Anna Balakhontseva was born and raised in Taras, Kazakhstan. When she turned sixteen, she moved to Saint-Petersburg, Russia, to study journalism: here she worked for two years as a journalist and as a cook to pay for her studies. After getting her degree, however, she realized that she wasn’t really interested in pursuing a career in journalism or working for others: she needed freedom and, most importantly, she liked being in charge.
Anna was a natural decision-maker, with a drive to influence her working environment and managing people, so she started considering starting her own business. She decided to take advantage of the photo and video editing skills she developed when working for a TV company and founded a small photo and video production company with a friend.
Three years later, Anna decided to change her career again and, thanks to the strong organizational skills she built when working as a photographer, moved to the event management industry. She collaborated with different venues, one of which was Trava - a cultural events space where Anna had the opportunity to organise a festival and some lectures. When Anna started working with here, they had just launched the food association Food will save the world, a project aimed at reducing food waste. The association caters to events using exclusively unsold products, which would otherwise be thrown away. They’re also keen to reduce carbon footprint at all stages of production, so, for example, they don’t use meat or products with plastic packaging.
When Anna joined the project, she started developing a comprehensive business plan to grow the business. As she was keen to expand the business, she became aware that she needed adequate skills. A colleague from Trava introduced her to the Social Impact Award (SIA), implemented in Russia by ImpactHub Moscow and Youth Business Russia, and that’s how she applied for the programme. As an incubator participant, Anna was persistent, active and mindful, so it’s not surprising that her project won the 2019 SIA’s competition in Saint-Petersburg.
Food will save the world is on track to become a successful social enterprise, however, the beginning was challenging:
“Our main challenge was to understand our target audience. Thanks to working in SIA we did it: we understood businesses and how to work with them to make more orders.”
The support received by SIA was fundamental not only for the development of her company strategy but also for her personal development as an entrepreneur. She remembers:
“In SIA I realized that I had the inner energy to coordinate such a project and strong leadership skills to make people follow me. Before I didn’t even think about it.”
Anna is already thinking about the future: she would like to get more long-term partnerships and hire people that are most vulnerable in the community. She dreams to involve the whole city in her journey of saving food.
Asked about her biggest achievements, two things come to mind. First, participating in and winning SIA, and second, organize eco-wedding: they needed to combine a big celebration with reducing food waste.
ImpactHub Moscowis one of Youth Business Russia’s local partners. They run education and incubation programmes to support early-stage social entrepreneurs in developing and implementing innovative business solutions. Youth Business Russia is part of the Youth Business Europe programme, a regional initiative supported by the Citi Foundation to help young entrepreneurs to start or grow a business.