genuinely attractive, and they overcome fear.

Besides our work in the salon, we attend various charity events, running master classes in braiding for girls of various ages. For Children’s Day, we have held parties for children from a children’s home. We invited them to the salon, and gave them haircuts, hairdos, and manicures. A children’s entertainer held competitions and games for them.

Tatiana Zubchenko: «Our products turn out differently every day»

Tatiana Zubchenko’s main business used to be semi-finished goods manufacturing. But the expansion into Taganrog of national retail chains forced the entrepreneur to focus on confectionary production instead. As large retailers prefer not to work with fragile and perishable pastries and cakes, local producers can develop their own successful retail businesses.

The Zubchenko family has been in the confectionary business for about 15 years. As a local business, they feel fairly confident operating in the bakery and confectionary sector. “When no chemicals are added to the goods, they spoil very quickly,” Tatiana Zubchenko explains. “Most of our products don’t last for more than a day, some last for up to two days, but not longer. And the chains aren’t interested in products with such a short shelf life.”

The Zubchenkos currently produce about 18 types of baked goods, including rolls, pies, sponge and fruit cakes and pizzas. They also have about 18 types of fancy cake, and 10-12 types of pastry. “The highest demand is for rolls and buns. They are an inexpensive quick bite, and people also buy pastries when they are feeling peckish. It’s usually school children who buy pastries, while adults are more likely to choose a roll or a pie. Cakes and pastries are usually bought for a special occasion: they are more expensive, and people are trying to save money at the moment.”

The Zubchenko trademark goods are sold primarily through the company’s six shops. The shops, which trade under the name “Sladky” (meaning “sweet’), are located in various parts of the city, and in addition to baked goods, cakes and pastries, they sell biscuits, sweets, soft drinks, and tea and coffee.

Tatiana plans to expand her business, although even the confectionary market, with its relatively low prices, is feeling the impact of the economic crisis. “These are difficult times for everyone. Like other manufacturers, we have had to shorten our opening hours due to a fall in customer demand. We have to make our goods on a daily basis, in relatively small quantities; we don’t make large batches to keep for later.”

“It is, of course, more convenient to work with a local business than with companies that operate nationally. For example, we use the regional bank, Center-invest Bank. Their payment and cash management services are more affordable, and they don’t have the queues that I used to encounter in the branches of a large federal bank. It’s not right that you should have to wait 40 minutes to be served! We began working with Center-invest Bank two years ago. They are a good, helpful team, and they don’t close at lunchtime, which we used to have to work around with our previous bank. And a lot of questions can be dealt with by telephone.”

Happiness is there for the taking, and it is different for everyone – you should grab it when you can!

“It is, of course, more convenient to work with a local business than with companies that operate nationally. For example, we use the regional bank, Center-invest Bank. Their payment and cash management services are more affordable, and they don’t have the queues that I used to encounter in the branches of a large federal bank. It’s not right that you should have to wait 40 minutes to be served! We began working with Center-invest Bank two years ago. They are a good, helpful team, and they don’t close at lunchtime, which we used to have to work around with our previous bank. And a lot of questions can be dealt with by telephone.”

As well as opening more shops, Tatiana plans to work on the product range, “We recently started making spice cake, and I want to try making biscuits.” Approximately 30 people work in the Zubchenko production facility. Most of them are women, but there are also some men: a young baker, a manager, and drivers. Over the last five years, staff turnover has fallen to almost zero.

“The human factor is very important in our business. Bread and baking love a good mood. If the confectioner isn’t in the right mood, the products won’t turn out well. And so in this respect also we try to create the best conditions to produce quality goods.”

Lidia Turcheninova: «Your results are more evident in construction than in anything else»

Financial Director of the LAD Group, Lidia Turcheninova, believes that finance is essentially a female specialty, as it is women who are sufficiently assiduous and diligent. She was attracted to the “male” construction business by the opportunity to see the results of her work and to be thanked by customers. “We rarely hear the words “Thank you” these days, and so when we do, it is all the more special,” she says.

The LAD group comprises three companies: the developer LAD, the LAD management company, created to manage the properties built by the group, and the general contractor LADremstroi. The group currently has four completed buildings in its portfolio. “Of course, today in the country as a whole, and in our city in particular, the economic situation is challenging,” says Lidia. “But we can still take an optimistic view, especially when we think how much we have gone through already. When the ruble was falling, people started to put their money into real estate. This is because when the value of the ruble and property prices were fluctuating, property was seen as a safe place to put your money. It so happened that when this crisis began we had a “cushion” in the form of a recently completed building in the city centre. Demand for property in the centre of Taganrog has always been particularly high, and at that time our building was the only new build in the city centre. And so the number of people wanting to buy a f lat in our building increased. Naturally, we have been thrown by the crisis, just as everyone has, but we don’t see any point in standing still. Especially as the LAD Group includes a construction company, which in principle is viable only when construction is underway. Otherwise it won’t be able to afford to maintain its equipment (and LAD-remstroi has quite a lot of equipment, including its own tower crane) or pay its staff. And of course we can’t lose our employees. It took us a long time to put together a team from the best specialists in the city and we value them greatly. The quality of construction is very important to us and we try to attract only first-class personnel, from trusted designers to the person who we believe is the best foreman in the city. We try to buy the best construction materials and to work only with suppliers that are known to be reliable.”

Throughout its whole 25-year history the LAD Group has financed its new construction projects through private investment.

“We don’t need to borrow any money and we are pleased about that,” says Lidia, smiling. “Of course, we use payment and cash management services.

I get immense pleasure when people come up and say “Thank you” to us. Seeing the happy faces of the new residents of our buildings is a genuine reward.

The parent company of the LAD Group has worked with Center-invest Bank for about 15 years. Sometimes people ask me why I continue banking with Centerinvest, at a time when many small banks are closing down. But I believe that among regional banks, Center-invest Bank has a serious advantage: it knows the local businesses and is willing to help them.”

“Plus, as an accountant and financial director it suits me perfectly to work with Center-invest Bank. Looking at it objectively, all banks operate along the same lines. But human relationships remain important.”

Lidia was drawn to the “male” construction sector by a desire to see the results of her work. “I am qualified in finance and I am the financial director for all three of our companies. I find it interesting. Firstly, it is my area of expertise. And secondly, I always want to see the results of the work put in by myself and my colleagues, and the results are more evident in construction than in anything else. We even set up our own management company because the management companies operating in the market today are committing many serious breaches. I would hate for this to happen at any of our sites. As well as putting our time and money into our sites, we are emotionally invested in them.

Nadezhda Popernyak: «Ours is the only enterprise in southern Russia producing preventative and curative products for children from birth»

Today, increasing numbers of children are bottle-fed. This is harmful for a child’s immune system and it can be detrimental to their digestive system. Bottle-fed babies go on to have allergies and are often ill. The formula milk that is much advertised is not only of no benefit, but is becoming a fairly dangerous product. It is hard to find a way out of this situation. But the residents of the Rostov region are luckier than other Russians. We still have a milk kitchen here. Experts help parents to decide on a plan for feeding their child and provide practical assistance.

We pay the utmost attention to the quality of the milk on which we base our products. And this in turn depends on the quality of the feed for the cows. So we select our suppliers carefully. If we have any doubts or complaints, we will look for more reliable suppliers.

When milk kitchens were being closed across the country, I went to see the head of the district. I explained that it was essential to keep this enterprise open and they allowed us to continue our work.

We quite recently acquired special equipment (“Laktan”) to check our raw material, and the finished products are continually checked in the laboratory. The municipal unitary enterprise “Children’s Milk Kitchen” in Aksai in the Rostov region (or the “Aksai Milk Kitchen” as it is known locally) is of national importance. It is now the only enterprise in the whole of the Rostov region producing milk and fermented milk products for children. We have a fairly large range of fermented milk products, eleven, including tvorog (quark). This is why parents must seek advice from our paediatrician before placing their order.

All our products have a short shelf life of just four days. This indicates that they are genuine, natural, live products that do not contain any preservatives.

During the summer months, parents must bring a cool box with them when buying milk products. Otherwise, they have to sign a document stating that they have been warned that the product could spoil and that they will not hold the manufacturer liable. I think this is justified. It is cheaper to buy a cool box than to treat your child for poisoning by a spoiled product.

The cost per package of tvorog or other fermented milk product is fairly low for a natural product. Orders have to be placed in advance with the shop, but regular customers don’t have to place a weekly order as the shop staff will manage the process for them.

Our municipal unitary enterprise has existed for 25 years. When milk kitchens were being closed across the country, I went to see the head of the district. I explained that it was essential to keep this enterprise open and they allowed us to continue our work.

Today any parent can come to see us. We will help them to choose the best product for their child, and our in-house paediatrician will advise them. We do not use any additives in our products or artificial oils. Our products are absolutely pure. Parents can be assured that our products are high quality and beneficial.

I have run this enterprise for 25 years. I have worked in a milk kitchen for 46 years. I am a trained dietician. And I feel that this is my life’s work. I am continually improving, learning. And our staff have to retrain every five years.

We have worked continually with Center-invest Bank for over 10 years. They have never turned us down for a loan. And for our part we have always repaid our loans on time. We trust the bank, and the bank trusts us.

Marina Evdokimova: «My clinic is better for patients»

Only the lazy do not criticise the Russian medical system. For some the solution is to try to change the way that state institutions work, while others choose to set up private medical centres. Marina Evdokimova, ear, nose and throat doctor and co-founder of the consultation and diagnostic centre “My Clinic”, talks about what makes her clinic different from others, and how to find a balance between medicine and business.

Please tell me, Marina, how did you get the idea to open “My Clinic?

I graduated from Rostov State Medical University and at some point I decided that to improve my competence I wanted to study medical literature written in English. It turned out that throughout the world there are standard treatment protocols, containing the very best and most highly tested approaches. Once I started using international protocols, I realised that they truly are very effective: patients recover quickly and remain satisfied. And so then I had the idea of opening a clinic where all the doctors would be of one view, patients would obtain the maximum benefit, and no unnecessary tests would be carried out.

On what principle are the standard treatment protocols based?

All drugs should undergo testing to ensure that patients only receive drugs that are proven to be effective and that they do not take more medication than is necessary.

I had to improve my English so that I could read the very latest medical literature. Unfortunately, there is very little good-quality translated literature. Clearly, at present we really lag behind Western countries in this respect.

How did you choose the doctors for your clinic?

I spent almost a year choosing my team. Of course, the Internet helped as it has information about doctors not only from the Rostov region, but from throughout Russia. I managed to put together a team of doctors who share the view that treatment should first and foremost be proven, effective and safe. Our patients can be seen by an obstetrician gynaecologist, an allergist and immunologist, a dermatologist, a gastroenterologist, paediatricians, a paediatric cardiologist, an ear, nose and throat specialist, and an endocrinologist. At the moment our main focus is on working with children, but our experts can see both children and adults.

Patients should obtain the maximum effect at the minimum cost.

Who helped you to launch this project?

All of our start-up capital was provided by Center-invest Bank in the form of a loan under the Start- Up programme. The loan had a grace period and the interest rate was much lower than that offered by other banks. Thanks to this we were able to renovate the clinic and purchase all the necessary equipment. Centerinvest Bank believed in our project. We didn’t just take out a loan; we found a genuine financial partner.

In your view, how is it possible to combine genuinely helping people with business?

Of course, being a doctor takes a special talent, but maintaining health also costs money. People in our country are gradually starting to understand this. To find a balance between medicine and business we set prices at an acceptable level. In addition, our patients do not buy many expensive medications. It is also very important that our specialists can carry out full consultations, spending as much time with a patient as is required.

There are many private medical centres in Rostov, but there are still not enough. This niche market is not saturated: there are no other clinics like ours in the city. We shouldn’t try to compete with each other: there are enough patients for everyone. I wish that people didn’t get ill but a tablet to prevent all illnesses has not yet been invented. Instead, we should work together. We should hold joint conferences and share experience.

Elena Efimova: «Find what you love doing and make it profitable»

The company manages a chain of butchers in Rostov and Bataisk. It supplies fresh meat to nursery schools and other public institutions. It purchases the meat itself. It has relationships both with large producers, such as Agrocomplex, and with small farms.

I believe that the meat sales sector is an extremely promising area, even with the high “level of competition. Despite the competition, we entered this market, found our place, and are now sufficiently financially independent. And today we can see great potential for further growth. We have worked in the meat industry for 12 years now.

I trained as a theatre costume designer. I entered the meat business thanks to my husband. At first I helped him, but now we work as equals. Over the years I have become an expert. I am very knowledgeable about product quality. We actually started by selling meat on a market stall. During this time we acquired experience and loyal customers. People think that it is easy to open a shop, start trading, and make a profit. But in fact everything is quite complex. You need to have experience; you need to know what really fresh meat looks like, what the livestock has been fed, how it was slaughtered, and many other details about the process. The market is saturated now: supply often exceeds demand, and competition is very high. Therefore, not only must products be of very high quality, but you also need to know how to promote them. We learnt all of this through personal experience and so we are able to compete successfully. Another aspect to our business is the supply of meat to nursery schools. Special requirements are specified for products supplied to nurseries. I am confident that we have a reputation as reliable suppliers of high-quality meat products. One of the fundamental tasks is to continually monitor product quality.

I should point out that it is us who would be held liable for any poor quality products and this includes criminal liability. And so we work only with the most responsible and trusted suppliers.

The market is saturated now: supply often exceeds demand, and competition is very high. Therefore, not only must products be of very high quality, but you also need to know how to promote them.

I have two children. My youngest daughter is still very young. I have to find a way to cope with the business and also spend enough time with my family. My youngest daughter is always with me. I take her to the bank and to the shops. Perhaps she will become a business lady when she grows up. I generally really like my work; over the past 12 years it has become part of my life.

We have worked with Center-invest Bank for a very long time, for many years. We have excellent relationships both with the bank’s management and its staff.

The bank really does help us. It provides bank guarantees allowing us to take part in auctions, and we are very grateful to it. There are so many apparently wonderful products and offers being promoted by other credit institutions. But we will never change our bank; we will work only with Center-invest. I believe that Centerinvest Bank brought us success. We had the chance to move from market stall trading to a more civilised form of trading. And we bought our own shop, and continued to grow. We have plans to develop our business further. We will continue to take part in auctions. And we are sure that the bank will support us. With Center-invest Bank we feel entirely confident and we are growing steadily.

Elena Ternovaya: «It is important to make a steady profit»

Today, at a time of crisis, agricultural market analysts say that poultry numbers are increasing on small commercial farms and subsistence farms. So even in the absence of large farms in the regions, there will be demand for compound poultry feed from the local population. The sale of compound feed does not require large capital investment, but it is also not hugely profitable.

The agricultural sector is a reasonably promising area provided that you know how to organise your business properly. The number of farms in Russia is continually growing, and accordingly, demand for feedstuffs and other consumables is increasing. Experts believe that the manufacturing and sale of compound feed are good lines of business to be in. There are many different types of compound feeds available on the market today. They vary in terms of nutrients and additives, as certain types of birds require a special diet at certain times of the year. For example, more nutritious feed is needed at the end of winter and in spring.

The most important thing in our business is to find regular customers, which guarantees a certain level of profit. We have succeeded in this; people know who we are.

Our company offers compound poultry feed from various manufacturers, including the well-known companies Purina and Lehmann. Another aspect of our business is the sale of live poultry. We sell both day-old chicks and slightly older chicks. To be successful at selling such a specific product you need to know the mentality of the rural population. They associate spring not only with planting vegetables and pruning trees, but also with raising chicks, ducklings, goslings, turkey poults and other domesticated and decorative birds.

The sale of chicks is traditionally a profitable business. The initial investment is relatively small. The only disadvantage is its seasonality. But we view this side of our business as a source of supplementary income, and it makes a decent profit.

This area of work is quite taxing. It is extremely important to know the exact level of demand. We analyse all the demand factors, and of course we take seasonality into account. It helps that we have extensive experience in this field. So we know when a given product will do well.

It might appear to be a very straightforward business. But I have to keep learning all the time in order to keep up with all the latest trends in feeding domesticated birds. I attend seminars and trade fairs. And I enjoy the business because it is going well and it makes quite a good profit. I also take pleasure from a job well done.

I have three children. My youngest is just one year old. It is quite hard to fit everything in, but I try to spend as much time as possible with my family. Working in business and being a good wife and mother is a challenge. But I think that I do a good job of combining these two sides to my life.

The agricultural sector is a reasonably promising area provided that you know how to organise your business properly

I believe that the success of any business depends on the correct choice of partner. And we made the correct choice with our reliable partner, Center-invest Bank.

We first took out a loan from Centerinvest Bank four years ago. But our relationship started before that. In 2005, when I registered as a sole trader, I opened a current account with Centerinvest Bank on the recommendation of the company who did my business accounts. I was pleased with the service straightaway. And when I needed a loan, Center-invest Bank was the natural choice. It offers very good loan terms for small business, with low interest rates, and it takes an individual approach to each customer.

Alla Ouvarova: «We want to keep growing-launching new products and in new territories!»

Alla Ouvarova and her business partner Anna noticed the popularity of egg white in Los Angeles. Ana they decided to bring this idea in UK. Anna studied English and then Journalism at university and Alla had just finished Economics degree, so they had the perfect complimentary skills to write the business plan and go from there.

We were very lucky in that we did have the advice of a gentleman who had a food brokerage business. Initially we were planning to pay him for his services, but as we couldn’t raise anywhere near the start up funds that we wanted to, he said we could do it ourselves and helped point us in the right direction a few times.

Investment

We wanted to raise £250,000, but with no experience in food or running a business, nobody was willing to back us. We believed that our idea would work and that we could do it, so I stripped everything out of the financial model and got a family friend to invest a small amount of money, a tenth of what we wanted originally! A couple of years later we got second round funding, which was much easier to do once we had proven the concept.

I do not believe that I’m successful yet, but I do feel that I’m on my way there! As for the secret-product, passion, perseverance, in that order.

Clients

We decided that we wanted our brand to be premium and therefore we wanted to launch in a high end store. We approached Selfridges, Harrods, Harvey Nichols and luckily they all offered us exclusive launches! We chose to launch in Selfridges as we thought that it had the best food hall. We logged our sales data and took that to our next prospective clients - Waitrose, Sainsbury’s etc and slowly we launched in every supermarket in the UK as well as further afield.

Strategy

We had an initial plan which we changed it quite a lot based on market trends and opportunities that were available. I wouldn’t say that we took a lot of risks, more calculated guesses!

There have been some scary moments, especially at the beginning and it is always quite scary with new product launches. We were not too scared of failure, especially later on, as we believe in our products and we know that if we will persevere, we will get there.

Support

My family have always been very supportive, as they could see that this is a good idea and it makes a lot of sense. My eight year old son, however, only likes to eat the yolk, yet he tells me not to sell the business so that he can run it when he grows up!

I do not believe that I’m successful yet, but I do feel that I’m on my way there! As for the secret - product, passion, perseverance, in that order.

Alyona Taranova: The Italian restaurant in London with the Russian soul

Alyona Taranova decided to create a family restaurant a few years ago, when she was celebrating her birthday with husband and 2 small children. Kids didn’t feel particularly calm, being quite noisy and playful, which is not unsual with small kids. She thought back then why there are so many nice restaurants for people, and there are places for kids play and entertainment, but no restaurants which are elegant and nice, which offer good kids entertainment, which would allow for a great time for the whole family.

Well, the idea of family outing is quite Italian in my understating. I spent almost 4 years in Italy, studying and working, and one thing among many which I loved about the country is that Italians are extremely family-oriented and like dining and going out with their whole family. Also, Italian food is my favorite, to be honest. So the choice of cuisine was simple in the end!

Officially, however, unofficially my husband has been my constant mentor from the very beginning, when the idea was born to the execution and now, replicating my idea in the new franchising locations. He is quite busy with another job, however he always finds some time in the evening and weekends to sit with me, listen to my news and give his opinion and advise. I value his advise greatly and I believe that it is always precious to have a second opinion and «fresh» view on things.

I think that hiring a professional project manager to make things happen in my situation would not be the right thing, as my learning experience, my deep knowledge of every little process and details is only possible to gain through doing everything yourself and getting involved in every process from the very beginning to the point of multiplying the number of locations.

I never allowed myself to thing that I’m not doing the right thing or not moving into a right direction. I believe that you have to believe in the idea 100% yourself to be able to make it happen successfully.

I spent over 10 years in investment banking and accumulated some savings over the years. So I put in my savings, plus I found like-minded investors who truly believe in my idea and gave me the remaining funding I needed initially.

Much more than I would have expected. the most important remedy against bureaucracy in UK (in my humble opinion) is to know everything that may be required from you upfront, get the correct paperwork and never try to full the system. If you do everything right, your business runs smoothly and you are certain that your growth is secured by proper foundation.

Well, I do not have much competition at the moment, as we are a unique place in London where you can have an elegant and tasty lunch or dinner, while your kids can enjoy their play in the beautifully designed kids playarea. We are expanding, so now we have both dining area for romantic dates and business lunches, as well as a large restaurant area adjacent to the kids free play area. Our main idea is great food and best Italian products which we import from various regions in Italy. We shall keep up great taste and we will keep high quality of our brand through franchising.

My business strategy evolved organically together with my concept. When I saw a clear demand in the market and I had tools and opportunity to create something amazing and worthwhile, I was ready to take risks. Yes, I believe I took a lot of risk by going into business which was quite new to me, and I am very glad my risks are now minimized and my growth is showing that I must be doing something right!

My husband is my greatest supporter and believer. My kids (4 daughters) are fans of my restaurant, they LOVE eating there and playing in the playarea. They also love sitting outside on a rood deck, which i added recently to my restaurant to add some outside space. My kids are too small to tell me they are proud, but I hope some day they will!

Secret of success is to early to talk about having achieved success yet. However, the secret of my journey in the right direction (as i call it) is doing something which i truly believe in, working a lot (however, finding time to keep fit), listening to advise, being able to admit you’ve been wrong and change your decisions before your error costs you too much, be flexible, be always LISTENING to what is going on within your business, trends and moods. Also, my family and the love and support I get from my husband and kids is one of the main components of my confidence, and confidence and well-balanced family life is a way to success in anything you do.

Strategic plans for my business are to grow, within UK and internationally. We are currently in the process of developing second location and two new franchising restaurants, one of which is outside UK. I am growing Hands in Pasta brand internationally through franchising by creating amazing quality family restaurants around the world. I can’t wait to see the location dropdown menu on Hands in Pasta front page with at least 20 different cities!

Evgenia Lazareva: "Phileas Fox" nursery school

Evgenia Lazareva was born in Moscow but went to study at an international school in Switzerland, came to university in London, studying International Business and Languages. She have been working in the field of the education business for nearly 10 years, and always wanted to have her own business.

How did you come up with the idea of multilingual nursery?

I have been working in educational consultancy for almost ten years. After the birth of my son three years ago, I thought that I would like to do something slightly different, yet still in the educational industry. I teamed up with a friend who has always regretted not learning how to speak Chinese when she was little and wanted to give this to her children. I thought about the importance for my son to keep his Russian language in the UK, and the idea of a multilingual nursery was born. Parents still ask us to add all sorts of languages because it is a brilliant idea and children learn so quickly at this age.

Did you have a mentor or a professional to help you to realize your idea?

I had good experiences in start ups and the business of education in general, and my business partner has experience in finance, so that gave us a solid foundation. We did not know much about early years though, so the first goal was to get an outstanding head of school to guide us through it. We were very lucky to find one, and this is the core of our team. We took on board all advice from friends and family, but we were very confident in what we were doing, believed in our concept and did not compromise on quality at any stage. We brought in excellent educational staff and a good team to set up the school physically and aesthetically. Now I am studying towards the early years practitioner qualifications and will soon do a Masters in the same field, too.

Strong vision, uncompromising quality, keeping things simple, working hard, and above all, having a great team help to reach success.

How did you raise investment for this project?

It was personal investments and with the help of friends and family. We have also applied for a start up loan and were successful. The idea was to build a strong culture of the brand and the company, and we felt that this would not have been possible with third party involvement.

Was there a lot of bureaucracy on your way?

Yes, but it is inevitable. Education, especially for young children, is heavily regulated, so we had to comply with all the requirements and deal with a lot of paperwork. Although it has been quite tedious, it is a good learning process.

Was it difficult to attract families into your nursery?

Every family is very unique. We have received such a positive welcome from the local community and the word about our nursery has spread quickly. We always take parents’ views on board and try to accommodate requests as much as we can. It requires patience to fill the nursery, but we are on a steady path to achieve it.

How did you develop your business strategy? Did you take a lot of risk?

We had a business plan that we have stuck to to an extent, but once we started the works, everything has changed completely. You have to adapt to new situations every day, which we are good at. Of course, there was a significant financial risk, but we were confident in our service and our vision, and it is paying off. We learn every day, and use this to plan our development further. We also have a great management team that is on the same page and has the same vision, but has different strengths that compliment each other.

Were you ever scared that you are not doing the right thing or not moving into a right direction and you will fail?

Of course, you have your moments of doubt. Some weeks, the phone would be ringing 10 times a day with new enquiries, and some days it would be completely silent. Being new at this, it was nerve wrecking at times. I am very lucky to have a great business partner and head of schools and we would support each other in turns at moments of doubts.

What are the strategic plans for your business?

The mission is to offer excellent early years education in a multilingual environment, to make children feel happy and develop their love for learning in a beautiful setting. Luckily, a lot of parents in London and in the world agree with us, so the aim is to be able to offer this further by creating more schools and developing educational resources to be able to achieve scale and spread the knowledge even further.