Webster Vienna Entrepreneurs Support Family Chocolate Business in Ukraine
February 07, 2023
Webster Vienna Private University (WVPU) students Mikhail Sharynov and Riena Sharynova are not only twins studying together in Vienna, they are also putting their skills to work in a very sweet way: working together to grow their family’s chocolate business.
Mikhail (who goes by Misha), Riena and their parents were born and raised in Dnipro, a large city in the center of Ukraine. In 1999, the entrepreneurial parents founded a confectionary company and opened a modern manufacturing plant to produce the product. The Millennium Chocolate Factory was born.
“Since childhood, I have always tried to interact in business processes, always tried to acquire business skills,” said Misha, who is a Webster Vienna Business Administration major.
After the family found distribution success within grocery stores and other businesses, Misha and Riena decided to build a specialized chocolate store from the ground up. By opening the Millennium Chocolate stores, the twins decided they could put their business acumen to work and highlight their family’s popular products directly to consumers.
They were just 13 years old.
“We used to hang out in dad’s [factory] office every day since childhood, so we got really interested in what he does, and we decided to start interacting with the industry,” said Riena, who is studying Management with an Emphasis on Marketing at WVPU.
The idea to open their own chocolate stores sprung to life before the twins were in their teens. When the siblings were around 9 years old, they would sell chocolate produced in the factory to their school cafeteria, which would in turn sell the sweets to students. One day, the future WVPU students arrived with a big bag of chocolate only to find the cafeteria closed and dark.
“I was sitting with this big bag of chocolate and didn’t know what to do, so I sold it [to students] by myself. And after a few hours I had money, and no more chocolate,” Misha said.
They understood the value of their product and soon learned there was a direct-to-consumer future in their family’s products.
When the siblings were a bit older, Misha developed a business plan for the chocolate store that included capital expenses, operation expenses and revenue projections. With the investment support of their family, they bought and renovated a building, hired employees and ultimately hosted the grand opening of the first of two Millennium Chocolate stores located in Dnipro.
Despite the twins residing in Vienna for their studies, and the ongoing war in their home country, the factory and stores continue to operate. Misha manages all aspects of store management, and Riena oversees marketing decisions and store promotion.
“We [as a family] were very close before opening the stores. It’s just that all of us working together on this one shared goal, this goal became like your baby,” Riena said.
Learn more about the Millennium Chocolate company.