Olga Sitnik - An entrepreneur from Russia

Published on: May 2013

Olga Sitnik, co-founder at ExploRussia

In ExploRussia, Olga takes care of sales, marketing, communications and everything else that has to do with business development.

Olga graduated from Novosibirsk State University with a degree in Sociology. After studies, Olga focused on digital marketing and project management within the e-commerce industry. She also has experience in event management and public speaking. Olga is the one who thinks out of the box, always trying new methods and innovative approaches.

Olga comes from Novosibirsk, the most populous city in Siberia. After she'd moved to Moscow and started traveling across Europe and Asia, she realized just how little people know about her motherland and how many challenges they're facing when they're planning on visiting Russia. Her aim is to show the modern face of Russia, with its creative people and positive vibe.
olga sitnik,explorussia

Q: Let's start with a small introduction about you and your venture

Olga Sitnik(OS): I am a Russian, originally was born in Novosibirsk, a city in Siberia. I studied sociology. Once I finished my studies, I had a chance to travel abroad for a while and one of the things that I found out was that people knew very little about Russia. Of course none practically had been to the country. Though some wanted to visit Russia, it was not that popular place to go. I thought that if so many people want to come to my country on one hand and on the other, I love my country I should share its history, nature and people's lives with the world. I have to do something about this! That's how we conceptualized this very simple idea to make a travel company for foreigners to make it easy to visit Russia. We realized that it is not easy to come to the country, because people who work in the industry don't brand Russia as a fascinating destination. So, we decided to work on this.

Q: Since when are you working on it? How old is your venture?

OS: We started working in the year 2012 and launch happened in late autumn 2012 and here comes our first summer - first peak and high season. So, we are ready for the wave of travellers who would want to visit Russia.

Q: What were the challenges that you faced while starting your venture? And is it true that females have to face a lot of challenges compared to males?

OS: Challenges! There were and still are a lot. Starting from the official part; we wanted to make it right from the very beginning, officially register the LLC, pay taxes and have transparent business in Russia. All these take a lot of time and efforts. On the other hand, we were trying to distinguish ourselves from others. It's a very hard and long process to realize as to why you are different, what is so special about you and why people actually should buy your product. All these do not happen in a trice. You have to be completely prepared when you go out to tell people about your project. People will definitely challenge you with questions and if you don't know to answer then it is very embarrassing.

Coming to your question about females, I feel it somehow stronger in Russia. I never even thought of this question also. I mean it is difficult because once you want to have a baby obviously you somehow press the pause button on your project but then you restart it. Of course there are more males in business and in politics in Russia. Fortunately my surrounding is more innovative and pioneering. As a result, I don't feel this difference due to gender. We are all just entrepreneurs.

Q: Do you get any special encouragement for women entrepreneurs in Russia or is it all the same for everyone?

OS: If I am not mistaken there is some kind of associations, but they are more like talk-clubs not so concrete. They discuss about things like subsidies from the government. We have some programs for small entrepreneurs but again it doesn't depend on gender.

Q: How are you planning to expand your venture? What is your next step towards its growth?

OS: As of now, we are trying to establish B2B partnerships since we believe it can be a good growth point for us. At the same time, we have made accent for two products. One product is a short tour - when you are already in the city, it is easy to book it and we believe that more people will be ready to buy something smaller and for shorter period of time. The second product is a separate service called Russia Planner wherein we help independent travellers to organize their trip to Russia, plan everything, book places to visit, where to go, whom to talk etc. We believe that there is huge potential in the number of independent tourists.

Q: How are you networking and how many people are working for it?

OS: To network, we go for some crucial events in industry in a year. For example, we just returned from ITB in Berlin. It is a huge travel show, the biggest in the industry. Here in Russia we go for networking events and take part in associations.

Q: Olga, how do you want the world to know you?

OS: Very nice question! I want to be known as a responsible, bright entrepreneur, who explored Russia for many people around the world. I believe that creating experiences is a wonderful thing to do in a life!

Q: How do you balance your personal life and professional life? How is the support from your family?

OS: The support here is very crucial. Starting from the sustenance point, you need to sustain somehow even financially at first time, when you are only establishing your business. So, you need support from your nearest ones. My fiance is actually one of the co-founders. He is not involved full time in this project but still he supports me very much. My mom during first half of the year was saying "Well, when you will find the real job?" She thought that this project of mine was one big joke but now she sees results and of course she is always a great support in all my ventures. Q: Great.. Have you ever felt like giving up? If yes, how did you sustain in that stage?

OS: Luckily I have never been there!

Q: And there are many entrepreneurs who are discouraged royally. What do you want to tell them?

OS: One has to be persistent. Once you start in one direction for a while, you will fail once, twice, thrice but on the fourth time. You are bound to succeed.

Never be afraid to approach people (while selling them, partnering with them, trying to make co-operations\sales\whatever). Approach them once, twice and the third time as well. The maximum they can do is to tell you 'No!' But in the end you will get what you want. Patience and persistence are the 2 best friends of an entrepreneur.

Find something which makes you feel good - find a coach, who will give you some inspirational thoughts or follow those entrepreneurs, who are role-models for you.

Q: How important is the role of a mentor in a business and do you have one?

OS: Mentor is very important. I can say that I have one. He is one of our stakeholders and one of his main roles is to mentor us. A mentor is a person who helps you see the situation from a different perspective, helps you to see the bigger picture, answers your questions and it is very crucial for someone to keep asking you about the progress. Only then you start thinking :)

Q: One reason why people should visit Russia?

OS: Russia has everything: history, nature and people but not that wild as it seems to be.

Q: Lastly a message to our IU e-Magazine readers

OS: Dream and make your dreams come true and DREAM AGAIN!
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