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Artem Kovalev

Russia

“I wanted to work for myself, to create my own ideas.”

Like many entrepreneurs before him, Artem Kovalev started his career working for someone else until he was struck with the urge to become his own boss. 

Artem began as a sales manager at a camp for children, and his programmer friend who had experience building websites encouraged him to work with children in a different way, by creating a business that benefits them. “We knew that students want cheap courses, they don’t have much money, so we created courses for children so that every child can learn to create websites, create games, and use Photoshop.”

His business, TeenSmart IT School, organises IT programmes for school children aged 10-17 years old in which they learn to code, construct websites, and develop mobile applications. Through digital skills development, Artem’s venture contributes to at least two Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Quality Education and Decent Work and Economic Growth

Artem is motivated by the outcome that his business achieves. “After [going through] our schools, children get results, like a site or a game. After every course, they get a result.” He has opened four schools within Russia thus far, but he has plans to expand beyond his home country to Europe as a whole. He cited countries such as Estonia, Belarus, and Czech Republic as possible locations for new IT schools. “We want to open in Europe because I think it is an interesting sphere. Children in Russia and Europe alike will want to be programmers,” he said.

While Artem spoke about the sense of accomplishment he felt after opening his first school, he admitted that the journey was wrought with difficult challenges. Within a month of opening one of his schools, Artem’s team abandoned the project and he had to pivot quickly in order to build a new group of support. Fortunately, he succeeded in rebuilding a team of 20 people, but they faced another setback when they attempted opening a school in the small town of Lipetsk. Running a school in such a small place was not sustainable, a business lesson Artem learned the hard way. “Now we open schools in bigger cities, where more people are around.”

Within his community, Artem is confident that his work is training children for a successful future. “As a city, we can help children practice in IT spheres. They can try this and think about their future work, maybe future business, and I think children can get very good IT skills.” Artem believes the future of entrepreneurship is strong. “In Russia, entrepreneurship is very interesting for young people; it is in style. Now, Russia is the best country for open business because government difficulty is zero, and the government can help entrepreneurs in our country.”

The level of freedom that entrepreneurship offers is enticing, and Artem believes that people desire this liberty within the IT sphere. “People want work where they can work anywhere in the world, Bali, Tawain, to lie on the beach and earn money. I think the IT sphere can get this way.” His TeenSmart IT School hopes to build great future careers for children. “I think in Russia, we’re the best programmers, and our school children can try IT, and they can think about our future business, our future professionals.”

For Artem, life as an entrepreneur is not labor intensive or drudgery.

“It is not work, it is super interesting because you don’t know what tomorrow will be. You don’t know what will be in two months. It is not important how old are you, you should try to open your own business! Have a try!”

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