Everyone knows Olha Nikoara, the owner of the Blahodatnyi Khlib (blessed bread) bakery, in the village of Volodymyrivka, Donetsk Oblast. The bakery located in neighbouring Blahodatne provides the surrounding villages with bread, employs locals, and competes with large bread producers in the area.
After working for ten years at a bread-making factory, Nikoara realised that she had a lot of ideas that she wanted to realise. During this time, she had been a dough maker, a master of bakery products, a baking technologist – she had more than enough solid experience to become the head of a bakery.
“I wanted self-realisation, independence, and to bring my ideas to life,” Nikoara explains.
The villages of Volodymyrivka and Blahodatne are located almost right next to each other. Bread was brought to them from large factories, but the range of products was always limited. Locals often brought special types of bread from Volnovakha or Vuhledar, which were new to them: breads with added corn, buckwheat flour, bran or seeds. The future businesswoman realised she would be able to make bread for her fellow villagers that would complement any feast, or that could even be a separate dish.
She recalls that at first her bakery didn’t even have a fence around it. Inside, they just set up the equipment and started working. The amount of work gradually increased, with everything earned invested in new equipment. The owner of the bakery has been thinking about expanding the business for a long time.
“Now everyone wants sliced bread. I came to the conclusion that I needed equipment for cutting products and producing new, unusual varieties,” Nikoara says.
A USD 5,300 grant from the European Union under its EU4Business Initiative implemented by United Nations Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme came in useful, helping Olga to purchase new equipment for baking, slicing and wrapping bread in film. Over a year, the productivity of the bakers increased by as much as 25%, and sales of products rose by 15%. The staff increased from 9 to 12 employees, and thus there were new jobs for the villagers. In addition, the residents of Volodymyrivka and Blahodatne can now always get freshly baked bread – the bakery has its own branded store in the village.
But Nikoara doesn’t plan to stop at this. Now “Blessed Bread” is sold in Volnovakha, Vuhledar, Donske, and several villages in Mariinka and Volnovakha districts. In future, the bakery plans to sell its bread in Mariupol.
The trend for healthy eating
Customers do not want to confine themselves to two or three types of white or rye bread. Everyone wants variety, and Nikoara is trying to meet the demand for healthy products. As of today, the bakery is launching sales of unleavened bread and baguettes, and bread with oatmeal and rye flakes.
“I love to experiment,” Nikoara says. “I like to introduce new types of bread, find new recipes, and study customer demand so that they are happy. There are now a lot of nuances to the bread, which can make it unique.”
For example, non-yeasted bread is made with liquid leaven. It is made from “low” flour varieties: rye flour and first grade flour. Water, salt and special bread leavenings are added to the flour mixtures, which are made separately for each type of bread. Flax or sunflower seeds or flakes are then added to it. These are complex recipes that take more than a day to prepare.
Nikoara says that her new varieties of bread are not only tasty and unusual, but also healthy. She tries to keep up with the modern trends in healthy eating. Yeast-free bread with seeds is good for people who suffer from stomach ailments, diabetes, or high blood pressure, or those who cannot eat highly refined wheat products.
Apart from that, the bakery supplies shortcakes, sponge cakes, cupcakes, croissants, éclairs, gingerbread and other delicacies to local stores.
The grant and the ability to run a successful business, inspire employees, and meet customers’ orders have allowed Nikoara to make a profit. Thanks to this, Nikoara plans to buy another rotary oven – this time for confectioneries, as well as a powerful kneading machine and a decorator for sweets that can cover products with chocolate on all sides.
“A person gets used to everything after a time, and begins to look for ways out,” Nikoara says. “Sitting in one place will never get anywhere. We need to take risks, move forward, work on our ideas, despite the fact that it’s difficult.”. So all of today’s difficulties she sees as a challenge. And she is not going to stop.