From humble beginnings to full-fledged business – how one family in Eastern Ukraine developed their own cheese-making company
The lives of Emma and her husband Sergei changed dramatically when the war came to their home city of Donetsk. As a result of the conflict Emma and Sergei were forced to flee the city, which is now part of the non-government-controlled area in Eastern Ukraine. Now, four years on, they live in a village near Svyatogorsk situated amidst rolling pine forests, with their family intent on enjoying all the benefits their natural surroundings have to offer.
Abandoning city life also meant they were presented with plenty of unexpected opportunities. On setting up in their new location, they were given a goat as a welcoming gift. But who would have thought that that one incidental act of generosity would lead to a farm of 17 goats and their principle source of income?
Today, Emma and Sergei have their own family-run brand, CosaLend. The family sells milk, makes cheese gift-sets and even produces their own ice-cream. “We sell goat’s milk, which is often given to small children milk who are allergic to cow’s milk. Goat’s milk has a host of benefits and is the closest in terms of formula to human milk”, Emma explains. They also produce a wide variety of cheeses including “Krutin” – a French white-mould cheese made exclusively from goat’s milk, “Bavarian blue” – a blue-mould cheese as the name suggests, and “La Ban” – a tangy cheese marinated in oil and spices.
With support from People in Need and the UK’s Department for International Development, the family business received a grant totalling 60,000 UAH (around €1800). With the proceeds of the funds, the family were able to purchase much-needed equipment such as cheese-holders, a separator and a vacuum packer. With the business growing rapidly as a direct result, Emma is keen to express her appreciation: “Thank you for supporting people like us who are trying to make a fresh start. We only produce organic foods and want to encourage people to eat well and lead a healthy lifestyle.” The family are keen to take the business forward with the introduction of new types of cheese and other products.
Not content with just one business venture, Emma and Sergei have been inspired to become the first-ever domestic producers of cigars in Ukraine. Having already attempted to grow about six different types of tobacco, Emma discloses the origin of their latest idea: “As a smoker, my husband’s always been dissatisfied with the quality of the tobacco he gets in the shops here. So we thought to ourselves: Why don’t we just start growing it ourselves?”
With an ever-growing customer-base, including loyal friends and neighbours, Emma and Sergei won’t be resting on their laurels. As well as expanding their existing range of products, items on their to-do list include launching their own website and branching out to supply produce to other regions in Ukraine.