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LavkaLavka is a social enterprise that aims to revive agriculture and lost gastronomic traditions in Russia, as well as to foster a new agricultural and gastronomic culture worldwide. It is a farm cooperative, which includes an online service designed, as a social network to interact with farmers and consumers, as well as a restaurant chain and a retail store network.
The project has been launched in Moscow in the spring of 2009 by three friends: journalist Boris Akimov, IT specialist Alexander Mikhailov and salesman Vasily Palshin. The idea of the entrepreneurs was to create a public area for selling environmentally friendly and chemical-free agricultural products, which are almost impossible to find at ordinary grocery stores. The key purpose of the project was to connect farmers and consumers directly without any intermediaries.
The project has already made a significant contribution to changing the normal way in which market operates. Consumers received a unique opportunity to request and obtain full information about the origins of the specific product and pictures/descriptions of the farm producing it. It became possible as every product is ordered not from an abstract catalogue, but from specific farmers and farms. What is more, in some cases they can even visit a farm and watch the production process personally. Thus, the company also encourages eco-tourism.
Local producers previously faced lots of troubles while delivering their products to buyers. Most of them live and work in remote regions of the country, so they literally had to harness, get on a boat and walk long distances from day to day to reach local market places and stores. After joining LavkaLavka as suppliers they were able to optimize this process and save plenty of time and energy. More and more suppliers are now building their own shops, running business and investing in further development. The key purpose of the project was to connect farmers and consumers directly without any intermediaries.
Due to this project many people’s lives have changed. Boris Akimov mentions a story of a farmer and says: “We have such a farmer Nina Kozlova. She was one of the very first ones who joined us in 2009. And she still works with us. When we went to her, she lived and worked in the village of Zaokskoye in the Ryazan region. Every time she had to face many obstacles to get to the city to sell her products. The difficulties she faced were no transportation and she had to run the horses, swim on boat when Oka river spilled. It turned out every two days that's how it floats to sell milk, cottage cheese, etc. It is clear that her life has changed greatly since then. And right now they built a shop, grew up, it's nice to see that the fruits of their own labor appear on the fates of people in your eyes, how they have changed their lives.”
The co-founder of this company Boris Akimov strongly feels that creative foundation is what makes human-beings individuals. In fact, his personal constant creativity cravings resulted in LavkaLavka business. He never dealt with business before, but wanted to create something that would make his live yummier, brighter and at the end much easier. So motivation is mainly connected with the practical desire to satisfy his own gastronomic appetite, eventual conclusion that these needs are not unique of their kind and attempt to test it in practice.
“I think that every person is inclined to engage in creativity and, probably, creative foundation in a person - this is what makes us people and, in fact, a constant craving for creativity leads to the fact that the "Lavka-shop" appeared. I wanted to create something that would change my own life, change the lives of others, friends, acquaintances, family. Therefore, I quit my previous job, I actually worked in the past as a journalist. I never dealt with business before. That was creative urge. Motivation is mainly connected with the practical desire to satisfy your own gastronomic appetite. In fact, you could probably have somehow satisfied and looked for products somewhere else, but there was a desire to eat something that is not around.” – says Boris Akimov about his motivation to start the project.
By 2013 the project has attracted about 4 thousand regular customers and dozens of permanent suppliers. In 2011 first LavkaLavka restaurants opened in Moscow and St. Petersburg. They are currently specializing in Russian cuisine. Their dishes are made from the same environmentally friendly agricultural products and are primarily focused on those customers who want to eat healthy farm food, but for some reason are not willing to order products by LavkaLavka online. The menu traditionally provides details on the origin of all the ingredients used, as it is designed with the obligatory consideration of the ethical consumption ideology. For example, a restaurant orders a whole cow rather than several hundred steaks to cook each piece in accordance with gastronomic rules. That is another reason, why the menu at the LavkaLavka restaurants changes on a daily basis, since the use seasonal ingredients from local farmers.
Every farmer now regardless of their household’s size and turnover can register on LavkaLavka online resource and offer their products for sale. Many independent media sources have already noted the project’s relevance under current geopolitical circumstances and perfect fit into the national program of "import substitution". LavkaLavka partly owed its success thanks to the economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the Western countries.
As the business grows and expands its monthly turnover has reached 10 million rubles.
Besides financial benefits LavkaLavka online store and restaurants generally receive high praises from customers, partners and media. In 2013 the AmBAR business association described LavkaLavka as one of the brightest and most beautiful social startups in Russia. Kommersant Weekend gave Moscow restaurant four stars out of five. Based on the results of the open voting on the specialized Menu.ru portal LavkaLavka received the "Best Restaurant of 2013" award and won the "Menu from Russian products" nomination. Some foreign media resources such as Euronews and The New York Times also gave a positive feedback about the company.
So a good business reputation explicitly increases corporate value and provides sustainable competitive advantages.
Before each product appears on LavkaLavka website, it goes through a rigorous quality control procedures: seeds, water and fertilizer used, body condition scoring and so on. The company has developed its own environmental certification system (SES), which requires farmers to follow such rules, as the following: the abandonment of use of artificial substances as fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, growth regulators, plant infusions and agrotechnical techniques for disease control.
The reasons project attracted so many followers and fans are also more personal. People value the opportunity to make a smart choice based on full and transparent data and the idea of learning the entire process before the actual purchase. Modern conscious consumers want to have a clear understanding of what he/she pays for, who eventually gets his money and how this product has affected other stakeholders – producers, environment, community.
It worth mentioning that the company founder himself does not measure success of his project in terms of profits generated, but rather evaluates the impact made and the social value of the work performed. On the other side, he does not see a dramatic difference between personal and corporate responsibility and admits there is no need to emphasize the social orientation of LavkaLavka. Its commitments, as of any actively operating business, are absolutely natural and inherent.
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Boris Akimov, Co-Founder