- Viktoria Kulakova’s hometown in southern Ukraine was occupied by Russian forces in February.
- Her artisan product enterprise was shuttered and he or she felt “very actual threats” to her life and freedom.
- In April, Viktoria fled and relaunched her enterprise. She says gross sales are actually booming.
Viktoria Kulakova’s small enterprise was out of operation for greater than two months, whereas she grappled with the day by day job of surviving Russia’s occupation of her hometown.
Earlier than Russia’s invasion, her retail enterprise It is Craft operated out of a warehouse in Nova Kakhovka — a small, strategically-significant metropolis within the Kherson area of Ukraine.
When Russian forces arrived in February, Viktoria determined to stay round.
Her warehouse was shuttered whereas she and a co-founder, Pavlo Yarmii, labored to help their neighborhood by shopping for meals from struggling farmers and distributing it to weak residents.
Pavlo handed dozens of roadblocks day by day as he traveled across the metropolis delivering provides, and Russian forces commonly searched his automobile on suspicion of pro-Ukrainian partisan exercise.
The pair, together with Oleksiy Chirkov, who has since left the corporate, co-founded It is Craft within the Spring of 2020. It is a web-based retailer which goals to help small-scale producers producing conventional Ukrainian merchandise.
It sells artisan merchandise and foodstuffs, from cheese and cured meats to textiles and picket crafts — together with an engraved plywood map of Ukraine.
In April, Viktoria fled her house in Nova Kakhovka and reestablished herself — and her on-line retailer — in a brand new metropolis. Now, she informed Insider, enterprise is booming — and gross sales have even outstripped pre-war figures.
All of it occurred very quick
It was solely after numerous hesitation that Viktoria and Pavlo lastly determined to flee Nova Kakhovka. They’d been warned by mates that their volunteering efforts made them targets for interrogation by the occupiers.
“We have been frightened about how that would prove,” mentioned Viktoria, “as a result of we have been clearly pro-Ukrainian activists.”
In the long run, all of it occurred very quick. They set off in direction of Uman, a metropolis in central Ukraine which is house to Viktoria’s sister Iryna, lower than 24 hours after making the robust resolution to go away.
Viktoria informed Insider: “We solely left when it was completely vital and we could not delay any additional because of the very actual threats to our freedom and our lives.”
They gave their leftover provides to native charities. On April 23, Viktoria crammed right into a small automobile with Pavlo and his household. There was solely sufficient house to convey one small bag, so Viktoria needed to depart virtually all of her private possessions and enterprise provides behind.
On the entire, they’d a “comparatively simple” escape, mentioned Viktoria. Nonetheless, their journey took over 24 hours — no less than 4 occasions so long as it will have taken earlier than the outbreak of the full-scale battle in February.
The group spent a number of hours sitting in an extended column of automobiles ready to cross by Russian checkpoints. Describing the scene, Viktoria mentioned: “Everybody was fairly quiet. Moms tried to maintain their kids distracted. Some individuals cried. Some individuals prayed.”
They lastly reached Uman round midday on April 24, simply in time to have fun Orthodox Easter — a serious vacation in Ukraine. For Viktoria, Easter “wasn’t only a spiritual pageant, however a celebration of freedom.”
A hardened resolve
Earlier than escaping Nova Kakhovka, Viktoria had utilized to the Ukrainian Social Enterprise Fund to hunt monetary help for relaunching and relocating It is Craft. After she arrived in Uman, she came upon that she’d been awarded 180,000 Ukrainian hryvnia — round $5,000.
She put this cash, in addition to her private financial savings, into re-establishing It is Craft. Pavlo remained centered on volunteering, whereas Viktoria devoted herself to rebuilding their shared enterprise.
By early Might, 75% of her suppliers had shut down, and plenty of of her common clients had fled Ukraine. Viktoria labored quickly to hunt new suppliers, set up collaborations with native producers, and launch a advertising and marketing marketing campaign to advertise the shop to a broader viewers.
She additionally opened up It is Craft’s first-ever bodily retailer in a bid to attract new clients.
Now, six months down the road, enterprise is booming. Common month-to-month gross sales are up, in accordance with financial institution statements verified by Insider. Viktoria thinks this could be on account of a rising patriotic curiosity in shopping for from Ukrainian-run companies amid Russia’s assault on the nation.
Viktoria says It is Craft’s vary has grown from round 750 to 1,450 merchandise. She’s even seeking to broaden, and is eyeing potential franchises within the Ukrainian vacationer hotspots of Lviv and Kyiv.
Russia’s invasion has solely hardened Viktoria’s resolve to develop her enterprise. She informed Insider: “We need to contribute to the institution of Ukraine’s nationwide id and to the expansion of Ukraine’s financial system.”