11 May 2021

The hospitality business has arguably suffered the most during the pandemic. However, some daring entrepreneurs from the MIM-Kyiv community managed to thrive in the brave new world and launch new lines of businesses. They shared their experiences during the latest MIM-TV session. 

Oleksandr Sokolov, the visionary founder of the Smilefood online restaurant and SE MBA student told us that they had mastered online order processing skills before the lockdown was introduced last year. They only had to boost up the delivery. 

“It was the competition that has been getting tougher rather than the market has been growing. The sales costs are increasing. It is all good for customers because the service is improving. We are focusing on loyal customers rather than on acquiring new ones because recruiting is becoming more expensive. If you want to have loyal customers, you have to improve your service,” Oleksandr explained. 

He said that before the lockdown the clients accepted an hour or even longer waiting time. Nowadays they are not going to wait longer than 45 – 50 minutes. Notorious traffic jams made the situation worse. Thus, Smilefood tried alternatives. 

“We have developed a delivery strategy. As part of its implementation, we are using the scooters and couriers from the neighborhoods who can walk. We are even testing drones. If we can’t deliver our customers are not happy. And neither are we,” Oleksandr said. 

Knowledge management is an important element of business strategy. “We introduced an internal gamified portal where couriers take their video training. Our executive team is studying at MIM-Kyiv. Our marketing director, HR director, CEO, and CFO are taking the MBA program whereas I am taking the Senior Executive program. On-going learning, understanding of a wider picture, and crisis management are critical for any business. MIM-Kyiv is the place to master those competencies,” Oleksandr told us. 

Roman Nabozhniak, co-founder of the Veterano Brownie and MIM-Kyiv graduate 2021 managed to expand the business, improve financial results, and create new jobs. His company also won the Effie Awards Ukraine for Brownie Therapy advertising campaign. 

“Last year we accelerated product launch. We introduced such products that I couldn’t have even imagine in 2019. We are selling brownie premixes and bottled coffee drinks. We launched free delivery a week or two before the lockdown because we followed the pandemic development closely,” Roman shared his company’s lockdown experiences. “I also understood that having cash reserve is critical. It helps you understand that you can keep business and jobs under crisis. As an entrepreneur, I am responsible for my employees.”

Roman believes that the new normal is already here. He said that at the beginning of the first lockdown people tried to support their favorite restaurants by ordering home delivery. Now, two-thirds of patrons prefer to cook at home. Roman’s answer is premixes for home cooking. 

“Delivery was our response but it is here to stay. I am scaling this function. We are now growing our online segment. It is the first point of contact. Due to the online segment, we can promote our off-line restaurant. It is critical to look at the business through our clients' eyes,” Roman says. “Carrying on regardless of the situation is an important transformation of managerial approach. I mastered the skill at MIM-Kyiv’s program. Planning and implementing plans, acquiring a longer-term perspective were probably my main takeaways from my studies here.”