Local Businesses Aim To Grow With 'Made In Ukraine' Products : Parallels Startups and boutique designers make up a small part of Ukraine's economy. But they're making everything from socks to streetwear — and are gaining skills essential for the country's development.
NPR logo

Young Entrepreneurs Find Funky Niche In Products 'Made In Ukraine'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/524409468/525339928" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Young Entrepreneurs Find Funky Niche In Products 'Made In Ukraine'

Young Entrepreneurs Find Funky Niche In Products 'Made In Ukraine'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/524409468/525339928" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

RAY SUAREZ, HOST:

NPR's Lucian Kim was walking down a street in Ukraine's capital Kiev recently when he passed a basement store with a huge sign saying Ukrainian street-wear, so he went inside and discovered a trend that reflects a change in the way young Ukrainians are thinking about their country.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COOLER THAN ME")

MIKE POSNER: (Singing) You got your high brow, shoes on your feet.

LUCIAN KIM, BYLINE: When I descend into the shop selling the Ukrainian street-wear, I find three underground rooms with racks of hoodies, sweatshirts and jackets. They're the kind of clothes any skateboarder in New York, Paris or London would feel comfortable in. But this is all made in Ukraine.

ANASTASIYA RUDNIK: (Foreign language spoken).

KIM: That's Anastasiya Rudnik, one of the shop's co-owners and a designer in her own right. The 24 year old says she tries to use Ukrainian-made materials for clothes as much as possible. Rudnik went into the fashion business in 2014, the same year Ukraine was rocked by violent anti-government protests and then a Russian military intervention. Many Ukrainians felt it was their patriotic duty to support local brands.

RUDNIK: (Foreign language spoken).

KIM: "We do everything with love," Rudnik says, "we create each piece individually not by mass production." You might think that would limit the range of products available to Ukrainian consumers, but not according to journalist Yuliya Savostina, a pioneer of the Made in Ukraine movement. A couple of years ago, she started a blog to find out if it was possible to live off only Ukrainian-made goods for an entire year.

YULIYA SAVOSTINA: (Foreign language spoken).

KIM: She said she was certain she wouldn't be able to find toothpaste or cosmetics or shoes you'd want to wear. But to her great surprise, Savostina discovered that Ukraine produces almost everything, even luxury foods like snails and caviar. Savostina's experiment ended just as Russia was annexing Crimea, and many people wanted to boycott Russian products. At the same time, the Ukrainian currency crashed, driving even more demand for domestic goods.

SAVOSTINA: (Foreign language spoken).

KIM: "Now," Savostina says, "Ukraine is at the stage of market formation where only the strong will survive. Ukrainian entrepreneurs face a lot of hurdles," she says, "including bureaucracy, a heavy tax burden and the high cost of borrowing." Viktoria Movchan, an economist in Kiev says another challenge is marketing.

VIKTORIA MOVCHAN: What the Ukrainians should probably learn from Americans is how to sell your products, how to pack them, how to label them, how to advertise them, how to promote them on the domestic and on the external market.

KIM: Although, start-ups and boutique designers are only a small part of the economy, Movchan says the entrepreneurial skills young Ukrainians are learning are essential for the country's future development.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

UNIDENTIFIED ARTIST: (Singing in foreign language).

KIM: Lucian Kim, NPR News, Kiev.

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.