‘My Business Started Out as My Course Work’
Elizaveta Korsakova, Master’s student of the programme ‘Business Analytics in Economics and Management’, started up her own online shop which became profitable within two months. Elizaveta spoke to the HSE News Service about how having her own business helps her in her studies at HSE University and about what kind of analytics help to improve sales.
Elizaveta earned her bachelor’s degree in 2019 from Lobachevsky University while also working at a construction company. Two years later, she was already a first-class economist when she applied to the Master’s programme in Business Analytics in Economics and Management at HSE University-Nizhny Novgorod. Elizaveta explains that an HSE University education stands out from the competition thanks to the close relationship between study cases and real tasks, as well as the opportunity to communicate directly with experts from various business sectors:
— HSE University offers an amazing opportunity to communicate with top experts from real companies. There is a wide gulf between theoretical tasks that can be solved with models or formulas and the real problems faced by major businesses, which are made up of human, production, and financial factors. In real life, this combination produces a completely different result.
In our classes, we can meet financial directors and development directors from companies that are among the top ten biggest employers in Russia. This is a unique experience
I was impressed by the opportunity to brainstorm; four of us master’s students worked together on a project to improve sales, and each of us has our own management strategy. All of this allows you to think bigger. I presented the research results of this project at the poster session of Economics and Business week at HSE University in November 2022.
— What was the project about?
— Our case was to analyse the effectiveness of product sales of the ECOFISH fish-processing plant and to suggest proposals to increase sales. The project was curated by Lyubov Keldina, who is the financial director of the factory and our lecturer.
We researched numerous parameters related to the competitiveness of the products and profit data. We took data on the average price of each type of product over the last five years and presented it visually as a histogram of the seasonal influence on price. We studied the relative share of each product type and determined which items made the largest profits. In other words, we conducted a full financial analysis aimed at informing management decisions.
Overall, we were quite successful in conducting our analysis. Not only did we present proposals to stimulate sales, but we also conducted preliminary negotiations with platforms. We suggested expanding product sales by increasing the retail channel through the Delivery Club and Yandex.Eda marketplaces. I developed a model with the optimal minimum and average values for increasing sales.
In fact, Lyubov Keldina liked a lot of our ideas, and I incorporated several of these ideas into my term paper, which served as the basis of my own business.
— What kind of business model did you envision for your own project?
— I was interested in development in the marketplace sphere, as this channel is currently the most profitable. Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, marketplace sales have increased by 268%, and it was important to me to find the right product with which to enter this growing market. Ultimately, I went with the sale of materials for wood preservation—a product with little seasonal variance in the construction sphere. I am currently one of countless sellers of such products in the marketplace, but my business provides me not only with entrepreneurial experience and a financial result, but also helps me learn by doing.
I’ll let you in on a secret: my project even allowed me to save time and finish several academic subjects
— Are you satisfied with the results?
— My business started out as my term paper; now I am writing my thesis, which is also related to this topic. The project started turning a profit within one-and-a-half months of its launch. The project needs further development, but I don’t have enough time for marketing—designing product cards, working with reviews, or using the various opportunities offered by marketplaces for promotion.
— Do you have a manager or mentor?
— I have a manager from the marketplace who helps me set up and develop sales. She said, ‘You should love your own product and invite your audience to love it.’ And I really do love this product—my family is building a house and we are using this product, so I know that it is of good quality. It doesn’t smell of chemicals; it contains wax, which also emphasises the structure of the wood. When I design product cards for the product, I present my own home, which I take care of using this brand of products.
— Do you have any lifehacks for working with marketplaces?
— First of all, you must conduct a competitive analysis of your product. Secondly, you have to love your product and invest in promoting it. If you do not love the product and simply choose to sell something that is a top seller at the moment, the business will fall apart after the first seasonal downturn. Fashions change and new competitors and products enter the market. You always have to work to make sure your product is the best and that it remains visible. Thirdly, you need to keep up with sales technologies, as new features appear on marketplaces almost every day. If you don’t think up something new and don’t bring something of your own, then you’re already too late.
— What plans do you have to develop your business?
— I would like to create my own consulting company to help early-career entrepreneurs with strategy and analytics.