Entrepreneurs from Zaporizhzhia develop snail business during war
Viktoria and Oleksii Sorokin from Zaporizhzhia started developing their family snail farm three years ago. A day before the war, they opened a retail outlet in the city center where you could taste a snail-cutlet burger. The next day, it was closed because of the war. Now the entrepreneurs have resumed work. IDPs from Mariupol and Berdiansk come to them to taste snails and oysters.
They came to cultivate snails by accident. Until that time, Viktoria recalls, they were engaged in automating greenhouses. Once, they received an order to modernize the snail-growing farm.
"When we saw growing and processing, we became fascinated with the idea of creating such an enterprise on our own. That's how we started our snail business. They say it is for the lazy, but it is not true at all," says Viktoria.
For three years, Oleksii and Viktoria developed the business, went to festivals, and invested money in farm development in the village of Volodymyrivske near Zaporizhzhia. Their breeding stock—that's what the snail population is called—initially weighed 60 kilograms and later grew to one and a half tons of snails. The family is engaged in the entire process of producing snails, processing them, and selling goodies. Snails are grown in a room with maintained constant temperature and humidity and a pasture with planted rapeseed for fattening snails. The entrepreneurs sold snail delicacies at fairs, festivals, and tasting events.
One day before the start of russia's invasion of Ukraine, on February 23, farmers opened a retail outlet in the center of Zaporizhzhia so that people could taste snail products. But the very next day, it was closed.
"Of course, we were unprepared for such an outcome and took our family to the village to prepare for the worst scenario. We lived there for a week, set up a warehouse, and stocked up on food. Thanks to our defenders, the worst scenario didn't happen," says Viktoria about the beginning of the war. "After some time, we decided to work again because there were interruptions with food and necessities. Who will provide for the economy and our defenders if no one works? Many of our relatives, acquaintances, and partners joined the armed forces to defend Ukraine in the first days. We were aware of problems with equipping our fighters, so we decided to reopen our point to earn money and help others."
The entrepreneurs had no hope that someone would eat snails during the war, so they started with more familiar products: they called all their farmer partners and took cheese and milk, pastries, asparagus, and rolled lard with garlic. They also put snails in the freezer, just in case. With this offer, they opened a point for customers.
In addition to starting work, they helped their farmer friends, who either had no sales or were minimal with this cooperation.
"A miracle happened! People started buying snails. Then we added oysters from our partners to the menu, and the customers started buying them too. It was incredible! We got to restart our production and get our chefs out to work; they'd been sitting for a month at home. We believed everything would work out for us. After we started selling, our income increased, and we had the opportunity to support our defenders," says Viktoria.
Farmers had new customers, and more people came daily, inspiring them to develop. IDPs from Mariupol, Berdiansk, fleeing the war, also began to arrive in the city.
"Our customers say that when they buy oysters and snails from us, they feel at home and the sea. A girl from Berdiansk often comes in the evenings, buys a portion of snails, and sits for a long time near our point. She probably reminisces about home. Nowadays, people don't build far-sighted plans but live one day, allowing themselves to enjoy goodies."
Eight people have jobs and receive wages thanks to the snail business of Oleksii and Viktoria. The entrepreneurs themselves pay taxes, supporting the economy, bringing Ukraine's victory closer every day. They also help displaced people who come to the city from dangerous areas.
Viktoria dreams that soon, Ukraine will return to peaceful life, and they will once again participate in craft farming festivals and popularize the snail product.