BITTERSWEET STARTUP. DISPLACED SINGER GETS INTO GINGERBREAD PRODUCTION

Kate left Luhansk more than a year ago. On 13 June 2014, she and her husband got married, and the next day they were driving out of their native city. “I’m a singer, so I signed a job contract and went abroad. First to China, then to Kazakhstan, and I only returned to Ukraine six months ago. While I was gone, my parents also left Luhansk and were roaming the country for several months. There was hope that the military conflict would finish and they could be able to go back home, but it didn’t materialize. So in the fall of 2014 they eventually moved to Kharkiv: first they lived with friends and eventually they managed to rent a sepa­rate apartment. I joined them this past winter,” says Kate.

She used to earn money by singing. A year before the war started she got a job with a local art centre and also sang at corporate parties and in restaurants. All in all, she had a good income and financial independence. Now everything is gone: the art centre is no longer open, standing with a broken roof and Kate’s employ­ment record book inside it.

Kate has dedicated all her spare time to baking. Making gingerbread was her hobby and a chance to please her friends. After moving to Kharkiv, the hobby appeared to be very useful. “I started watching photos of various sweets online, and gingerbread caught my attention the most. After trying to bake and decorate them, I decided to sell my gingerbread instead of just giving them to friends as the financial situation in my family was difficult,” says Kate.

Kate’s sister shared with her the news about a special EU-funded and IOM-implemented programme supporting IDP entrepreneurs with microgrants: “At that time I had already started baking gingerbread. So, when entering the programme, I had a clear idea to bring to life. After passing the special training session, I prepared a business plan to be provided with a cooking processor.”

Kate started selling her baked products online. She says that there are several agencies and shops which keep buying her pastries. Kate is also taking specific orders for gingerbread requiring an unusual approach. Her working desk is full of the gingerbread of various types and shapes: there are fairy-tale characters like Karlson and the Minions, or custom birthday greetings for children. “My sleeping time now is just four or five hours. In the morning, I come to my parents to prepare the dough, then to bake and decorate the gingerbread,” says the girl.

After a year away from home she has decided to visit Luhansk to check her family’s apartment that was bought shortly before her wedding. “It hurts so much to see all this. But you realize that life goes on, and we must move on too. We know that there is no chance for going back home soon, so we try to do the best for immediate self-realization,” says Kate. It is always hard to start everything from scratch, but she is very driven. “In the beginning of the summer I used to buy just two kilograms of powdered sugar for gingerbread decoration; now I need a 50 kg bag, though a couple of months ago I could not even dream of it,” adds Kate.

“I am very grateful to IOM for being chosen for this entre­preneurial programme. When I received the cooking processor, I did not believe it was true. Now I can save time on dough preparation and devote it more to creativity. You know, there are so many beautiful ideas that I want to implement. My husband often asks how I find the time to cook everything. But I just cannot answer “no” when people come to me for a treat for their holiday or celebration, and I am pleased to make them happy,” says Kate.

She keeps combining the singing with baking gingerbread. Kate still sings in a restaurant several nights per week while intending to focus on baking. “I could not even think that I would like this so much. Cur­rently, the whole family is engaged in the home bakery: mom is watching the baking process, dad is responsible for dough drying. It’s all hand-made work and I am quite anxious that everything is ready on time and looks amazing.”

 

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