What is the problem?
"Every time they show the situation in Sievierodonetsk, they show our home"
"My husband and I stayed there for two weeks. We were bombarded terribly, and we saw how Ukrainian troops retreated from Shchastia and entered Sievierodonetsk. We understood that there would be a defense in the city. The military was stationed on our floor in the building," Nadiia Andrukhova recalls the first days of the war. "Our production was working for these two weeks because the bread factory stopped, there was no bread, and few people evacuated, especially the middle class, who had businesses. We stayed and held on because it was a shame to throw everything away."
The family ran a bakery in Sievierodonetsk. The family business was going great until everything came to a halt in 2022 when the Russian military entered the city, forcing people to evacuate, leave everything behind, and step into the unknown.
In their hometown, the family had large premises of 670 m², a workshop, ten employees, and a developed production, in which they steadily invested money and all their time.
The story of Andrukhova, like almost all entrepreneurs who started their activities in the 90s, began when the company where she and her husband worked was closed. They decided not to sit idly by, saw a demand for baked goods, and decided to try it. They rented used equipment — cutting and packing machines, which, by the way, worked until 2022.
"When we came to Kyiv for exhibitions and said what kind of equipment we have, everyone was surprised and said that we need to be exhibited somewhere because this kind of equipment usually does not work for so long, but ours does," Andrukhova laughs.
It was the first bakery in the region. The family started with baking and delivering long baguettes. Then, when competition appeared with the opening of new bakeries, the assortment was expanded.
In 2022, Sievierodonetsk was under constant mass attacks, and bakeries began to close. Andrukhova and her husband decided to stay, sending their children and grandchildren as far away from the city as possible. The entrepreneur remembers how they did the same in 2014 when their grandchildren were born.
"We decided they should leave, and my husband and I will somehow stay to work because it would be a shame to abandon such production," says the entrepreneur.
The couple continued to work, delivering bread around Sievierodonetsk, Shchastia, and elsewhere. They helped the Ukrainian military for free and shared bread with them. Shop owners came to the entrepreneurs and picked up the products themselves. Andrukhova says that her husband helped load the bread and pastries because entrepreneurs no longer had loaders at that time — only bakers remained, who, to Andrukhova's surprise, asked to work themselves, saying: "We will work because people need bread!"
A few weeks later, Andrukhova realized she could no longer stay in Sievierodonetsk. The apartment was shaking from shelling, and everything in the streets was broken — all the houses and cars. On May 5, there was heavy shelling, and a shell hit the house next to Andrukhov's.
The couple's home is near the exit to Luhansk, and it was the first to have been destroyed by the Russians. "Every time they show the situation in Sievierodonetsk, they show our house. It was heartbreaking because nothing was left of the house," says Andrukhova regretfully.
The couple and their in-laws evacuated to Dnipro for a month. When leaving, the owners closed the bakery, hoping that upon arrival, they would find it in the same condition. However, upon arriving in the city, the Russian military looted it completely: doors and windows were broken, everything was pulled out, and the floor was strewn with documents and papers that the invaders had taken. They burned boxes on bonfires inside the premises and set up a public toilet.
"It's very symbolic that there used to be a bakery, but now it's a toilet," Andruhova's son Yevhen adds.
What is the solution?
"These are not difficulties, but a marathon that must be completed"
In Dnipro, entrepreneurs believed they were here temporarily — their city was about to be liberated, and they could return home. However, time passed, and it was still dangerous to return. Andruhova's sons found a good offer to rent an apartment in Bucha, in the Kyiv region, so the family headed there.
"We moved here, and we liked it so much! Bucha reminds us so much of our native Sievierodonetsk! Our city is charming and compact — you can walk from one end to the other in 40 minutes. Bucha is the same! From our house in Sievierodonetsk, we could see the forest from the window, and there is also a forest around here!" Andrukhova says enthusiastically.
The family left for Bucha with almost no finances, leaving all production at home: 50 tons of flour, raw materials, and all technical equipment. They took only two bags with things they managed to grab from the apartment.
The entrepreneur shares her memories: "The sons didn't let us panic; they say we will write a grant application and resume production. We couldn't believe it was possible to start a cafe because we had a whole bakery and production in Sievierodonetsk with a completely different scale!"
Then, the business couple decided to apply for a grant from the EU4Business program funded by the European Union. All equipment was purchased from scratch with grant funds: a refrigerator, an oven, an outlet cabinet, and other necessities.
"We wrote a grant application, won €4,000, and then received another grant. For example, an ice cream machine was bought thanks to grant funds. All summer, we made ice cream in waffle cups. There are many children in this block. When we wrote the grant, everyone responded so quickly. We felt such help and support — everything we requested was given to us," adds the entrepreneur.
Andrukhova's son agrees: "These are not difficulties, but a marathon that needs to be completed to reach a stable result. We are still running this marathon but have already reached the level of assortment and technological uninterrupted production. This is a good result for us!"
EU4Business is a set of European Union initiatives aimed at helping small and medium-sized businesses in Ukraine and five other countries. It aims to restore the Ukrainian economy and help companies cope with the difficulties caused by the war. Ukrainians can apply for a grant through the Diia digital governance portal.
How does it work?
"It's like watching your child grow"
The cafe smells deliciously of pastries. Guests can't help but stare at the goodies in the showcase.
"Our assortment includes a lot of different croissants with all kinds of flavors: raspberry, maple syrup, and other popular flavors. We bake buns with poppy seeds, cream, raisins, and bagels. We brought the bread recipe with us from Sievierodonetsk," says Andrukhova.
Starting a business from scratch is a big challenge. The company has been operating in Bucha for over a year, during which the family had to change its approach to production. Then Andrukhova remembered how many years ago, in Kyiv, she got acquainted with the technology of freezing baked goods, which was still relatively new at that time.
The main problem of small coffee shops is that they need a lot of baked goods, a large assortment that needs to be baked quickly, and they cannot afford to have large ovens and cabinets. Such frozen goods allow you always to have fresh products. Buyers do not want to eat yesterday's bread or croissants. "Croissant should be eaten in two to three hours when it is delicious. Defrosting technology allows us to produce fresh and high-quality products quickly," Andrukhova's son Anton shared with Rubryka.
So, the entrepreneurs adapted their former assortment for the coffee shop, arranged the equipment in the available dimensions of the room, and, having considered the size of the workshop, chose the freezer for production.
"I was responsible for introducing and developing new types of assortment in the bakery in Sievierodonetsk. I really enjoyed creating something new and bringing it to market. This is not my main job, but I really liked it. It's like watching your child grow," says Anton.
The entrepreneur shares that when they were developing a bakery in their hometown, they tested everything in practice because creating a bakery business was a new experience for entrepreneurs then. They started with two to three types of pastries, the technological process of which was fully established. Then, with changes in the market, they adapted to it and produced new products. The family invited technology companies that trained entrepreneurs and then passed on the experience to their bakers.
In Anton's opinion, family business unites with responsibilities — you cannot leave your loved one to fend for themselves. At the same time, you need to learn to cope with psychological fatigue: adapt and smooth out conflicts. The family's good relationships helped rebuild the business successfully from scratch in a new location.
Digest of the most interesting news: just about the main thing