MS: I recently spoke with an entrepreneur, and she said, in my opinion, a very correct thing - if you want to achieve success, do what you love. Do you agree with this statement?
Elena Shifrina:Love is enough only for the first three or four months, and then comes the "operating system", which, I think, no one likes. Here you have to definitely learn something new, and it's not a fact that this new thing is exactly what you want to learn. This concerns some accounting and legal issues … I think you need to force yourself to love doing what you have to do. Well, for example, everyone likes to be creative, to create something new. I am delighted with it too. In order for a new packaging or a new product to see the light of day, I have to do a huge operational work: count the costs, contact logisticians, with production, all this is not very “exiting” and “sexy business”. You just have to, waking up every day, think: "Today I will solve such problems that I could not solve yesterday." And solve them. That is, you cannot do only those things all your lifewhat do you like.
MS: I know that your children helped you to “decide” on what you love. It sounds very touching, but specifically, how did it happen?
Y. Sh.: In fact, the idea of what I am doing was given to me by Skolkovo. I was a corporate executive and never thought that I would have my own business, because all my life I was very afraid to become a CEO, to be responsible for a large number of people, but when Skolkovo told us: “Guys, we you have been taught for sixteen months, and now go and try to use all your knowledge in practice: come up with a project, write a business plan, bring it to mind, and we will evaluate your abilities. " No one from my group took me to his team, I had to be in a team with myself and create a project on my own.
I have always liked a healthy lifestyle, my mother is an adherent of proper nutrition, she has always fed us separately. And I really wanted as many people in Russia as possible to at least think about what a healthy lifestyle is, how to change their diet, their attitude to sports. It seems to me that we succeeded because the number of people who are now taking care of their health is increasing every year.
The second Bitey project was released after I had children, because those snacks and the food they love, I do not allow them to eat. It is stuffed with all sorts of chemicals. I wanted them and my friends' children to have the opportunity to eat and eat properly. So that I would be calm, like a mother, about the fact that they eat something healthy, and so that they themselves are happy, since they eat interesting beautiful foods.
MS: I know that you started the company when you were expecting your first child …
Elena Shifrina: It so happened that I founded a company, attracted a bunch of specialists and … found out that I was in a position.
MS: Many women perceive pregnancy as a terrible disease, preferring to sit for days, and it is better to lie at home. How did you manage to combine?
Y. Sh.: This is a really serious illness. Both of my pregnancies were far from cloudless. So it was like this: they bring me to work in the morning, unload me, I lie or sit in the office in a completely motionless state, work, and in the evening they again load me into the car and take me home. But still, it seems to me that it is much easier to work during pregnancy than not to work, because when you are at home, you always feel unhappy, all the time you think how hard it is for you that your husband is working somewhere, and you are at home alone and no one knows how bad you are. So I decided that I would do the opposite. I tried to keep my schedule at work as tight as possible, it distracted me from pregnancy, from toxicosis, from the fact that I was getting fat …
MS: In general, how to combine business with personal life? After all, it is necessary to find a balance …
Y. Sh.: Many are now talking about the fact that there is some kind of struggle for equality between men and women. I do not agree with this, because the struggle for women's rights may be somewhere in the West, in their 50s, 60s all women were housewives, but we did not have that. In the Soviet Union, all women worked. My grandmother gave birth to my dad and after three months she went to work, my mother gave birth to me and after nine months she sent me to a nursery. That is, I believe that mothers should work. Our story is this: all our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers worked in Soviet times in the same way as men, why shouldn't we work? I don't think pregnancy is a “weekend ticket” for a woman. Have you seen dads who go on maternity leave? Not. Then why should mom stay at home? It seems to me that then it is very difficult to return to the usual flow of life.
MS: How do you put together your ideal team?
Elena Shifrina: Thank God, it somehow happened that all people were chosen in spirit. The main thing is the desire to work, to take the initiative, and it doesn't matter what your experience is. It's so great when all people fit together. We understand everyone at a glance, we learn from each other. We are very rarely visited by some "wrong" employees. Of course, sometimes we make mistakes, but more often than not we focus not on merit, but on what kind of person is by nature, what hobbies he has … We are trying to understand whether this person is kind or not.
MS: How did you come up with the idea to launch the production of baby food? It is clear that you always want your child to get the best, but not everyone organizes production on an industrial scale
E. Sh.: When I am somewhere abroad, on business trips or on vacation, I see how many cool products there are for children, but in Russia, baby food is only cereals, canned puree and dry mixes. This is where we run out of baby food. With our team, we are trying to dispel the myth that children can only eat cereals, mashed potatoes and wheat cookies with sugar. And it seems to me that wheat and sugar are far from what my children need. But all our products are, firstly, gluten-free, and secondly, wheat-free. Because even if your child is not allergic to wheat, gluten-containing foods are more likely to irritate the intestinal walls.
All our products are sugar free. It is very difficult to create a sugar-free product for a child without falling apart. After all, either sugar or fat sticks together, and we do not add either one or the other. We try to ensure that any composition of our product can be read, understood and pronounced by the child himself - only familiar ingredients.
MS: Today you are not only producing baby products. Now this is a very popular topic - “proper nutrition”, demand is growing - supply is growing. How do you manage to survive among competitors, what is your secret?
Elena Shifrina: In fact, when we entered the healthy snacks market, we had no competitors at all. We were the first company in Russia to start producing natural snacks, and we are still number one. According to RBC, we have the largest market share. Of course, many people copy us, sometimes situations reach the point of absurdity when giants repeat after us. I will not name the companies, but this situation shows that we are moving in the right direction.
All the companies that came after us, just like us, are engaged in market development, but we are always two steps ahead - in terms of innovation, in terms of development, in terms of design. Everything that we have on the market now is all copies of Bite. In order to stay on top, we have to constantly develop and work twice as much as our competitors. On the one hand, there are more competitors, but on the other hand, I see that 80-90% are falling off because they understand how difficult the business is. Everyone can copy, but not everyone can do the further development of the product.
MS: Does lifestyle affect business in any way? Defines it? To deal with food, you need to understand them well
Y. S.: I am engaged in self-education, but as professionals we take consultations from the best nutritionists, nutritionists, pediatricians, because we have a children's line. We never stop learning new things in the field of nutrition.
MS: If failures happen, how do you deal with them?
Elena Shifrina: I won't say that we had any setbacks, but rather problems. But I look at the problem as a problem, because any problem can be solved. I try to be happy when I have some big global problem. And I'm even more happy if we are the first to come across it, because if I can handle this equation, then I will be the first in the market to do it.
MS: Does it take a lot of time to put the business on track?
Y. Sh.: It took us about a year to get a profit, to set things up so as not to pay people a salary out of their own pockets. And then necessarily - the development of the company. Until now, all our profits go further into work.
MS: Have you achieved everything you wanted, or are there many more plans ahead?
Y. S.: Well, our biggest plans are related to the further development of Bite sales abroad, we are now entering the UK and American markets. It would seem that this product was inspired by the Western market, and now we are reaching them, and they believe that the taste and design of Bite is better than our official competitors in America. It's cool that it happened: we were inspired by them, but in the end we did better. As for the children's line, we are now working together with the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences.
MS: What advice would you give to those who dream of starting their own business?
Y. Sh.: It seems to me that you need to listen as little as possible and do what you yourself believe in. I always think of Steve Jobs if someone says: "Oh, this is not yet, but let's ask our consumers what they want." Jobs assured: "Until the consumer gets the Apple product in his hands, he will not understand that he wanted it." This we tell you exactly what the potential buyer needed. Therefore, I would advise to listen less to others, and to listen to yourself more, because you need to live the way you want, and not as someone else advises.
Photo source: personal archive