Alexander Korolev: “The Main Thing Is to Be Capable of Separating Business from Hobbies”
Everyone has individual story of moving to Slovenia, but there is something that unites us all – an element of chance. Someone has considered first the Czech Republic, someone has never previously thought about moving, and someone has fundamentally changed his life without previous planning. However, at the end, all roads still lead here – to a small country loved by many people. Aleksandr Korolev, an entrepreneur and the hero of our today’s discussion, was no exception, having moved to Slovenia 3 years ago. The 2TM Company representatives discussed with Alexander love, business and art.
Alexander, had you ever thought about emigrating before?
Yes. Basically, because of the lack of security, not only physical, but also the environmental, financial and criminal. I am from Ukraine, Kiev. When I started thinking about moving, then my family and I decided to travel to different countries and live in each for a month or two. Therefore, we tried to get an idea of what the European life is. I came to Slovenia by accident and immediately realized that I was “in the right place”. Before I had been to Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Italy. I cannot explain why I chose Slovenia. I just felt it. It’s like love – you walk down the street, there are a lot of women, but you fall in love with the one.
When you were moving – did you have any idea of what you would intend to do?
Yes, absolutely. I moved on business immigration program having opened a company. The company was engaged in trade – we were engaged in wooden pellets business with Ukraine. However, the business was not developing. There were certain difficulties with supplies from Ukraine. As a result, we were nervous and waiting.
What did you do when the first difficulties arose?
I started looking for other options and found the Moro Company. Now I am an official partner of the company and its representative on the territory of CIS countries. Moro sells investment gold. This is one of the many types of investments, such as real estate, cars, etc. However, gold, if compared to other investment options, has many advantages. For example, for such type of investing, there is no need to buy additional properties or make additional substantial monetary investments. Therefore, I would even call the investment gold a financial instrument, rather than an “ordinary” investment.
Is the partnership with Moro the main type of activity for you in Slovenia?
Yes, but I also have hobbies – oil painting. I do thematic workshops. Each of them lasts for about 4–5 hours. We provide all necessary materials in the studio, including paints, canvas, etc. Our task is to make sure that during this time a person could draw a complete picture. This is my small extra income.
How did you get the idea of creating workshops?
That was just my hobby, which I decided to monetize. Of course, there were difficulties mainly associated with the natural laziness (just kidding). For the rest, everything was the same as usual. Most businesses (and this one as well) are based on the classical scheme: an idea comes, then you look at those who have already done it, because innovations are not for me, and then you act. I studied the market and applied the existing model to my idea. I liked the result and so I started the business.
Are your workshops in oil painting popular in Slovenia?
I still do not have a Slovenian group, so I cannot say yet. However, it is popular among the Russian-speaking population. I popularized my workshops only through the social networks, mostly – through Facebook.
While creating workshops, did you have a fear that you would get bored doing things you love after they transform into a job?
I am afraid even now, the same as others are. Well, if that happens, I’ll find myself another passion. In general, it is very important to be capable of separating business from hobbies. I have a hobby – it is painting. The process of painting. However, teaching how to paint is already not a hobby; it is a business, my work. You must be able to distinguish one from the other.
Did anyone help you when you were opening your first company?
Yes, it was the agency, to which I decided to apply because there was a language barrier and I had no possibility to stay in Slovenia for solving certain problems.
What are the challenges to be faced when opening a business in a foreign country?
When you start a business in any country, the problems can be internal: those restrictions that people invent for themselves. I believe that if a person really wants to do something, he will do it. If a person is looking for excuses and justifications for why “they cannot do it” – this means they do not really want it. In general, I do not think that a specific country influences the development and maintenance of business.
How do you think, which business niches in Slovenia are now promising for development?
I would still not distinguish Slovenia, Europe and the whole world separately. The world has trends, certain analytical reports, and studies on what has turned out to be the most promising areas in the world practice. If to study these data, then the IT-technology, everything associated with digitalization and the Internet environment, is by far the most promising sphere. Then the niche-related products and food come; then – everything related to health, and then – to children. All the rest follows these 4–5 sectors. Probably, some exclusive product will manage to survive, but here you need to be very careful and cautious.
How do you assess Slovenia in terms of starting a new business?
If starting a business is the goal, then it will be easier to achieve it in other countries. Italy, Austria, for example. Many of our immigrated compatriots say that Slovenia is a country for life, but for business, there are many other countries.
In general, what would you advise to a person who is going to set up a business?
First, you need a good business plan. That is the main thing. Because many people do the opposite quite often: first, they open a company, and then start calculating something. In this case, bad is the best. Therefore, a high-quality business plan is the key to a good start.
You said that “Slovenia is a country for life.” What are some of the factors that allowed for such definition?
Firstly, it is a very beautiful country. I was in New Zealand. Therefore, there is nothing to do in New Zealand after Slovenia. Secondly, this country has a perfect geographical location. Thirdly, the Slavic population living in this country is close to our mentality. The fourth factor, which is derived from the third one, is a similar language. The fifth point I would note that in Slovenia you can simultaneously have a sufficiently inexpensive and of high quality way of life. Finally, here is a good ecological environment.
Do you already speak Slovenian?
I can say that almost yes. I studied it myself, so my level of knowledge is determined by saying: “I speak freely, but wrong” (laughing). I had no need to sign up for courses so far. I am enough with what I know. I have no difficulties in communication with the Slovenes. Maybe I say something wrong, but the Slovenes usually do not pay attention to it. If there is such a necessity, of course, I will enrol for courses. However, as long as we are all “living on sufferance” here, I do not see much sense in putting too much effort in the language grammar.
Have you moved here together with your family?
Yes, to reunite. I have three children. My daughters are schoolchildren of 8 and 10 years. I also have a 19-year-old son who studies at the university. My wife is a scientist engaged in the Chinese metaphysics. This year she has graduated from the University of Hannover and received a degree in this sphere. She is now practicing, working and studying further.
How did you choose a school for your children?
When we moved, we had a clear understanding of what school our children would study at. That was the Waldorf School. This was actually one of the reasons, for which we eventually chose Ljubljana. There is such a school here. We came to the director, said that we wanted our children to study at that school, and the director said, “Okay, you are welcome.” That is all.
I personally think (but do not try to convince anybody else) that the traditional education system is outdated and no longer gives children the skills that a normal school does. In Europe, many Waldorf graduates have done an amazing career in many different areas of life*. In addition, the former students successfully entered higher education institutions. These indicators are important to me. My son also had managed to have one year of Waldorf system education before entering the university.
Where is your son studying now?
At the Faculty of Economics of the University of Ljubljana. He chose the study program in Slovenian language himself.
Do you travel a lot?
It depends on what to compare it to. We try to go out every weekend. We have already been almost everywhere (laughing).
Would you like to wish anything to those who are going to move?
I would really like people to be aware of what they are going to here and on what funds to live. They must understand this quite clearly. Awareness of choice – this is what I would wish to those who are going to move here.
*The list of Waldorf schools graduates includes an actress Jennifer Aniston, a film director Mathieu Seiler, an editor Miguel Forbes, a chief editor Florian Harms and many others. To view the full (and constantly supplemented) list, please click here.
In the interview, photos from the personal archive of Alexander Korolev