I met Natalka via my Facebook group “Russian-Speaking Community in Slovakia“. I only knew we both are from Ukraine and share the same political views. Later, when I’ve created another Facebook community for female entrepreneurs and those who wanted to become such, she also joined that group, so I’ve said to myself – that’s interesting, we should definitely meet together in person!
I went ahead and reached out to her asking for a face-to-face meeting just to talk about her business, life views, impression from emigration to Slovakia and such.
So, a couple days ago we spent a lovely day in Piestany, a nice small town close to Bratislava, where she’s currently living with her family, a husband and a 5-year-old son.
I’ll shut up and let her talk here for a while, interrupting just to ask a question once in a while 🙂
Sasha: So, I know you have your own Etsy e-shop with jewelry, clocks and other accessories, all made from old or not working computer hardware.
Natalka: That’s right, me and my husband are creating accessories made from motherboards and its parts. Earrings, bracelets, cufflinks, brooches, necklaces, wall and desk clocks, holiday ornaments. You can check it on our ReComputing e-shop and Instagram. We’ve picked the name ReComputing, because these all are essentially recycled computers.
And you are thus contributing to the greener planet! Awesome! But how did it all start?
I’ve started being into a handmade when my son was just a couple months old (by the way, you’ll have plenty of time during your baby’s first 6 months until they don’t know how to crawl around, after that it’s much more complicated (laughing)).
However, I’ve enjoyed handmade since childhood, embroidering, for example. But I’ve never planned to earn money with it until I went on a maternity leave. I have understood back then that it might be a good idea to get something from it, since I’ve seen that people were successfully selling their handmade stuff on Etsy internationally, and the financial market in Ukraine continued to decline. We didn’t see any positive trend. Working on the Ukrainian market was less profitable than on the international one. That was in 2010, two years after crisis began in 2008.
How did you make your living before?
I worked as a clerk in a bank, in a department that works with small and micro businesses. My major was in the enterprise economics and I’ve used a lot from what I’ve learned at a university. I’ve always liked mathematics, analytics and communication, and I loved my job as it combined it all.
Wow, mathematics and handmade – aren’t those totally opposite?
Actually, I think embroidery and mathematics are quite similar:) I know, it doesn’t sound like that, but I think it’s the same principle, when you are embroidering, you are like constantly solving one big example. It’s a form of meditation, you are completely concentrated on what you are doing.
Did you enjoy your job at a bank?
Yes, I loved my job! I was working with the bank department directors and also have been teaching new employees in new opening departments, working with people, traveling a lot. But when I went on a maternity leave, I focused only on my handmade hobby.
That’s amazing! Usually girls I know escape from the job they don’t like into a handmade, but in your case you have been doing what you loved your whole life, great! So how did your handmade business actually start?
So, when I learned about Etsy, I had decided to put my 2 large embroidered images there and started reading about how it all works. I’ve entered different communities and groups on Etsy, there were plenty of them in 2010, and they were much more useful than they are now. They’ve given the opportunity to cross-promote your products which brought a handful of new clients. (Now it’s much harder to promote on Etsy, the site lost its handmade flavour after it had opened its doors to mass production).
Very soon I learned that when you are promoting your products, it makes no sense to emphasise how long you have spent on creating it, or which cool technique you’ve used, unless this gives your customer a real value. Customer buys the product because it’s beautiful or useful, or eco, etc., not because of the effort you put into it. That is what should be emphasised when you do marketing.
My first product was sold only half a year later, it was a small embroidered image with the words “I love you” – and it was sold right on the 14th of February 🙂
Not so long after we’ve stumbled upon the idea of creating accessories from a used computer hardware and decided to try that out. My husband had a hardware business and therefore almost unlimited access to old or broken motherboards and other computer parts.
How long did it take you to understand that it’s worth a try?
After I’ve posted our new production on our Etsy profile, we’ve almost immediately noticed that it’s gaining popularity.
It’s funny, a couple of months afterwards, I got a phone call from my boss who asked me to go back to work from my maternity leave… Convincing me that he will offer me a good position with the same salary I had before. And I didn’t know how to tell him that I have been already earning as much with my e-shop! (laughing). With a lot less time spent on work daily.
So by the end of the year, after we’ve reviewed our financial data, we understood that our business had a potential and started thinking about moving abroad. Unfortunately in Ukraine it’s not that easy to sell internationally, even Paypal doesn’t allow Ukrainians to receive payments. So we decided to search for better conditions for growing our business.
And you’ve chosen Slovakia, because…
Because it had the most favourable conditions in terms of business registration and emigration. And, I must say, we are pretty satisfied, after 2 years of living here.
What would you recommend to those who still didn’t find their calling?
Do what you like. It doesn’t make sense to invest your time or money into something just because you think it will be popular. From my experience, if you are doing that not because you like but because you want to sell, you probably would not sell it anyway. And if you would, you’ll end up with another “boring day job” that you would want to leave.
And don’t waste your time. Don’t just sit and play online games all day long instead of doing something useful. You’ll be surprised, but many young women, not just men, are addicted to gaming. Instead, they could do something that brings similar satisfaction but also is of use for their future.
One more tip for those who are a bit shy. I couldn’t get used to myself being called an artist. And I still don’t consider myself an artist (Sasha – I think you should!), but nevertheless my products are selling and people like them.
You can do great even if you think you could do much better. So throw your hesitation away and keep going.
Thanks, Natalka! Pretty inspirational, isn’t it? If you liked the article, support and ask Natalka in comments below!
As a bonus, here is a wonderful magnolia tree from Piestany, the town we’ve met in.
You can find Natalka on Instagram.
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