среда, 25 апреля 2012 г.

SKOLKOVO graduates: Elena Shifrina

We continue the series of interviews with our graduates, and today we’d like to get you acquainted with Elena Shifrina, SKOLKOVO MBA graduate, and with her project – BioFoodLab.

- Elena, how has the project idea arisen?

Within the studying at the SKOLKOVO MBA programme we have significantly widened our outlook, world view and world perception due to the fact that two times for two and a half months we had traineeships in the USA and China. I have been especially impressed with Boston where, despite all the stereotypes concerning unhealthy and harmful American culture, we have discovered lots of new and useful things. In Boston every morning starts really early. At 6 a.m. the majority of people go jogging outdoors. A considerable part of our class has adopted such an active way of life. Some jogged, others attended wrestling, others just trained in the fitness-studio, I attended yoga classes that took place in a heated room. Even the most slender of us were dripping with sweat, and endorphins were brimming over.

As for meals, we ate mostly in the MIT canteen and had some snacks there as well. We were offered balanced dishes made out of the freshest ingredients. Our usual snacks were fruits and bars from natural ingredients, without any chemicals.

I should say that the majority of our class had never gone in for sports so much and, surely, had never eaten so regularly and balanced. Before our term at MIT the majority of us had never felt themselves as good, light and energetic as in Boston.

Having come back to Moscow, we missed sports, the routine and balanced nutrition. We tried to find yoga classes, food and snacks as those in Boston. And while we have managed to find yoga classes, the thing with fresh food has appeared to be more complicated. Fresh food tastes a bit as “rubber”, and cheap bars, claiming to consist out of “Fruits Only”, apart from rice cereals in sugar syrup comprise a number of unknown and unpronounceable ingredients which origin is extremely concerning.

Once my classmate Sasha Both from Germany came to me in Boston and said, “You are so enthusiastic about healthy way of life. Think about what you could do”. Having come home, the first thing I did – I started to study the bio-food market. So our company BioFoodLab was created. We like to produce natural bio-products. Our goal is to make natural, innovative and healthy products affordable. We stick to the branch strictest quality standards, and our firm commitment to the business guarantees sustainable growth of the fair international trade and production. Every day we feel excited and happy creating our one-of-a-kind and tasty products.

Our mission is to help people to lead a healthy way of life. we handle it in understandable and tasty manner. We believe that all those elements play an enormous role in our success.

- What are the differences of the project from already existing on the market analogues?

Our products are unique as all the ingredients can be easily read, understood and pronounced by a client. We make our product for people who do not need any compromises between tasty and healthy, between natural and artificial, for those who understand that milk must not be dry, and “isolates” and “concentrates” do not grow in the ground (as lemon and “lemon aromatizer” are two different things).
Our product will not make you younger, and there is no need to consult a specialist before eating them and give up them in the course of pregnancy. We do not add any “magical” extracts with unpredictable influence on the organism in future.

The main difference of our product is that we only use natural, known to everybody ingredients, only those that have grown under the sun. We do not add anything got artificially; we make it easily - we just wash, dry, chop, mix and pack. However we make it specially – smartly and carefully, thinking about health, keeping as much vitamins, microelements and useful substances for the organism as possible.

We do not use any preservatives, stabilizers, fragrances and sugar in our products. We do not add dry milk, soya, protein isolates, gluten, “confectionary” fats and “complex additives”; we use only natural ingredients.

Our project is socially directed. We do believe in the good in people. One of the key kinds of our activities is the unity of people in order to implement good deeds for the society, our business model is called “not only for profit”. We intend to make the world better and to share a part of our income with the society. For instance, in summer 2012 we will sponsor the “Partisan Yoga” movement. We are going to do yoga with our friends and supporters in mostly unpredictable places (summer is coming – join us, write us on Facebook).

- What are the difficulties of the project implementation?

The main difficulty was to elaborate the technology, resource processing in the safe and efficient way that allows to keep useful substances in our ingredients.

Together with scientists from St. Petersburg we have managed to apply on practice a one-of-a-kind technology of dried fruit processing with the colloidal solution of metallic silver that oppresses development of pathogenic bacteria, but is harmless for a human. We wrap our product in the pack with the plated surface that protects BITE (our product) from the ultraviolet effect and oxidation with the air oxygen.

Surely, another difficulty is to inform our final consumers about the uniqueness and necessity of our product. We do not possess such marketing budgets as Mars, Unilever, Dymov, Russky Standart (Russian StandardHowever that motivates us even more, we like to overcome obstacles, and, as we are a start-up project, we have to do it in unusual ways.

We would also like to be accessible for our friends (loyal consumers), the difficulty here is to get on the shelves of as many supermarkets, vending machines, cafes, canteens as possible without paying for “a place on a shelf” and lots of other fees.

- How the SKOLKOVO business-school has helped you to implement the project?

For us it was really important that somebody believed in the project. And I am not talking about relatives, actually on the contrary – my whole family has hoped that I would continue my career growth in a large, successful and secure corporation. I would have a high salary, vacations, business-trips, trainings and numerous pleasant dinners and talks with business-partners.

It seems that the SKOLKOVO business-school has become the only place where I was supported in the intention to open my own enterprise. My project was supported by the SKOLKOVO Business Incubator with which I am still cooperating. They help me to find contacts and organize meetings with important experts in my industry, with significant specialists in the sphere of business consulting and planning. The atmosphere in the SKOLKOVO business-school itself helps to develop and to test our business-models.

I have made some tests among guys in the incubator SKOLKOVO colleagues. With their help we have detected the tastiest variants of the products and the most preferable variants of BITE’s functional destination (for sport, weight control, energy, immunity and intellect – those we have determined).

All the guys are our potential clients; they really help and give some advice in all spheres connected with the business. Whether it is accounting (there is nobody better than Dmitry Yurchenko), marketing (Irina Linnik), design (Leva, Grant and Gosha), taste (Elina), copywriting (Eliza). At SKOLKOVO everybody is a professional in a single sphere. We are different, but we make our businesses together.

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