Startup Competition Brings Ideas to Life, Part III
This is part three in a four-part spotlight series on successes in the Delivering Regional Instruction Vital to Entrepreneurial Success (DRIVES) Program, funded by the United States Agency for International Development. The program’s goal is to improve access to high-quality business education for small- and medium-sized enterprises across Belarus. PYXERA Global implements DRIVES in cooperation with international and local partners including the Global Business Schools Network and IPM Business School in Minsk. Read parts one, two, and four here.
Irina Yurchenko has always harbored a passion for retail and design. After earning her degree in design at the Vitebsk State Technological University, Irina participated in various clothing designer competitions, showcasing her collections in Rome, Berlin, Prague, Stockholm, and Vienna. These competitions led Irina to her first job working as a fashion designer in one of Vitebsk’s fashion studios. During her time at this studio, Irina got married and had her first child.
After the birth of her daughter, Irina began to realize that her professional goals reached further than working at someone else’s design studio. She wanted to open up her own business. In 2014, Irina registered as an individual entrepreneur, rented a small room in Vitebsk, and began her journey as a small-business owner.
In the beginning, Irina’s business was primarily supported by friends and acquaintances, with client growth relatively slow. Irina struggled to make a name for herself and her studio in a highly competitive market. Things began to turn around after her participation in the Best Start-Up Idea Competition 2016. During the competition, Irina benefitted from the wisdom of seasoned entrepreneurial mentors. She was pushed to improve her business plan for the sake of the competition and ended up making economical changes to the way she ran her business:
- Complete complex products in-house, while delegating standard products to other tailors
- Outsource accounting services
- Postpone launch of online store to focus on tailoring and commercial collections first
Activities like in-house accounting and basic tailoring projects had been taking up a lot of the studio’s time and resources. These changes allowed Irina to strengthen the core services of her studio and give her business a strong foundation. In July 2017, Irina launched her online store. Through this new website, her clothing is now available everywhere in the country. Her collections are also being offered at designer exhibitions throughout Minsk, which helps with the marketing of her design studio.
Irina acquired much more than just business expertise from her participation in the competition. Some of the judges are now her partners. It also served as a marketing tactic, attracting potential clients to her studio. Irina’s participation in the competition brought her design studio to life through efficient changes to her business plan, and the connections established through networking with fellow entrepreneurs.
This story is made possible by the support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) as part of the Delivering Regional Instruction Vital to Entrepreneurial Success project implemented by PYXERA Global. The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of PYXERA Global and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.