The first thing that Yurii asked to bring him to Kyiv from the occupied Luhansk was an old woodworking machine.
– Everyone wondered why i need it, and besides in a one-room rented apartment, he recalls.
Yurii Ovsianko and his family moved to Kyiv in 2014: his eldest daughter was 3 years old at that time, and his wife Olha was pregnant with twins.
They left Luhansk left because, as Yurii says, “everything was booming” there.
– Our child was sobbing, but we calmed her, saying that it was a salute. I don’t want to recall this. We going to talk about wood, aren’t we?, – he said flatly and warned: not a single word about war.
So, when they arrived in Kyiv, Yurii asked his father to bring him a machine.
– I certainly need to do something with my hands – I’ve always done it. For me it’s the state when I don’t think about anything else, but do what I want, – he explains.
He arranged his “workshop” on the balcony and was looking for work.
In Luhansk, Yurii was engaged in sales – he cooperated with Mars Ukraine, the company that produces chocolate bars, and eventually he got the position of Head of Sales.
– And what was offered here? – I ask.
– Nobody was waiting for me with open arms here, – he says.
And explains: in his profession IDPs were treated with caution. The work is related to money, after all. Here one needs trust in a person, an understanding that he will not “evaporate” tomorrow with money and goods. Because where to look for him? In occupied territories?
– They said this straight out. Like everything is fine, great resume, but our security service will not approve you, – Yurii tells about hardships of 2014.
Now he has two jobs: main job is in the sales area, and the workshop serves for additional earnings. There are already three children in the family – the eldest daughter Yaroslava and the twins – Vlad and Olesia. They are living not in a rented apartment, but in their own, in Irpin near Kyiv.
Yurii’s workshop also moved from the balcony to the rented garage.
– I’m not ready to leave my job yet – earnings in the workshop are not sufficiently high. That is why I have two jobs. Big family means big expenses, – Yurii explains.
In the workshop, he manufactures customized wood products, such as various developmental toys, interesting wall clocks, and eco-shelves.
Once his wife suggested: let’s take pictures of your works and post them on the Internet. We gave it a try and succeeded in selling.
Then the familiar migrants won a grant of the International Organization for Migration for a kindergarten, so we decided why not try this. We applied for a grant and won.
Then came the first orders for children’s toys – right from those friends who opened a kindergarten.
After that, we won the EU grant “Bridges of Public Activity” amounting to 32,000 hryvnias, and thanks to it we managed to buy a JET scroll saw.
– This is a very cool thing, it allows you to access a difficult place, cut a complex form, – Yurii explains.
Thanks to this tool I have made many children’s puzzle-names, large family tree, clocks, candlesticks and a lot of other things.
– Probably, 80 percent of what I do is processed on this machine, – Yurii says.
However, according to Yuri, to make a thing is only half the battle. First, you need to know what exactly to make, and second, you need to sell what you have made.
This is what Olha, Yurii’s wife, deals with. She created a website called Threewood. That’s the name that Yurii and Olha gave to their business. Why Threewood? In honor of their three children.
Olha also administers profiles on Facebook and Instagram.
– I would not cope with this alone, – Yurii says frankly.
By the way, it was Olha who found information about the EU grant.
Together Olha and Yurii decide what to promote in the store, analyze what is sold better, plan what new works to “put into production”.
– I call my wife my development director, – Yurii says.
But this is not the main thing. Not work. The main thing, the craftsman says, is her support.
If Yurii calls his wife a director, then he calls his children “shoemakers without shoes”: in fact, they are “working” in Threewood as testers of father’s toys, although they don’t have many of those toys offered for sale.
A lot of toys have been “spied out” by Yurii somewhere, but the craftsman never copies them – his works are always customized interpretations.
– Now I have an idea – to make such a toy, which I have not seen anywhere, – Yurii shares.
He says: it will be a game with a marble ball and a wooden slide, but the slide should be complex, with many ramifications and traps. The toy is called the Marble Machine. He tells how and what will be arranged, but I hardly can imagine it for myself.
– In general, it would be better to show it, – Yurii gives up. And admits that his wife did not approve the Marble Machine. And he doubts too: will it be a success or no…
– It’s okay, first I’ll do it and then she’ll see, – craftsman thinks aloud.
New products are taken for production at the family “art council”. Usually such meetings take place at late tea, when the children already sleep.
And in the morning, the Ovsianko family checks sales on Etsy. This is an American online store for handmade and vintage items. Due to the time difference, the people do shopping there when it is night in our country.
– We wake up and see: whether our morning is pleasant or our efforts were not enough so far, – Yurii says.
Yuri remembers well the first item he sold abroad.
– It was a very beautiful item: tree-like clock with a woodpecker, – he says.
One year ago, Threewood had only 11 or 12 sales on Etsy, Yurii recalls, and now 70.
– Every sale is a holiday for us, – he admits.
But the main thing, the man says, is not to stop: two years ago there was one number of equipment – now another, it is was a balcony – now it is a garage, previously sales were only through OLX and friends, and now on Facebook, Instagram and Etsy.
Threewood is now planning to expand its capacity with the help of the crowdfunding platforms.
– I realized that I would like to create really interesting, unique products, but most of the time is spent for replication of those items that are sold well,– Yurii says.
According to him, making the umpteenth phone stand is not inspiring.
– This is interesting in terms of money, but I want to do things that are interesting in terms of creativity, – the craftsman says.
And what about hiring an assistant, I ask.
But Yurii replies that he is not ready. And explains: because the tools are quite expensive, because each tool was hard to obtain, that’s why he doesn’t see the point in allowing a person to learn on his equipment that was so difficult to buy yet. No one knows whether he will learn or not, but he can “kill” my expensive equipment.
– That’s my logic, – he says.
Yurii has other idea: to buy CNC milling machine with software control, which will automate some processes.
– This is the assistant that will help me to replicate items, and I will be able to engage in creativity at this time, – Yurii dreams.
This is exactly why Threewood is going to enter the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform and try to raise that money. This is a risky undertaking, because if you fail to raise the full amount applied for, then even the funds raised will be returned to contributors.
But Yurii knows that: the main thing is to move forward and not give up.
But how not to give up, when everything you had is left on the other side of the front line, everyone must understand himself, Yurii convinced.
– My driving force is my family. If I gave up, nobody would say “thank you” for this, – he says.
But Yurii has one more secret: he really loves to do craftwork. He says that, even if it were not a source of income, he would still do that.
– Just under the influence of all the circumstances, my hobby became a family business, – Yurii says.
The plans for the next two years at Threewood provide for starting the production of children’s smart furniture, open an offline store and launch YouTube channel.
By Lesia Hanzha