To launch FoodEx, businesswoman Svetlana Kotenko involved her brother and acquaintances to promote the idea of healthy eating together and build a successful project. However, on the way to growth, the company had to go through several crises, but despite the difficulties, the company continues to grow.
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In 2012, Ukrainian businesswoman Svetlana Kotenko and her brother decided to start a family business and start delivering organic agricultural products. They named the company FoodExand in the process of developing a business plan, contacting nutritionists and chefs, already in 2014 they realized that they wanted to offer not only organic products, but complex healthy meals, because at that time few people understood the value of such a diet.
“If we remember in 2014, when events took place in Maidan and at the beginning of the war, during this period we turned the delivery of agricultural products into a delivery of healthy food. “We saw the situation in the country, but we assured ourselves that if we regulate all business processes, then maybe everything will go well in Ukraine,” he recalled. Svetlana.
In 2013-2014 there was a revolution in Ukraine and a war broke out in Donbas. At that time, the company began to actively develop its activities, but the situation in the country worried the young entrepreneurs. In the end, they did not give up the idea and continued to do their job, as they wanted as many Ukrainians as possible to eat healthy food.
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Entrepreneurs did not have the money to rent an entire kitchen and hire a chef. For this reason, Svetlana and her brother found a kitchen with outside staff who agreed to prepare pre-arranged meals.
Svetlana was involved in marketing and her brother organized the delivery. Over time, the first clients appeared, among whom Svetlana found an investor. The FoodEx customer believed in Svetlana’s idea and invested $ 50,000 in the company.
“We gradually gathered customers, to whom it was necessary to explain how a healthy diet can improve a person’s life. Then a client approached us, who eventually became our investor. “It invested in our project, which gave us the opportunity to hire employees, move, equip our kitchen and buy equipment,” he says. Svetlana.
As a result, the company continued to grow and in a few years from the outsourcing of the kitchen, entrepreneurs were able to scale up and rent a kitchen of 600 square meters, hire people, buy all the necessary equipment for to continue their activities despite the crisis in the country.
One and a half years later, the company started making money, started selling a franchise and developing new projects. For example, FoodEx has developed 22 healthy eating programs with the help of chefs and nutritionists. The company also began testing a new project – canned food. But this idea remained in progress.
In 2019 the COVID-19 pandemic started in the world and in Ukraine the first diseases were recorded in early 2020. Many companies have been affected by the pandemic, especially the catering industry.
According to Svetlana, the first lockdown was a real test for the company, as the purchasing power of Ukrainians fell. He said that in quarantine, all the gurus of the restaurant business recommended cutting marketing budgets and operating costs and moving employees to part-time.
“After listening to all the recommendations, we did the opposite, that is, we focused on the development of the company. As a result, in March 2021, we took the opportunity and started a new direction – frozen “ice food” lunches, he noted.
“Ice food” is a frozen ready-to-eat food. The chefs prepared frozen borscht, soups, meal sets and meat products with a shelf life of 6 months in the freezer. The main goal of the project was that many were quarantined at home and, however, did not always have enough time to cook food. Both frozen and ready-to-eat foods in this case were a good solution.
After all The delivery of healthy food and the development of the frozen ready-to-eat program have allowed the company to continue operating despite the crisis.
Another crisis, but already due to a full-scale war in Ukraine
On February 24, when a full-scale war broke out in Ukraine, the company did not cease operations. On the first day of the bombing, however, some couriers went to deliver orders placed by customers without knowing in advance that on February 24 the Russian army would begin bombing and invading Ukrainian cities.
FoodEx’s main kitchen is located in Kyiv and other cities have opened franchises. When Kyiv was under constant bombardment, the company decided not to surrender, but to use the available facilities to cook food for the army, firefighters, police, defense and Families with many children. At that time, healthy food was delivered to customers only in Lviv.
A full-scale war led to the company ceasing to win, so Svetlana and her team applied to various funds to raise funds and continue to feed the needy and the Ukrainian defenders.
For about 47 days, the team and their families stayed at the production site, as it was safe and the food had to continue.
“We organized ourselves, knowing that we had food, so we contacted the regional administration of Darnitsa province and literally a few days later we started cooking food,” he recalls. Svetlana.
Today, with fewer requests for meals from the military and civilians, FoodEx has decided to become a partner in the Life Lover charity initiative, which prepares food for people of retirement age. To do this, the company attracted funding from the Nova Ukraine Foundation, which focused entirely on the product market in order to continue cooking dinners.
Now the team is transforming its production to prepare food with a shelf life of 6-12 months in a special package called retort bags.
“In 2022, we did our analysis for 2021 and realized that there were 31 health food delivery players on the market. Despite the great competition, we managed to repay, because we managed to explain to consumers the value of such a diet. “Now we have the same task as frozen ready-to-eat iceFood meals and ready-to-eat meals in UFood bags,” she shared her plans. Svetlana.
The company hopes that frozen ready-to-eat meals will be in demand among Ukrainians.