How IDP gets EU grant for mobile coffee shop

Mykyta Kurylko is 25 years old. In 2014, he moved from Luhansk to Zaporizhzia. To provide for his family, Mykyta began selling coffee in a coffee shop attached to a bicycle at concerts, forums and fairs. In 2018, the entrepreneur won at the investment fair of the EU project “Bridging Gaps for Inclusive Civic Engagement” and received a grant for the development of his business.

Mykyta is dreaming to have his own kindergarten some day.

– A kindergarten?! – is my disbelief.

Yes, says Mykyta, and if not a kindergarten – then an animation studio for kids.

He already had a project of a private kindergarten; however “things did not get rolling”. Therefore he deals now with coffee – runs his own Coffee Brew Bike, which helps Mykyta to provide for the family.

So, for the time being Mykyta brews coffee, however he is planning to launch another small business, and later on to open his own kindergarten and a restaurant, where the best coffee will obligatory be offered.

Mykyta Kurylko, 25 y.o. He is a relocatee from Luhansk. Now living in Zaporizhzhia.

Nowadays, Mykyta brews coffee, and this helps him to provide for the family

– I love communicating with kids, – says Mykyta, as if making an excuse.

Years ago, he studied at Kharkiv Humanitarian Pedagogic Academy and planned to be the junior school teacher, however he did not graduate as he had to work all the time.

– In the group, I was the only boy amongst 27 girls, – he laughs.

This is the same as yesterday’s experience: I was on a shuttle bus driven by a lady – Mykyta makes a comparison.

– It seems – why not? However we are not used to it. Sometimes I feel that, – he says.

Mykyta does not recall on the war: he left Luhansk sill back in February 2014, as before the occupation the pastor of a church Mykyta attends has sent him on a mission to Zaporizhzhia – to open a new church.

Literally in few months it became clear that there is no place to come back to – the house remained, however all relatives have left it.

– Some day in 2015, our church had to organize a program for relocated children, and I was offered to go to the dormitory where people relocated from the occupied territory lived, – recalls Mykyta.

Then he had to fix sound during services – managing microphones, connecting loudspeakers…

And then there was a story: nobody but Mykyta could have participated in a visit.

– I have put on a cow’s costume, came to kids and “went crazy”, – he recalls.

And adds: everything went on cheerfully and as planned.

Thereafter, he participated as an animator every Saturday – visited the modular homes village and migrants’ dormitory in Zaporizhzhia. Two performances per day.

– I don’t know how I can explain that understanding that you are doing what you are supposed to do, – he says.

During that days, the situation both in the dormitory and the modular village was awful: people often came from places just bombed, and sometime as they said “wearing just hose-shoes”.

– Can you imagine – you come to play with kids and bring them presents, and their parents being often non-sober “press” you that you have brought not enough, – recalls Mykyta.

“You don’t know what we were through”, – they said and demanded money. Not demanded directly, but said that money would have been more relevant.

– I remember to have opened my passport with Luhansk registration, showed it to the face of some drunk snout and said: I am in a similar situation, however I feed your child, and you hit the bottle,– recollects Mykyta.

Mykyta has a wife and a son

In his opinion, there are always people doing something and those cherishing the victim’s complex.

– But back there, they also felt victims all the time. Do you think I did not see such people there before? – he resends.

In some aspects, he even envied people who received dwelling in modular homes – conditions were not bad, and they were not required to pay for it.

I have changed six apartments in Zaporizhzhia. We are lucky now: we rent an apartment for 2.5 years, and an owner is an adequate person, – tells Mykyta about his migrant’s life.

Mykyta has married not in Luhansk, but already here, in his new life.

His son was born, there were problems with the apartment, he was to provide for the family, and the kindergarten project could not have been started for a long time: they had worked on a project for two years, for a year the repair was going on, another year was spent on connecting heating and hot water, and when everything was completed – the landlord said “good bye”.

During that period Mykyta attended presentation made by the Isla director – the company launched then mobile coffee shops Coffee Brew Bike, being the bike-based coffee shops. It is known abroad, however namely the Coffee Brew Bike is a Ukrainian development of the company Isla.

– When I listened to him, I liked the company’s philosophy and his attitude to Ukraine. He says that our people are either “victims” or those wanting to change life.

When people gather for a meeting, “victims” say: why to go to a meeting, who needs that? People go to vote at elections, and “victims” say: why to go and vote – anyway we do not make decisions, others will decide for us …

And as long as we continue sitting and suffering or emigrating, nothing will be changed in our country. Therefore we need to develop our businesses here, in Ukraine, – explains Mykyta his inspiration for buying the franchise.

His investment in the Coffee Brew Bike was at that time 2.5 thousand dollars – practically all he managed to save. It might seem a not very big amount for some people, however for Mykyta it was considerable.

– Did you manage to pay off? – I’m interested.

– Of course! Already at the start I was lucky indeed, and only later on I understood to what extend, – he says.

There was a big event that year: in Henychisk on the sea of Azov, the rehabilitation centres’ conference took place – three days, 5 thousand participants.

– Over three days I compensated the half of what I have invested in business, – recalls Mykyta.

Mykyta has spent all his savings to buy a coffee-bike

However, such luck is not common: this year he also went there, however the earning differed considerably.

However since then Mykyta understood that his profile is to service public events.

– I come to the “Kozak Palace” or “Yunist” when there are concerts, book bazaars, forums, fairs, – the boy tells.

There is a problem with the permanent place. Lease payments for a permanent place are too high, Mykyta tried to get “fixed”, however in this case his maximal income was 5 thousand hryvnas in a month. And this is provided that he is working alone.

Competition in the coffee segment is high and there are certain monopolists in Zaporizhzhia.

– I have allowed for every aspect, but missed that one. You see, this is not even a competition. Competition is when we stand next to each other and buyers choose the better coffee.

However, you can not stand next to them – you will be asked to escape, – says Mykyta, however does not give any details or the name of a company holding the monopoly.

I am concerned to what extend this bike installation – Coffee Brew Bike – is relocatable.

– If you ask whether I can ride a bike and brew coffee at the same time, the answer is no, – he laughs.

And if no jokes – the assembly is quite mobile- it depends only on the power socket. If you need to relocate it – you don’t need to carry the coffee-machine from one place to another, all equipment fits in a case.

– You have to only sit on a bike and twist pedals, – explains the boy.

Recently, a new sport palace has been built in Zaporizhzhia – and Mykyta says “in my town”, which is not about Luhansk, but about his new hometown.

– Concerts of such stars are organized there as e.g. Monatik. If I manage to make a deal there, it would be cool. Because catering events are good, but irregular, – he explains the coffee business.

Sometimes he attends events where nothing is earned – everything is paid to cover the rent. For example, there was a street food festival in Zaporizhzhia, in the Raiduha (rainbow) park – “Picnic on the rainbow”. According to Mykyta, his bike worked there without earnings at all, just to pay for the place rented.

– However I was invited to a village festival close to Zaporizhzhia. At the beginning I didn’t intend to attend – I thought nobody is going to drink coffee there, instead of strong drinks.  And the event appeared favourable to me, – he recalls.

Mykyta is able to talk about coffee for hours – how you should select it, how to brew, brewing methods matching different sorts.

He also likes to explain that the bike philosophy is an alternative method of brewing coffee. Therefore at the very beginning his bike was equipped with the coffee dripping machine and the electric jezve.

– However in practice people ask the standard espresso, Americano and cappuccino the most often. That means coffee they are used to, – he says.

And Mykyta understood: alternative methods are good, however a coffee machine is needed to survive. You can not ignore it.

– In the very beginning, managing finances was quite complicated – I could not figure out how much I can take from proceeds for the family, and how much I shall allocate for business needs. Saving seemed absolutely impossible, – he shares about his difficulties.

– I monitor all possibilities for attending, training or getting financed, – explains Mykyta and adds that on the Internet he learned about the grant provided under the EU project “Bridges of public activities”.

He visited Kyiv to receive a grant. Presented his mobile coffee shop.

Mykyta is looking for any opportunity

– Seems there is no direct benefit, however it is interesting to start new acquaintances, to learn another market, to observe how others are working …

And says suddenly:

– You know, when I lived in Luhansk, I considered myself being a “Russian”. If I would have stayed, I would have probably still felt the same. But I came here and understood a very important thing – I love Ukraine. 

Even the word “Ukraine” Mykyta pronounces “Ukraiiiine” – he likes it:

– I don’t like the government, I don’t like destroyed roads and shuttle-buses loosing wheels, I don’t like the shuttle-bus driver driving and swearing on the phone at the same time. And I don’t like everyone keeping mouths shut. And when you make a comment, it scares me that everyone in the shuttle-bus starts shouting at you: shut up, you are not the cleverest guy here. It irritates me.  

I think that people have to be earnest in this regard – concerning their rights, their village, their family – God forbid to touch my family…

We are Ukrainians, let’s stop tolerating it. Do you agree?

By Lesya Ganzha