InvestSolutions 15:20 15 Apr 2024

Innate talent and easy money: Ukrainian entrepreneurs destroy myths about business

Rubryka spoke with Ukrainian entrepreneurs about what they believed at the start of their business, what they heard from others, and what turned out to be true. Together, we collected 17 myths about business. Shall we refute?

What is the problem?

Millions in pockets, handing out instructions, and pure pleasure are how business is often seen by those who have not dealt with it. However, experienced entrepreneurs advise beginners who start their own businesses to say goodbye to rose-colored glasses.

What is the solution?

Rubryka decided to talk to Ukrainian entrepreneurs and business experts to collect the most common myths about business and refute or confirm them.

Spoiler alert: some myths can not only frustrate you but also motivate you. With certain personal skills and pressure, they can become the driving force of your business. 

Anastasiia Balabanova: most myths are caused by a lack of information about running a business

Анастасія Балабанова

Anastasia Balabanova with her husband.

Anastasiia Balabanova is the co-founder of Sereda, a well-known Kyiv vegan confectionery. Before becoming a restaurateur, she studied philology and dreamed of doing research. The war in Ukraine's east prevented her from getting a Ph.D., and in 2014, Balabanova and her husband were forced to leave their home. After moving from Donetsk to Kyiv, they changed several jobs, and at first, did not even dream of owning their own business. But later, they decided to open a cafe with vegan sweets.

"It's just that we really like cakes," laughs Balabanova. "It was quite difficult to find sweets to our liking at that time in Kyiv."

Balabanova is a vegan, and her husband, Artur, is a vegetarian. The future coffee shop's specialty would be vegan sweets and bicycle parking — this idea also arose based on the co-founders' preferences. So, having borrowed funds, the couple started their journey.

Myth 1: You need a lot of money to start your business.

The first format of the Sereda pastry shop was a small to-go corner in the dress shop where Balabanova worked at the time. It didn't take millions to open up. The couple invested six thousand dollars, half of which went to the coffee machine.

"I don't know what guided us when we decided to invest half of the budget in a coffee machine, but the fact that I'm still using it seven years later only confirmed that this intuitive decision was correct," Balabanova shares with Rubryka. This little coffee machine has survived several moves and business expansions and has played its part during the war. After Russia continuously targeted Ukraine's energy infrastructure and Ukrainians spent the winter of 2023 in blackouts, it was the only equipment that could work because, compared to other professional models, it required very little energy.

Myth 2: If you have a business, you hardly work.

"We did everything with our own hands, but even when we hired two baristas, the work did not decrease," shares the entrepreneur. Despite the myth, in reality, you work around the clock because you must always be in touch and control many things. In conflict situations, one must be ready to communicate with clients and government agencies. Of course, in large businesses, there is a person for each such branch, but in the case of a small business, it all falls on the shoulders of the owner.

At the same time, Balabanova notes that the non-fixed schedule did not become 100% a myth but really gave her quite a lot of flexibility in making plans for a week/month/year.

Myth 3: Entrepreneurs are always rich.

"There is an idea that if you have a business, then you earn a lot of money, but in reality, I am earning now as a middle-class citizen of Kyiv, and I have so much responsibility that it is enough for three," says Balabanova.

She adds that it took some time to recoup the funds spent at the start of the business. Sereda moved three times, and each time had to start almost from scratch. What worked was that the coffee shop already had its own audience, so when it changed location, the customers followed. These were not only vegans but also old acquaintances from Donetsk and other displaced people who came to support their compatriots, learning about the institution thanks to word of mouth.

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The founders renovated the Sereda coffee shop with their own hands.

Myth 4: A woman can own a business if only her husband bought it.

"Actually, we brewed coffee together for more than one year of the coffee shop's existence," Balabanova also refutes this myth.

The couple started the business together and shared all the responsibilities. On two square meters of the very first location, they did repairs on their own — painted the walls, installed furniture, and thought out a smart architectural solution for a small room to make it comfortable and attractive for visitors. Balabanova baked the first cakes at home herself. Then, her mother-in-law helped, and the husband had to master the barista profession.

"I'm not a fan of theories about startups without mistakes or people who succeed at everything right away. But I am sure of one thing — if you combine self-belief with constant learning, you will definitely succeed," the restaurateur is confident.

Balabanova advises people who dream of opening a business but have not yet dared: "For the business to be successful, you must be passionate about it. Otherwise, you shouldn't even start."

Yuliia Kushnir: small businesses must be flexible and respond to market changes promptly

Юлія Кушнір

Yuliia Kushnir.

Yuliia Kushnir is a professional designer. She has studied and worked in this field all her life and taught a specialized discipline at the university.

"Since childhood, I have loved to draw and travel. All this became an impetus for opening a business. After returning from Greece, I wanted to create something unique," says Kushnir.

In 2019, she started a business with her sister. The entrepreneurs started with twilly ribbons (a hair accessory) but realized they wanted more. Everything grew into unique designs and production of silk scarves. According to the designer, during five years of work, including COVID-19 pandemic and war, the founders and the team of the Latona brand have gained tremendous experience.

Myth 5: Everything will be easy if the product is good.

Kushnir says that no matter how high-quality and interesting the product is, the entrepreneur must invest a lot of resources in it, at least until the audience learns about its advantages.

A person who starts their own business must understand that, in most cases, everything will depend not on fashion or trends but on themself. You will spend 24 hours a day developing your business. If there are two or three of you, i.e., there is a team, you can negotiate and work in crises, sharing areas of responsibility together. However, a significant part of important decisions regarding development and finances always remain with the business owners.

Myth 6: Small businesses have no chance of success.

The entrepreneur notes that everyone once started small. Many small enterprises in Ukraine are achieving considerable success. The war and the COVID-19 pandemic have shown that small businesses can be flexible and respond to market changes quickly.

"For example, in March-April 2022, we released a collection of silk-cotton patriotic handkerchiefs, 'Glory to Ukraine! Glory to heroes!' because we understood that people need support and patriotic designs," Kushnir gives an example.

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Minister of Defense of Ukraine Oleksii Reznikov demonstrates a Latona scarf with a fighter scheme at Ramstein-9, February 2023

Myth 7: When everything works, you can relax.

"Time and situation dictate some urgent needs. Today, we have a task to create new handkerchiefs with F-16, Leopard-2, Abrams, and Challenger-2 because young ladies can wear them to events in Ukraine and abroad, and remind that Ukraine is waiting for the necessary planes and tanks. We are very motivated by Ukrainians who buy and wear Ukrainian scarves, present them to the UN representatives, ambassadors, presidents, and ministers, and demonstrate them at Ramstein meetings. For us, it is not just a pleasure but also a new impulse," says Kushnir.

She has one piece of advice for business newbies: despite all the myths, don't be afraid to try, and don't forget to live a full life outside of business.

Olha Lapteva: "I will overcome everything and reconcile everyone"

Ольга Лаптєва

Olha Lapteva.

Olha Lapteva is the director of the Odesa Studio Women's Furniture Workshop

"I understood how to conduct business in peacetime and in the absence of a pandemic. Now, the business exists and makes a profit, but I have no idea how to plan ahead in war conditions. We just go with the flow," Lapteva honestly says about today's situation.

Myth 8: Starting a business is difficult.

"For a long time, I believed in the myth that starting a business is a difficult and expensive process. Starting a business is a big financial risk," Lapteva admits. "I had believed in this myth for a long time and had not even tried to open anything because my field of work is not cheap and requires investment. At some point, I decided to do what I could with the available funds, without loans or large investments."

Myth 9: Business communication is easy.

"My confidence in my competencies and communication skills convinced me that any conflict can be resolved. My goal was to work so that conflict situations were impossible. However, such a conviction is a myth. To my great surprise, I discovered that it is possible to find yourself in the middle of a conflict despite trying to avoid it. And all my knowledge of conflict studies does not help when conflict becomes a goal for someone," says Lapteva.

She adds that over time, she came to the understanding that the probability of such situations should simply be accepted. Even when resolving or smoothing out the conflict is impossible, one should simply accept the reality and try to be less emotionally involved.

Myth 10: Owning a business frees up personal time.

"When I worked as a hired director of a furniture salon, I was able to build work harmoniously to leave enough personal time, but with the organization of my business, including the specifics of author's furniture, I practically lost my free time. I had to say goodbye to many hobbies and delegate some household chores. I haven't figured out how to optimize my business activities yet," Lapteva admits.

She advises beginners to start small, not invest a lot, and see if this activity is right for them. Don't be afraid to start, but don't be afraid to stop if you realize it's not for you.

Yelizaveta Yavorska: anyone watching from aside sees only the picture shown by the business owner

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Yelizaveta Yavorska.

Yelizaveta Yavorska became an entrepreneur not so long ago. Two years ago, she graduated from the School of Small and Medium Business Support in Zhytomyr, after which she launched the production of children's and adult textiles and clothing, Little Bunny Shop.

Yavorska notes that myths accompany entrepreneurs not only during business creation but also often impact people during despair, burnout, or emotional upheaval. The entrpreneur shares myths that she often heard before starting her own business.

Myth 11: If you're a business owner, you have to be an ace at it. 

"I don't know how to sew, but I am the owner of a sewing factory because I am a good manager, and I know how to set up the work correctly," says Yavorska.

Myth 12: You must be born with entrepreneurial skills. 

"There are no businessmen, entrepreneurs, or anything related to this in my family. Sometimes it's difficult because there's no one to ask for advice, but your own mistakes will teach you how to do business," says the entrepreneur.

Her example and the successful cases of many others clearly demonstrate that you can also develop your business without special family ties.

"More often than not, myths hinder rather than promote development," comments Yavorska. In her opinion, general perceptions usually do not correspond to the actual picture at all. Moreover, mythical ideas about business are often created by businessmen themselves.

"Every consumer, client, or bystander sees only the picture the business owner shows, especially on social networks, where no one likes to complain. No one wants to tell how difficult it is for them and what they have to face because, in most cases, it can scare away potential customers. Everyone comes for a positive emotion, and we are obliged to give it," says Yavorska.

The entrepreneur advises small business owners to get rid of complexes. She believes that this is much more important than fighting widespread myths.

Are they really myths?

Of course not. Doing business is a lot of work, which has overgrown with many myths, says Ilona Strona, a business coach, investor, and leader in the business world. She has been building businesses in Ukraine for over ten years and has four businesses. The expert adds the following to the already listed myths:

Myth 13: You will lie on the ocean shore, and the business will work for you.

This is called passive income — every businessman dreams of having one. However, such a business format occurs only after the product has been created, the entire sales system has been adjusted, regular customers have appeared, and revenues significantly exceed costs. Only then much less active attention from the owner is required.

However, there remain aspects that the business owner must control. Many startups begin to bear fruit after six months or later. Business is a step-by-step system to financial freedom, an investment of a lot of time and energy. But it's worth it.

Myth 14: People will not have money for my product/service.

Each product and service has its own buyer. Still, for your product to be bought by your audience, you must work on positioning correctly and constantly conduct market analysis. Coffee is bought in different places for different amounts of money, although the coffee is the same.

Myth 15: Friends are the best business partners.

It is easier to start a business with friends, but this option will not work if you do not know how to separate business from personal relationships.

Myth 16: You can't start a business while working for another company.

It depends on the rules you accept when getting a job. Still, you have free time, which you can invest in any idea or development. The same network business system allows you to earn additional income in addition to your main income.

Myth 17: It's not the right time to start a business.

The coach advises you to ask yourself, "When is the time? When will you start living your own life and take responsibility?"

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Ilona Strona.

"Being a businessman is not only about work. It is also very interesting. It is interesting to see how an idea turns into a whole project, how you grow, how your team grows, and how the product changes. Create your business with great love and fear of nothing. May your business be successful!" sums up Strona.


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