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UrbanRubryka 15:20 03 Oct 2022

Saving business and upgrading the city: how entrepreneurs get relocation help in Ivano-Frankivsk

Save Business Now is an initiative from Ivano-Frankivsk, which originated in a charity foundation after entrepreneurs started calling volunteers en masse. They asked for help with the emergency evacuation of the business.

Now the project includes professional consultations for entrepreneurs, help to find premises, business events, and effective networking. Behind the project are the stories of people who had to start a new life because of the war, fighting for previous successes.

"When the windows shifted, it was the last drop"

Ivano-Frankivsk. Behind the bulky concrete letters "Zavod Promprylad" hides a modern space with offices, coffee shops, and workshops. Here, the story of the Save Business Now crisis response coordination center began as part of the New Economy of Ivano-Frankivsk project, which supports new clusters of innovative economic activity in the city. The former factory's roof has tables, neatly folded blankets, and a turned-on recorder. Here we are talking with Ruslana Parobetska, the coordinator of the business support center at Promprylad.Renovatsia.

Save Business Now

"From the first days of the war, when it became clear that people needed help, we created the Save Ukraine Now fund. After the launch, the phones of our Promprylad project managers started ringing off the hook with entrepreneurs asking for relocation assistance. We realized that businesses also needed help. And so, this initiative emerged as a response to the challenges of war.

At first, everything was completely random. The idea was to create a chat where people could get to know each other—both relocated businesses and local ones. And after that, we formed new types of support," says Ruslana.

Руслана Паробецька Save Business Now

Ruslana Parobetska

Now the project offers businesses that want to relocate from dangerous areas to fill out an application on the website and indicate their needs. Then Save Business Now starts helping search premises, looks for people ready to provide expert advice, and creates effective networking. The latter plays a significant role.

Yulia Chekalova is from Kharkiv, 33 years old, and her dental clinic is a little over five years old. In addition, she is the founder of almost the only Ukrainian toothpaste brand product on supermarket shelves. From April 2022, the woman became a displaced person.

"I did not believe there would be a full-scale war, and I hardly got into politics before this. Now, of course, it has become more interesting to me. The day before the invasion, I gave the child to my ex-husband. And on February 24, I woke up at home and was shocked. I was thinking about whether to take the child and whether it is safe.

My team and I decided to go to work on February 24. But we didn't work all day because it was scary. Among the patients were children with some acute pain. On the second day, we went out for a few hours. This is what doctors are used to now (and it is too bad that they are used to it). But then it was difficult," says Yulia.

Юлія Чекалова — стоматологиня з Харкова

Yulia Chekalova

The woman stayed in Kharkiv until March 12. She volunteered, delivering medicine to the elderly and coordinating the clinic's work. However, she decided that she couldn't continue like this.

"Then there was a moment… I live on the 20th floor, and a TV tower is nearby. A russian plane flew in and failed to hit it three times. When the windows in my apartment had already shifted, it was the last drop. I couldn't be in the basement either, because the house was near the forest. At any moment, the russian company could've entered the basement. At that stage, it was worse," she says.

So Yulia left Kharkiv and moved to Ivano-Frankivsk in April. She understood that the war had been for a long time, and it made sense to move the business here. The entrepreneur decided not to close the Kharkiv hospital but quickly found premises for the clinic in a new city, dismantled and moved some of the equipment. Then she started looking for premises for the production of toothpaste. An acquaintance invited her to the Save Business Now group on social media.

"Who's in town"

The initiative representative, Ruslana, says the manufacturing business suffers the most from the war. MFT toothpaste production, which belongs to Yulia Chekalova and 119 Stomatology, also falls under this category.

"Manufacturing companies suffer the most because it is pretty difficult for them to transport their equipment. It is also difficult for all those who are not export-oriented. Therefore, we now devote many events and consultations to how to enter Western markets.

Another non-trivial thing is networking, a community of people doing the same thing and facing the same problems. Now there are about 500 participants in our chat. They often get to know each other, and new partnerships and cooperation formats are born there. This chat, it would seem, was initially created for people to get to know each other and understand who is in town. But now, it covers a lot of needs even without our participation. People communicate with each other," the woman explains.

Руслана Паробецька Save Business Now

This aspect of socialization is essential because leaving your previous life and starting from scratch in a new city is difficult, especially in the case of war. Yulia Chekalova says about the  experience:

"I chose to stay in Ivano-Frankivsk because of the people. My students who attended my performances in Kyiv met me here and provided me with free housing for a month.

It wasn't about the money. It was about attitude. The students arranged a bunch of acquaintances that reminded me at least a little about my past life schedule. It got me back into the mode. They even brought me a blanket, a bottle of wine, someone's contacts, and so on.

Then, over time, I was invited to this Save Business group. Business people have a lot of these groups. But I was fortunate with this one—we met other entrepreneurs and business people. I met Alina Tokmylenko. A young woman about 34 years old showed me that I hadn't done so much in my 33 years. She gave me an emotional boost. The sports spirit woke up in me again. She introduced me to many people and helped me apply for the first grant. I failed it successfully because it was my first time. But still, I was delighted because she didn't need it at all, but she helped me.

Then Save Business organized many more business events—similar to my Kharkiv. It helped me a lot," Yulia shares.

Save Business Now

The dentist says expert consultations are one of the types of these events. They call it an ambulance at Save Business Now, but for business.

"How it happens: We create a registration form for local and relocated businesses with specific requests. According to these requests, we select consultants. These are experts from various fields: marketing, recruiting, law, etc.

There's a person for each such request, about ten consultants. The consultation lasts 40 minutes and is a kind of emergency assistance, only for businesses, where they can quickly talk about their request, get the necessary knowledge and leave with some further understanding of what to do next," Ruslana explains.

Руслана Паробецька Save Business Now

In addition, another business event is organized within the project once a week. It can be lectures, seminars, or training on management, accounting, communication strategies, and other topics. One of the most significant events was the Brave Summit, which gathered 40 speakers and more than 220 participants.

Ruslana jokes that sometimes the initiative's work is to explain to non-local entrepreneurs why there are so many holidays and weekends in Ivano-Frankivsk.

"A little while ago, the main request was the relocation and assistance to find a place. And now it's consultations. Very often, it is vital for people who come to understand what the city is about. For a person who lived in Kharkiv and ran their business there, it's unusual that we have so many holidays in Galicia [historical name for the Lviv region] that we have a slightly different pace of work, a different vibe. And, probably, the most relevant request is networking.

A lot of cool and very different people moved to us. For example, the Ukrainian premium brand of erotic accessories and casual clothes made of leather and latex Anoeses, their corset was worn by Madonna. Yesterday, they left us and returned to Kyiv. Likewise, the international company AltexSoft, Television Toronto, MFT, and many others. Some took out their equipment under shelling, and some lost it altogether," says the woman.

Save Business Now

"I'll be better because I want to"

As of May alone, the Ivano-Frankivsk region has received more than 140,000 internally displaced people. During the full-scale war, Save Business Now helped 53 businesses to relocate. The number of companies involved in the events is difficult to count.

In addition to relative safety, Ivano-Frankivsk also offers newly arrived businesses a high level of competition. Yulia Chekalova says that her clinic is the 16th dentistry in the building, but it doesn't scare the woman.

"In Kharkiv, many of my colleagues closed due to shelling and destruction. Our clinic continues to work there, and we have appointments scheduled until the end of the month. I'm not too fond of it, and I always try to open spots in the schedule because dentistry can mean sharp pain. But there, the team works even more powerfully than in Ivano-Frankivsk.

Many Kharkiv residents have nowhere to go and no money to go away. And at least someone has to stay to help. Teeth hurt both in war and in peace. Thus, my team decided to work on its own. Since my departure, I haven't been to Kharkiv. As soon as I left for Kharkiv, something happened, and I returned to Ivano-Frankivsk. Therefore, it is their initiative. The main thing I tried to do in my five years of work was to make them want to go to this job. So it happened. They bring each other borscht and pizza and exist. Kharkiv stands, and we stand," says Yulia.

Save Business Now

Before the escalation, her Kharkiv team consisted of 30 people, of whom only two left Ukraine. Some stayed in Kharkiv, and some followed Yulia to open a clinic in Ivano-Frankivsk. As for toothpaste production, at the time of our conversation, part of the equipment remained in Kharkiv, but Yulia gradually transferred the enterprise to Ivano-Frankivsk.

"It moved halfway. The part didn't fit. And the part that remained in Kharkiv was disassembled by someone and handed over for metal recycling. I didn't have time to install surveillance cameras. But we have already restored many processes.

I had a dream. On December 21, I bought a house with a plot in Kharkiv, in a perfect place to make repairs and take tours there. As a manufacturer of the only Ukrainian brand that has appeared on supermarket shelves and a doctor, I am proud. I went to this hard and long. And I wanted the whole country to come because no one does this. And even if there is, I will be better because I want to.

And now this is the situation. But that's ok. I rented a room here in Ivano-Frankivsk with beautiful panoramic windows. It is smaller than in Kharkiv. Now I am doing repairs there, and there will be excursions, but small ones. The work must continue."

Руслана Паробецька Save Business Now

Meanwhile, Ruslana sums up—the Ivano-Frankivsk region stands its ground as a relatively safe region and will continue to do so because the country's stability depends on each person and business.

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