Lockdown - this is how our partner Andrei Alekseev*, an owner of Neft cinema club (from Yaroslavl), and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation called the project about entrepreneurs and for entrepreneurs. In April and May of 2020 while the world was in quarantine, every working day of the week Andrei met with businessmen online to talk about issues and challenges in their business area and of course about the future. Entrepreneurs just have to think about the future, don’t they?
Despite all existing challenges each live show was incredibly positive and filled with hopes. Over two months Lockdown invited almost forty entrepreneurs from different business areas – owners of cinemas and restaurants, paintball clubs and gas stations, flower kiosks and bathhouse & sauna chains, book publishers and technical equipment manufacturers (all conversations are recorded and can be watched on the Foundation’s Youtube channel). Virtually all of them found themselves in a tough financial situation. Some managed to switch to the online mode. Some slowed down their business to keep as many staff as possible. Whereas in some areas they managed to use quarantine with maximum benefit – it turned out that online psychological assistance or online celebration events were quite useful and in demand. Some businesses planned transferring to the online mode long ago and the quarantine gave it a push forward.
Just a couple of stories. One of them is about entrepreneur Yegor Kyrov, a founder of a photo parlour chain. He managed to keep his team and save his photo business despite the fact that his business was not included in the list of industries severely affected by COVID, and he moved to quite an unexpected area. He decided to realize his long-standing idea – selling honey from his own apiary through Instagram.
The next story is about an owner of the Vlast [Power] bar in Yaroslavl. His name is Dmitri Vasiliev. In order to retain and support his clients he and his team came up with an idea of online parties. It should be noted that he paid the rent of the premises for April from his own pocket and the May rent payment was aided by the government.
Andrei Alekseev’s* story is quite indicative too. He is an entrepreneur. His business was among the first that suffered – all cinemas were closed for an indefinite period. Just like any entrepreneur who is responsible for his business, Andrei came up with an out-of-the-box solution – he openned a cinema of wheels in Yaroslavl because ‘there was no any other way to show films on a big screen and comply with all sanitary norms’.
At the end of the month it was clear that sooner or later the quarantine would be over. The Lockdown project: “While The World is in Quarantine” transformed into the Lockdown: Exit project. It is still about entrepreneurs and how they are finding a way out from this crisis. The idea to continue the project implied doing a detailed story on an entrepreneur’s business, visiting his or her enterprise and doing an online talk about a bright future of entrepreneurship. The project started with visiting Tensor IT-company which Nikita Kulikov, one of project’s hosts, called a Silicon Valley of Yaroslavl.
The visit to Olga Gavrilova’s Ovechnom sheep farm was incredibly homey. Answering the question of how a city dweller got an idea to start a farm, she said something about ‘imbecility and courage’. Though certainly, entrepreneurship is not a story about imbecility. It is about freedom of choice, responsibility for yourself and your life, responsibility for the world around you which every entrepreneur is striving to make better. The Lockdown: Exit will continued till the end of Summer 2020.
All Lockdown streams are recorded and available on Youtube channels of Andrei Alekseev* and the Foundation. Enjoy it!
*Russian Ministry of Justice labelled Andrei a foreign agent. What it is?