The course towards Independence. How a large agribusiness develops small businesses in villages

Two years ago, a small bakery was set up in the hangar of the Family Farm in the village of Shchaslyva, Vinnytsia region, producing up to 20 loaves of bread a day. Today, the bakery produces 1,500 products - 10 types of bread and 15 types of pastries.

The owner of the bakery, Mikhail Magdenko, had planned to increase production capacity even before the full-scale invasion. To achieve his goal, last year he took part in the "Course to Independence" grant competition organised in partnership by Astarta-Kyiv Agro-Industrial Holding, the Believe in Yourself Charitable Foundation, the German government - the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the German Development Bank DEG.

In total, more than 220 participants applied for The course towards Independence mini-grant competition, of which 60 winners received €12,000 each to develop their own businesses. The total grant fund amounted to EUR 720 thousand.

Mykhailo Magdenko spoke about business in the village, his experience of setting up a bakery and participation in grant programmes on Instagram.

All raw materials for baking come from his own field

Mykhailo Magdenko is a fourth-generation agronomist, as his great-grandfather, grandfather and father were all agronomists. He continued the family tradition and studied agriculture at Illinetskyi Agricultural College, and later went on to become an agronomist in Poland.

"Since my father is a farmer, the village community used to ask him to bake bread on various holidays. We bought a small oven and a dough mixer. The villagers liked our bread very much, so after I returned to Ukraine, we decided to develop this business and bought several more ovens and a dough mixer. That's how the Shchaslyvets Bread bakery was born," Mykhailo recalls.

Today, the company actually operates on a "farm to table" basis, as the raw materials for baking bread are grown on their own fields. The grain is milled at the company's own mill, which ensures that the production is supplied with high-quality flour. This year, they processed 100 tonnes of wheat into flour.

At the start of the bakery's operation, they immediately decided to implement the HACCP system, as they realised how important it was for the quality of the product.

"Our first technologist was a fellow villager who had extensive experience working at a bakery. She passed on her knowledge to us, told us how all the processes work, and helped us a lot. Today, we have developed our own recipes and are constantly working on developing something new, because consumers need new and interesting products," says the entrepreneur.

Expansion of the bakery thanks to the grant

On 24 February 2022, the bakery was closed for a week, and people were afraid to go to work because of the uncertainty. But later, they partially resumed production, but only baked black and white bread. Only six months later did they start producing other breads.

"A lot of products were sent to checkpoints and the frontline. The demand for bread was growing, and we only had a dough mixer, an oven and a proofing room - a special room with the right temperature and humidity for bread maturation. We realised that we needed either more employees or more equipment," says the bakery owner.

To solve this problem, he first applied for a grant from eRobot and received UAH 250,000. Later, he was advised to take part in The course towards Independence.

"We applied, took 5 hours of training webinars, following the recommendations of the curator, wrote business plans and eventually won - we received equipment worth UAH 910 thousand. We did not believe it until Astarta-Kyiv delivered and installed all the equipment. Thanks to the grants, we now have a new dough mixer, a bread slicer, a water dispenser, a machine for forming loaves of bread, two ovens - one for pizza and one for croissants - tables, a product separator, and scales. "The 'Course to Independence' project has accelerated our development, as it would have taken us 5-7 years to achieve this on our own," says Mykhailo Magdenko.

In addition, thanks to the grants received, the company created an additional 4 jobs, and the total number of employees increased to 8. Under the terms of the project, the winners have to donate 10% of the cost of their products to the community. Every month, Mykhailo donates his delicious pastries to the community and treats both military personnel and internally displaced families living in dormitories with Shchaslyvets bread.

Author's strudel in the range

The bakery was able to expand not only its product range, but also the number of units, thanks to the The course towards Independence . So as soon as they set up the new equipment, they informed all the stores that they were ready to accept more orders.

"The most popular products are oval bread and the so-called 'brick', as well as strudels with poppy seeds and jam. We consider a strudel with a double filling to be our own creation: banana on one side and chocolate on the other. It's for those who can't decide on their taste," says Mykhailo Magdenko.

In the near future, he plans to add unleavened bread and pita bread to his product range. Mikhail is not going to stop and plans to expand further. Currently, the greatest need is for trucks, because all the stores want to receive the products by 8:00 am. To be fresh and crispy

"In general, there is still room for additional ovens, and there are no problems with raw materials, so I think we will eventually reach 7-8 thousand units per day," he says.

Today, the products of the Schastlivetsky Khlib bakery can be bought in the Lipovets, Schastlivetsky, Illinetsky and Nemyrivsky districts. You can also place an order through the website and Instagram page. The bakery owner notes that in order to develop, it is necessary to use all available opportunities and participate in grant programmes.

"Yes, there may be setbacks, but you shouldn't stop. There is no shame in learning from your own experience, it hardens you and makes you stronger. And while the military is reclaiming our land on the battlefield, we must do everything possible to ensure that the country continues to develop. Everyone in their place. In small and big steps. Work for the sake of Victory," summarises Mykhailo Magdenko.