What Flavour Chocolate Bar Would You Order?
Oleg Guskov, a graduate of the HSE International College of Economics and Finance, and owner of Mixville, a new kind of company on the Russian market, believes that what makes entrepreneurs different is their willingness to take risks and to think outside the box.
— Oleg, the decision to enter a specific university can be based on a number of different reasons. One chooses a profession, the other chooses teachers, and someone else goes because his friends are there. What was your reason to apply for ICEF?
— In my case, I was persuaded by ICEF’s reputation. I wanted to go there, since at that time I was dreaming about a financial education, stock exchanges, brokers, traders and everything related to it. ICEF offered a really wide range of opportunities. In addition to outstanding lecturers and an interesting curriculum, the students had the chance to dive into an English-language environment and get two diplomas in four years – from the London School of Economics and the Higher School of Economics.
— Which of the lecturers do you remember the most?
— I’d like to mention Dominik Rubin, who conducted seminar classes on the intellectual history of Europe. It takes an outstanding teacher to present complex philosophical ideas in an interesting and unusual way to students whose minds are usually focused on things far removed from the humanities.
— When did you start working? How did the idea of your own business arise?
— The idea of the first business was, I would say, a bit forced. It was my first year of study, I was in the capital, I wanted to go to places and see things, but I was short of money, of course. I created a business related to delivering grain from Ukraine and Kazakhstan. At some point, I signed a contract with my counteragents for $90,000, and it was then that I realized what it means to have your own business. After that I had a business related to construction materials, an advertising agency, then grain again, and, at last, Mixville.
The idea of Mixville came up when I noticed the miserable choice of chocolate bars on the shelves in a supermarket. At first, I decided to produce 5 or 6 new chocolate bars with flavours which just did not exist. Then I thought: why limit yourself and others with only 5 or 6 types of chocolate if a man’s fantasy is boundless, and tastes are so individual? So, we devised a service where anyone can create their own chocolate bar by adding whatever various ingredients they want. Today you can choose from over 120 ingredients, from traditional to the most exotic, such as sea salt or cumquat. Over time we’ve been getting more and more clients, the orders have been pouring in day and night, and we’ve understood that when we let the customer create a product according to his own taste, we really hit the mark.
Today we produce not only chocolate, but also macaroons and natural granola. We like to develop cooperation with corporate clients, as our product is a perfect present for partners and friends. I see big potential in this business, and that’s why I devote all my time to it. What’s next? Time will show. But thanks to Mixville, at the great age of 21, I can tell you many things about the difficulties and advantages of creating a business from scratch.
Recently we’ve been using simple statistical analysis to systematize our clientele, to identify different groups and work with them according to different scenarios. I couldn’t have done that without the knowledge in marketing I gained at the HSE.
— How do you evaluate the future of your business development on the Russian market?
We‘ve opened up a new market in Russia, - the individual food products market. This is a new consumer model. A client visits our website from his laptop or mobile device, chooses a product with ingredients he wants, and we deliver in 24 hours.
— What qualities are necessary to be successful in business?
I believe that the main thing is to find what you can do better than others. In order to be successful you need to understand your special mission. And business is a mission for 3 or 4 percent of the world population.