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Regular version of the site

Balancing Between Studying At HSE And Running Your Own Home Bakery

Anna Filchakova interviews an HSE student and a small business owner.

Balancing Between Studying At HSE And Running Your Own Home Bakery

Startups can be a great opportunity to begin your future business.

To begin with, when and why have you decided to create your home bakery in St. Petersburg?

It was quite an impulsive decision that had no business plan under it. At some point in my life I’ve just realized that I stopped enjoying only studying and wanted something more. I think, I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, a desire to organize things and events. So, in September 2018, I opened my own bakery. The very first weeks were amazing, because initially you receive orders from acquaintances, whose preferences you are more or less familiar with. Then I experimented a lot with cakes’ filling and most importantly with their décor. And my ideas eventually worked out! At the moment I realized that I liked such a job, that there appeared the fire in my eyes.

How has your business survived the hard period of quarantine, during which people cancelled their celebrations?

One should take into account that in confectionery business everything depends entirely on the confectioner, his or her performance and goals. You can attract clients regardless of “bad” external conditions. Personally, I worked well during the quarantine, perhaps even better than the previous winter months. In any situation, you need to look for positive moments. In my case, it was the absence necessity to go to the Uni, which allowed me to find time to immediately implement the ideas that came to my mind. For example, I worked very well on Easter, making 33 cakes (kulichi) in a few days! Unfortunately, it was impossible to hire an assistant due to strict quarantine measures. Therefore, despite the good revenue, I had absolutely no energy left after Easter. My concluding remark is that quarantine was a time of opportunities. The main thing was to use them correctly.

How you manage to maintain balance between work and studying? Does the latter somehow help run the business?

It is quite difficult to balance and not go to extremes like doing work 24/7, forgetting about studying, and vice versa. I can say that HSE teaches you to solve such issues that you don't like along while meeting a certain deadline. The same can be found in work: from time to time one can’t avoid doing things that you don't like, but without which no further development is possible. Such "school of deadlines and restrictions" builds character.

Talking about relevance of minors, well, the very idea is excellent but poorly performed. Indeed, the whole story with the system of division into major and minor is cool, because in life there is not enough knowledge in just one field is not enough, you always need more competences. Initially, I had high hopes for the minor “Startups” in our campus. I expected to learn a lot of new materials helpful for my business, but in fact was disappointed. Nevertheless, it is fair to mention that some course materials were really useful, but since the majority of students were not interested, the instructors were neither eager to explain, for example, the creation of different models, financial plans, forecasts properly. Much was done "for the record", which did not allow students with an existing business or business idea to fully gain necessary data, despite asking additional questions. Even though I have relatively tiny business with my home bakery, I know a lot about entrepreneurship from relevant literature, podcasts, and from competent people. I can say that the materials that are given on minor are outdated. Startups, business, and entrepreneurship are rapidly changing areas where it is difficult to keep track of all innovations. But still, it would be great if minor’s content would be updated periodically to match the reality at least to some extent.

What inspires you? What makes you generate ideas?

Well, the whole surrounding world brings me some inspiration. For instance, people, YouTube videos, flowers, our beautiful city of St. Petersburg, delicious food in restaurants. Sometimes I try new flavor combinations, and I can be so charged after, that I will come home and work until night, coming up with something interesting. The key point is that one should be able to take literarily everything from the world and convert it into inspiration for the creativity.

Have you ever had a desire to give everything up?

To be honest, I don't remember such moments, but I'm sure it occurred at least once. I’ve just always knew that there was no way to quit as too much effort and time was invested in this bakery. It’s quite a universal technique, when it seems that you are doing something worthless, just think about how far you have already come. This may inspire some to move on. I had a period in my life when my relatives told me that the bakery was for losers, single women who were not able to do anything else. However, I received so much support from my parents, who said that only a few people from their circle were able to make such cakes, that I was doing a great job and should move in that direction further.

Final question: what piece of advice would you give to people who are willing to develop any startup but are hesitating?

I’m trying to give good advice in a soft form, but I have a firm position on this issue: if you are in doubt or afraid, do not start anything at all. Running private business is difficult, you face challenges every day, you have to constantly overcome fears. I believe that you are either born with an entrepreneurial spirit, or you make a huge effort to open a business because you REALLY want to. And if one thinks to develop a startup simply following modern trends, supposing that nowadays success can be achieved only this way, while not feeling 99% confident, then it’s not a game worth playing.

Interview by
Anna Filchakova