Story
12 Oct 2022
By: Daria Dovzhenko

The full-scale war in Ukraine has put small enterprises on brink of survival as many successful businesses have been uprooted, displaced and forced to start everything from scratch. Nevertheless, facing relocation and challenges, the Ukrainian entrepreneurs continue to work, looking for innovative ways to expand and access new markets. Within the project "SME Boost: Economic Integration of Internally Displaced Persons and Business Recovery", funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through the KfW Development Bank, IOM supports small enterprise owners with grants and provides other opportunities to resume and sustain their business.

Space-style snacks conquering Ukraine and beyond 

In 2016, Vadym and Pylyp, two brothers from the second largest city in Ukraine, Kharkiv, tasted dried cheese snacks on the American market during one of their trips. They got excited about the idea of producing these unique products in Ukraine. It took them several years to bring this dream into life. The brothers visited a lot of exhibitions, studying the experience of foreign producers.  Finally, they bought equipment with no equivalent in Ukraine, and spent another year and a half searching for the ideal technology. Only in 2021, under the name Prime Snack, the company stormed the biggest supermarket chains with their innovative products.

Business owners are proud of their 100 per cent natural products.  Snacks are created with a special technology used by NASA to prepare meals for astronauts. The recipe is simple: water is removed from cheese, therefore all the nutrients are kept in the dried product.  
 

Unique snacks are produced by two brothers using innovative technologies similar to NASA's food. Photo: IOM/Daria Dovzhenko

In the first few weeks of the full-scale war, when their home city Kharkiv was pondered with missiles and shells, the brothers’ houses were destroyed, and the production site became inaccessible. The hostilities in this region showed no sign of abating, so in April Vadym and Pylyp decided to relocate to Zakarpattia, the western region of Ukraine.

In a matter of days, Vadym and Pylyp organized the transportation of equipment, transferring everything they could. Their top priority was to save the special machinery that dries the cheese. Shortly afterward, the brothers received an offer to move abroad and start production in the EU. After weighing in all the pros and cons, they decided to stay in Ukraine.  

"Ukraine is our motherland and it is necessary to rebuild the country when the war ends. We would like to be part of these efforts and contribute to the economic recovery. In Mukacheve, we see great possibilities for export and are planning to enter the European market in a few weeks. We will conquer the world with our snacks!", Pylyp jokes.
 

Business owners were able to transfer their equipment from Kharkiv at the start of the war. Photo: IOM/Daria Dovzhenko

A crucial step towards conquering the European market is the adoption of an eco-friendly production strategy. Pylyp and Vadym thought to install a solar power station, thus adopting energy-efficient practices and also cutting production costs and ensuring uninterrupted power supply. Their innovative plan was supported by IOM within its SME Boost project through which the brothers were provided with grant to purchase solar panels. Thanks to innovations, all electricity needs for production are covered only by renewable energy sources. 

The brothers build their business based on the principles of responsible production. Photo: IOM/Daria Dovzhenko

With the total assistance of EUR 20,000 from IOM, business owners will be also able to buy premium sorts of cheese to produce high-quality products. During a month and a half, Prime Snack produced 30,000 packages of dried cheese. Inspired entrepreneurs are now planning to expand the team, providing employment opportunities to other displaced persons hosted in Zakarpattia. 

When asked about their recipe for success for relocated businesses, Vadym and Pylyp advise their peers to look into the future without any fear: "You have to start again. Do not think that everything is gone and that this is the end. No matter what, you must gather your strength and work. We are Ukrainians and we are unbreakable!"
 

Healthy cheese snacks are about to conquer foreign markets. Photo: IOM/Daria Dovzhenko
SDG 1 - No Poverty
SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production