Let’s start with the basics:
If you had to eat one thing for every meal going forward, what would you eat?
I would most certain say- rice! Having lived in Asia for a year, I feel like I’ve already challenged myself to sticking to one type of meal. I had rice with rich and flavourful curries daily.
You’re standing at Schiphol, bags packed, limitless budget, where do you go?
I’d be off to the Portuguese island, Madeira. It would be nice to escape to some good weather. I’ve also seen countless of documentaries about the island, it’s such an intriguing place!
What’s your dream job?
I’d say ‘successful entrepreneur’ although I don’t necessarily consider it a job. To me a job means that you are given tasks to complete. I’ve never dealt with that type of ‘job’.
Any secret talents you’d like to share?
I believe I’m good at contemplating, concentrating and mediation. I believe that through that combination of skills, I am more able to understand the essence of things; It makes me a better entrepreneur.
Ok and now for the serious part of the interview:
Could you tell me a bit about your background and what you are working on at Refugees Forward?
I came to the Netherlands from Belarus with a substantial level of experience in business. This grew over the course of setting up multiple businesses. The main one was a second-hand cars shop. I had it for more than 20 years while simultaneously running different kinds of businesses. I co-owned a sawmill plant that employed 75 people, had a go-go bar, a tourism agency and co-owned a supermarket in the middle of the city. Some of the others I don’t even remember myself ha-ha. I believe many of my entrepreneurial endeavours were very enjoyable and successful, others, in which I had less of a say, less so.
I’m currently starting an event decoration company, or at least bringing the already existing company from Russia and Belarus to the Netherlands – Flexik. The original designer for the decoration is a friend of mine, Alexei, from Moscow. Our friendship made it easy to come to a mutually benefit agreement.
What motivates you?
Fun! As long as it’s fun and it works financially, you can count me in. My motto is no money no funny. For example, when the program started I was working on importing an electrical engine device that produced energy. We shifted our efforts to a different project because we didn’t raise enough money to start, but it was really interesting, so I hope to revisit the idea someday. With regards to what I’m doing now, every event is different, so that’s interesting and inspiring.
What did you learn from the people involved in this program?
I’m speaking more English than ever before! I’m getting lectures in English, and I’m finally able to do business in English, which is definitely an achievement for me. That’s one thing I learnt. More importantly however, and this might not be related to learning as much, but the program has introduced me to an unusual level of support. For all the other companies I have set up, I’ve always had to struggle on my own, which isn’t easy. Here at RF, things happen much more easily because of the support from the team. It’s so unbelievably great. Of course, I also had to learn to adjust to Dutch society, but as a member of the RF community you definitely feel taken care of.
Lastly, I met my business partner through the program! He actually was the first person to approach me on the first day of the program. I was focused on the electrical engine project at the time, but he helped me realize it wasn’t financially viable, so we switched to the event decoration project.
Who’s your biggest role model?
Throughout my life I’ve been most inspired by a friend; the one I started the second-hand car shop with. I’m grateful to him because he introduced me to the world of entrepreneurship, which has become such a fundamental part of my life. Before meeting him, I wasn’t as inspired to start my own businesses. I had just come back from military service, and entrepreneurship simply hadn’t been a part of my life. We soon realised how successful we could be together, how real the concept of synergy is. The business achieved great things!
Why did you join RF?
I was first introduced to the concept of Refugees Forward through my case manager at the municipality. She encouraged me to think about applying and so I did mainly because I had an idea – several ideas. The application process was fairly short. Within no time, I was a part of the program.
If you picture your perfect future in 5 years from now, what does it look like?
In the next 5 years, I hope to expand my business all over Europe as well as become leader in the event decoration market in the Netherlands. Once I’m leader in the Netherlands, I hope that the Benelux, Germany and France will follow. Later I would target South East Asia and the Middle East.