- Oksano, how did this hemp story begin?
- In the late 2000s, my sister's husband purchased a hemp plant, an industrial enterprise producing fiber from hemp stems. Later, in 2013, they invited me to join them. But I realized that my involvement in this business would be minority, so I decided to start my own business - using hemp stems. I have seen the huge potential of this material - it is hypoallergenic, and its hygroscopicity (moisture absorption) is at times higher than cotton.
No wonder these properties have long been noticed by our ancestors - the Ukrainians wore hemp clothes and used such fabric in everyday life while preserving food.
Was I scared then? No! I already had a successful clay mining business with my sister and her husband in 2003-2007, which we sold to a French company.
The very idea of doing my own thing again captured me. I realized a long time ago that if you once tried yourself in business, you are unlikely to want to be a hired worker.
However, I was aware that a new business was a huge risk, so I looked for spare options if something went wrong. Among them is the organization of festivals that have earned me income that would insure against failure.
When I shared my business idea with family, friends and acquaintances, I was supported not only by word, but also by business - friends helped to create a future brand page on Facebook and wrote a site on the free Wix platform.
- Tell us, how did the idea come to life?
- Has invested own funds - $ 10 thousand (laughs). This amount I spent on the purchase of fabrics, sewing the first collection of goods for children using hemp. What did that mean? We used hemp as a filler for mattress covers and blankets, and on top we used linen, cotton and more.
It was at this stage that the first difficulties with fabrics arose. Inventing my own collection, I was inspired by the examples of similar items I once saw in Germany at IKEA stores and more. They were the epitome of good taste, quality materials and tailoring. Unfortunately, I have not seen anything like this in Ukraine.
But not only the samples of the products, but also the fabrics of Ukrainian production, I was disappointed because they were of poor quality. The fabric either did not stand the test of durability, or was poorly painted, etc. So I settled on flax and cotton from foreign countries - from Germany, the Netherlands and some other countries. She decided to sew the collection from private craftsmen.
Soon, me and DevoHome were waiting for the exit of people - the presentation and sale of goods at the fair in the Metropolitan Botanical Garden named after MM Grishko. According to the results of the latter, I got the first buyers and the revenue of $ 2 thousand. And with them - a fervent desire to develop the brand in the future!
- What happened then?
- Subsequently, in addition to baby goods, household items appeared - bedding, kitchen items, clothing and even hemp-based shoes. To embody this idea, I had to look for the production of hemp fabrics in Ukraine and abroad. Not having found such a place with us, I chose outsourcing abroad. That is, the hemp grown and partially processed to the state of the filler in Ukraine was then processed abroad. And from there I was getting ready fabric for sewing linen, towels and more.
She decided to sew the products on outsourcing terms, having tried different productions - both huge factories and small enterprises. With the latter, cooperation was more successful than with large factories.
- How do you sell your products?
- In Ukraine - at exhibitions, through a shop in the center of the capital and an online store. Unfortunately, other stores do not expect us. Moreover - not the first year they ignore letters and offers to place our goods.
In Poland, Germany, USA and other countries - we sell through intermediaries. I would like to point out that entering international markets has been a long-standing dream of mine, because people are willing to buy hemp products abroad, and not many manufacturers around the world.
I was able to enter international markets after updating my profile information on LinkedIn. I mentioned the type of activity, and also - subscribed to the accounts of people involved in the hemp business around the world. So everything turned out with foreign customers.
- Oksano, what do people buy the most?
- These are mainly bedroom products: linen sets, blankets, mattress covers. The average check - 2 thousand UAH. But lately, we are seeing a boom in our instant hemp fur coats!
- And who are the customers?
- These are usually people aged 26-35 who live in the center of the capital or in the city. Sometimes - in 2 countries. These people understand the value of hemp goods.
- What do you plan to do in the coming years?
- Many things (laughs). First, finally find shelves for my goods in different stores in the capital. Secondly, tell people more about yourself, win the hearts of buyers around the world!