"Be authentic. Be kind."
This November we are introducing you to this amazing woman who decided it was time for a change and created a company with her best friend to pursue her two passions: cooking and working with children.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, your background and what do you do?
My name is Olga (@o.a.d_chi). I grew up in Lipetsk, Russia and moved to the USA when I was 18 to go to college. I live in Chicago and along with my friend, Lesya (@lesya_merena), run an after school cooking program for elementary schools called iCook After School (@icookafterschool). My background is in finance and even now I am obsessed with running numbers, working in excel and planning our operating budget, but what I love even more is creativity and challenges that owning your business brings.
How did the idea about iCook After School came about?
After attending Chicago Ideas Week, Lesya and I were having sushi and discussing how inspired we were by all the speakers at the event and how many amazing things people are doing all over the world. We wanted to do something meaningful and that we are truly passionate about. We both agreed that nutrition education is something that the current school system is lacking and that we would love to teach young students that food can be both delicious and nutritious. Instead of lecturing students we wanted to make it fun and hands-on, so that's how our cooking program came into life.
What was the hardest part when you started?
I think to keep going. There are so many challenges you face when starting your business, and when things don't work out, you want to quit. In those moments, the best thing to do is to focus on the big picture and appreciate how far along you came and just keep going because if it was easy everyone would do it.
What advice would you give to someone who's about to start their own business?
Prepare yourself for a lot of hard work and enjoy the ride. It will not be easy. It will be challenging but in a good way. You will learn a lot, your mind will shift completely and you will view the world through a different lens. Surround yourself with your support team - family, friends, mentors and keep a positive attitude about things.
What accomplishments you are most proud of? And what is the next big thing you want to accomplish?
I am very proud of coming to the USA on my own at the age of 18. I am very proud of quitting my corporate job to pursue my passion for owning a business. Both were extremely challenging things to do and both were the best things I have ever done. Would not change a thing.
Who's your inspiration and why?
I can't say I have one person that inspires me. I read a lot of books on business, health, spirituality, psychology depending on what I am interested in at the moment and that gives me a lot of new and fresh ideas. I am proud to have so many friends who are also entrepreneurs and are doing amazing things with their lives. They inspire me every day. I just think we live in a beautiful world and there is so much to learn. If you have the right mindset, you can find inspiration everywhere.
What is something you've always wanted to try but have been too scared to? Hmmm....it will sound funny, but it's true. I don't know how to ride a bicycle...I had a bad accident when I was a child and was never been able to try again since. One day.
Where is the most interesting place you have been to and where do you dream to go?
I have been lucky to visit many beautiful places. From recent trips, I really enjoyed traveling to Kenya and seeing wildlife. It was absolutely incredible and I want to explore Africa more and go to Madagascar and go gorilla trekking in Uganda. I would also love to visit New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa.
What skill or craft would you like to master?
I would love to speak French, Italian and Spanish fluently.
And last, what's in your Biscayne Backpack?
I am a bit of a minimalist, but I always have my laptop, phone, air pods, water bottle, wallet with me. In the mornings, there is always a bottle with green smoothie or juice as well.