While the Armed Forces are fighting fierce battles with the enemy, Ukrainian entrepreneurs are fighting for the national economy. It is not for nothing that they say every business that manages to stay afloat contributes significantly to victory nowadays.
More than 5 million Ukrainians lost their jobs, and companies reduced employees’ wages by 25%. More than 10% of Ukrainian entrepreneurs have moved their facilities abroad, and this trend is just the beginning. Only 7% of enterprises work at total capacity in the light industry.
The Ukrainian brand OMG, whose logo is flaunted on shoes and dress collections, is one of those that managed to survive. Of course, we don’t even dare to dream about pre-war volumes of trade, but “Everything Will Be Ukraine” – the founder of OMG Shoes and OMG Wear, Ksenia Holod, quotes the famous saying in the country, which means “everything will be great.”
Ksenia made the dream of creating her brand of shoes and clothes come true in 2015. “It was a dream to become a financially independent, successful woman and a mother who can inspire her daughter,” she says,” and do something significant for people. It was essential for me.”
The brand developed natively – without significant capital investments, but is fully dedicated and grateful to every girl who made OMG her choice. From the very beginning, Ksenia decided that the quality of the product and comfort were the primary needs of the brand. “Perhaps I, as the owner, will be a bad example of an entrepreneur here,” Ksenia smiles, “But always where optimization is needed, I’d better think about how to reduce the profit a little, but not change the quality.”
What the struggle for life actually means, Ksenia learned two years before 2022, was not about business at all. In 2020, she was diagnosed with cancer. What followed was long-term, complex, and expensive treatment. And even during chemotherapy, being on a drip, Ksenia continued to think of business plans, write letters to contractors, and coordinate advertising projects. Victory over the disease seemed to inspire and became a driving force for change. Ksenia was no longer afraid to take risks and implement the most daring ideas. “We expanded the team and managed to do extraordinary things, and our turnover increased four times in a few months. We had great plans and expectations – the website launch, international exhibitions…”. But the war tried to clip the wings again.
During the first month of the war, no one dared to plan. It has become like an unnecessary, forgotten skill. Is it possible to plan anything when there’s war – people are dying, entire cities are disappearing under rocket attacks and massive shellings? The production of OMG Shoes appeared to be in the area of battles. Temporarily occupied territories were nearby. But giving up is not the nature of Ukrainians. And certainly not those who recently won the most important victory of their lives. So Ksenia and the girls, passing roadblocks and air raid sirens at their peril and risk, transported their warehouse of goods from Kyiv to western Ukraine to their parents. Many employees also had to evacuate. “Faith and our work saved us from depression and fear,” says Ksenia. – We started selling exported goods. When the first sales took place, there was an indescribable joy from the fact that we were going on with our business.”
Two men who worked for the OMG shoe factory were drafted into the army. The whole factory staff chose the best shoes for them and tried to support them in every possible way. All other employees were back to work within a month and a half. And even though, at that time, it was possible to move around the city only with special passes because the de-mining of the territories continued.
But unfortunately, the war did not end after the liberation of the Kyiv Region from the Russian invaders. And the Ukrainian economy still cannot be brought back to life. “Now, taking into account the exchange rate and our dependence on foreign raw materials, which we buy with foreign currency, our expenses have become unsustainable, – the founder of OMG states sadly – But we will not give up! We did not dismiss any employees from work and even decided to take some of the burdens of the price jump so that it would not be so difficult for our customers. We understand that everyone is in a tough situation today, but the key to success is to help each other.”
Among the brand’s most popular goods today are “patriotic sneakers” decorated with leather inserts in the colors of the Ukrainian flag. Ksenia excitedly says that even those customers who already had the same ones repurchased to support their favorite brand. We sincerely love our customers. You may say that any manufacturer will tell you this. But for us, this is the fundamental philosophy which is our brand’s basic one. Communicating with customers, we provide product quality, warranty, and post-warranty relations. Ksenia tells about several cases that touched the whole team. “Our Ukrainian girls, currently abroad, often buy shoes from us. It happens that the size does not fit. In this case, you can always return the shoes. Imagine a box with a pair of shoes, a bunch of goodies, and a note with best wishes from the buyer. Our customers are our friends!”.
During the war, such a connection gains special meaning and significance. Ksenia recalls another case that she couldn’t forget. “A girl from Mariupol (a city occupied by the Russian army in the south of Ukraine, which suffered almost the most destruction) contacted us. She asked for sandals to be made for her – the same as the ones she bought from us a few years ago. She left them in her destroyed house. Probably, this pair was of great value to her. We immediately realized that someone had lost her home, all her belongings, and a part of her soul. But there was something we could give her back! It was not easy because we stopped producing the mentioned model long before. We reassembled it and developed it anew, trying to reproduce everything as it was. Of course, we didn’t charge for this pair. It’s not about business. It’s about empathy and unity.”
We are together, and we are strong. The postcard, hand-signed by the OMG Shoes & Wear team, says wishing victory. Spikes of wheat are attached. Ksenia’s grandmother collected them for her beloving granddaughter, who dreams of persevering. The main thing is to do it with dignity, keeping the light in our hearts and sharing it with those who need it.