They work from home and promote the gourmet products through social networks and at local markets. Some are baking pies and macarons (Happy People Pies, Polinas Cake Lab), and some are making lemonades (Kyiv Soda Works), while others are transforming éclairs into an art (E’clair Little Artwork). By using local food and by creating unique recipes food entrepreneurs help local food producers while developing their own businesses.
We talked to first-time founders, as well as to experienced entrepreneurs, who in a couple of years managed to migrate their production from a home kitchen to a professional workshop.
A Kitchen as An Office
Only three years ago, the founders of a gourmet workshop Confiture couldn’t imagine what the name of their future company will mean. The friends met one evening and decided to start a business, doing the only thing they were good at. Cooking food. A jam was chosen as a key product since it’s not only a food widely consumed in Ukraine, but can also serve as a gift, easily stored for a reasonably long time.
A home kitchen had become the first production facility of the Confiture. It was a test lab for trying new recipes. Such as pineapple-chilli, kiwi-lime, apricot-rom, and strawberry-mint. But after a while the guys started to hire a kitchen in a restaurant and cooked their jam at nighttime. At daytime they delivered orders, did Facebook marketing, and even had casual jobs.
In three years time, the team Confiture grew to 15 employees, who cook using special recipes in their professional workshop now, and ship to customers from 2 to 20,000 jars every month. The marketing channels remain the same though, they are a word of mouth, local markets, and social networks. A large portion of all orders are corporate ones.
The hardest part was to overcome ourselves, especially when we weren’t making any profit during the first 1,5 to 2 years. So you work day and night every day, but not making a living. Lots of businesses are closing on such stage.
But there is a rule of “3D” – Do, Do, Do. In the very beginning, we took 6,000 UAH and bought two pots, and 40 kg of fruits. We cooked the jam, went to a market, and sold it for 6,000 UAH. We just continued doing it. Had we tried to think about various numbers, we would probably have never started.
A passion for food and home kitchen experiments brought to life the Beerstard, the next food startup in our overview. Accordingly to the owner, it’s the result of her love to mustard and beer. Lana Svitankova had come across a recipe which she modified to suit her taste better, and her friends liked it too. Same friends had become the first customers who ordered Beerstard a year ago.
Lana buys mustard grains from Ukrainian farmers and the beer from the local breweries. She also adds special ingredients that define the mustard character. For example, honey and pink paper define her Honey Bunny mustard, while Smokin’ Hot is extra spicy because of the chilli paper.
The chief cook of Beerstard chooses only Ukrainian ingredients, due to economic and ideological reasons. She is developing this project as a hobby.
I can’t say that there is no financial interest, but I wouldn’t be able to make the ends meet if I relied only on the income from the mustard sales. But I’ve got lucky, as my situation allows me to devote time to this hobby of cooking. As for the law, I can say that our government is not interested in the micro business, there is no lobbying, and no intent to consider it as a business at all.
For the production of the food, we are required to have a production workshop and a storage. But why would I need a workshop when in the best case scenario I produce only 300 jars per month? However, the best motivation is to have someone come to us at a festival and say “delicious”, or “we bought from you before and came back for more”.
My Muffin Weekend Bakery
Another project of home produce is My Muffin Weekend Bakery. For its founder, it has become a sweet escape from office routine. After Veronica Dosaeva practiced her skill long enough while baking muffins and cakes for her family, she decided to take orders from customers and to deliver them on weekends. However, the “on weekend” schedule didn’t work from the beginning, and the bakery started its operation on a regular basis.
After three months in, the team My Muffin realised a need to move from the home kitchen to a production workshop, and later to find more colleagues-confectioners. There are four people working at My Muffin now, including Veronica. She still hasn’t stopped baking herself, and remain the main cook and ideologist of the company.
In addition to online ordering, you can buy the muffins and pastries from Veronica’s team in nine coffee shops in Kyiv, with whom the confectionery has partnered. You can recognise My Muffin products by their extraordinary recipes and exclusive taste.
We are different because we try to make our products, including muffins, cupcakes, cakes, and cheesecakes, in such way so that they would not have analogues and would not copy our friends-competitors. So for example we have muffin-cheesecake, pesto muffin, Guinness cake, pumpkin cheesecake.
We cook only what we like ourselves, and from the same products that we buy for ourselves. Even though we are not the target audience of the product, we try to make it as if we were making a gift for mom, genuinely caring. Apart from my family and the bakery I have no other worries, so I fully and completely dedicated to the project.
Mama Oli Koli
A business of Oleshchenko family has started on a trip to Italy, where Olia, Kolia, and their mom Tetiana have got inspired by Italian food culture and returned to Ukraine with an intent to start their gourmet business. Since, Mam of Olia and Kolia already knew about making jam, they decided to focus on that. The company was called in honour of the main inspirer of the project, – Mamaolikoli.
In the first year, the variety of tastes grew from seven to 28 jams. But the core of the production remained the same: plain fruits, veggies, and berries from the local farmers, cooked in unusual combinations. Soon, Mamaolikoli are moving to industrial production, but in the meantime the core team still consists of three people. The most difficult aspect in creating the business during the financial hardship in Ukraine the family mentions is the return of investment. As part of the funds invested were in foreign currency.
Food by post
All manufacturers mentioned here have chosen quite different models, but sometimes their products come in the same box. Local Food («Місцева їжа»), is a form of association for local food producers and activists, which helps them to distribute their products in Kyiv, and also in all of Ukraine. A box of Local Food gets delivered to its customers once a month, and it contains seven products of local manufacturers. There is a balance of sweet and salty foods in it, like exclusive tea, and handmade Italian pasta.
Each box costs around 400 UAH and its content changes every month, – Local Food continuously partners up with new local brands. The food that goes in it does not deteriorate quickly, so it survives the delivery process. There are 100 to 150 orders every month. At least 50 of them from the customers who joined the service from the very beginning.
Grandma’s little bag
Another service of local produce delivery works directly with local farms and delivers fresh veggies, fruits, dairy, and meat to Kyivers. The story of Grandma’s little bag («Бабусина торбинка») has started in 2012 as a family project. In the beginning, the team delivered food from their relatives in a village. But because of the word of mouth other farmers who produce natural food joined in. Accordingly to the founders of the online service, it was impossible to find this kind of food on the supermarkets shelves and at the local markets at that time.
Grandma’s little bag are proud of their achievements, especially about winning the Entrepreneurial Talent competition, where service was recognised as the best social project among 234 other participants. The “Little bag” is now being reborn into two separate projects, but the values remain the same, – to help farmers and to promote local food.
We shared the food traditions of our family with those who love the taste of natural products, and care about their health and time. At the moment, we are changing the Grandma’s little bag – the farmers’ food delivery service, and transforming it into two new projects. The first one is Spinach – a delivery service of balanced food for the whole day. And the Home Taste, – a delivery of ingredients for cooking meals at home.
Why are we changing? Because the world is changing, we notice new needs and opportunities of the “blue ocean”. And we enjoy creating new services that make life more convenient and tasty.