Interviews with businesswomen. Elena Zhilinkova
Social portal “Career for a New Life” as an information partner of the NGO “Modern Woman” publishes interviews with participants of the training programs of the Center for Small and Medium Business Development.
Why is it important to constantly grow and update your knowledge? Olena Zhilinkova, a graduate of the second wave of the Business Development Training Program, which took place in November-December, talks about the experience of starting and developing your own business. Olena is a Candidate of Law and the founder of Golden Rule Law Studio. The company offers English language courses for lawyers in Kharkiv.
The Business Development Training Program was conducted by the Center for Small and Medium Business Development of the Project “Gender Culture Center as a Platform for Women’s Empowerment and youth ”, funded by the European Union. The work of the Center for Small and Medium Business Development is coordinated by HGNO “Modern Woman”.
Please tell us where you started your business (how did you choose the type of activity, what were the first steps, with whom did you build a business model and set up processes in which city)?
For 15 years I practiced intellectual property law, worked in a law firm, taught at a university, conducted research. I have always been interested in researching legal issues at the international level, and thanks to fluency in English it was possible.
After returning from his last internship at the Fulbright University in the United States, I had to make sure that Ukrainian lawyers needed help in overcoming the language barrier. The fact that our lawyers do not feel comfortable in professional communication in English, and sometimes do not speak English at all, greatly affects both the economic and cultural, and political situation in the legal profession. It was this understanding that prompted me to create an English-speaking space for lawyers, where they could not only gain knowledge of legal English but also expand the perception of international and foreign law.
So I started working with clients on their personal applications, first individually, and now I run courses for groups of young lawyers who want to succeed in their careers through knowledge of legal English.
How did your business grow (what obstacles did you encounter along the way, how did you add them, what mistakes were made, and what new experiences did you gain from them)?
The main obstacle was and remains the fact that I had to learn from scratch to conduct business after more than 10 years of work in government agencies and research. You have to learn a lot about business processes, communicate with professionals in various fields, independently create and constantly improve marketing strategies. Although in two years there has been tangible progress in the development of the client base, it is too early to talk about any serious results. Apparently, the main mistake was the hesitation in the early stages of work in the need to invest in business development. Everyone should do what they do well, but if there is an opportunity, you should always turn to professionals for quality help. And most importantly – you need to constantly learn from professionals.
In your opinion, is there pressure on women who are engaged in their own business from society, acquaintances, and/or close people? How well do you combine business and personal life?
I’ve always worked hard, regardless of financial returns. I was a workaholic, but the profession has always been a priority for me. I never understood why women should be less ambitious than men. Because we are certainly no less capable of success. But it was only after the birth of my son that I began to appreciate my work more and take the economic results of my efforts more seriously. There were times when colleagues or management made offers of cooperation or gave assignments that did not take into account the fact that a woman does not always have financial support from relatives or her husband. I was not interested in working for the sake of status. It was a time when I began to give up certain interesting positions and tasks that did not provide a direct impact. As a former civil servant, this is the first time I have developed an understanding of the freedom that business provides in pricing decisions. Women need to be bolder in this matter and not allow commercially contemptuous treatment of their professional abilities.
How do you regain strength for new goals and achievements?
My resources are my family and my hobby. At the moment I am very relaxed when I create jewelry from natural stone. I definitely pay attention to meditation and relaxation. I read a lot and watch videos on the Internet about business, psychology, current trends in society.
What knowledge and skills do you think are most important for women entrepreneurs?
Everything about starting and running a business is a matter of course. It is important to learn constantly. I prefer English-language content and Western experts. Although local experts can suggest important features of improving the local business. That is communication and learning, self-improvement. Without this, either there will be no profit, or it will not be interesting to do your own thing.
How was it useful for you to participate in the Business Development Training Program/Business in the EU Training Program?
Actually, this training started the existence of my brand in its current form. For example, thanks to Galina Voropaeva’s masterclasses, I learned pricing, many aspects of business strategy. Marketer Kateryna Ilyina provided quality advice on online marketing and helped with finding a designer. I met wonderful local coaches, with whom I consulted and plan to communicate in the future.
This training program played a huge role in the psychological sense – I felt that here in Kharkiv, there are like-minded people, colleagues, and a kind of support team. Before participating in this project, it seemed to me that I would not find people in my own city who understood the essence of what I wanted to do. But thanks to the training of HGNO “Modern Woman” and pleasant and interesting communication with women entrepreneurs, I found support and a lot of important information here.
What changes have taken place in your business since the end of the Training Program?
When I came to the program, I had only one student with whom I worked at a group rate and one course. I worked for other people to “follow” financially. Now I have students in groups of three programs, and despite the small flow of clients, I have the opportunity to work well with each one of my students, which increases the value of my educational services. I became better known to my potential clients in Kharkiv and thanks to the online format I hope to reach the all-Ukrainian level next year. There is already one student from Kyiv in the group this semester.
What advice would you give to women who are planning or starting their own business?
I advise you to try and not doubt. Everything will work out, even if there are few resources at the start and there is no whole picture or detailed strategy. Of course, you need to think about your business. To do this, I focus on demand and my own customers. But resources for making plans will come your way if you dare to start it. It is also important to communicate and help each other.
Personally, I really like women’s entrepreneurship, mutual assistance between businesswomen. We go through, develop and learn from each other so much together. For this I also thank the programs of the organization “Modern Woman” – they are doing important work and have created a community of women entrepreneurs. This is great for Kharkiv, for our economy, and for the new generations of Ukrainians who will live in a more developed society.