PZ: Alya, hello. I remember how you worked for us at allfun-e. And I know you have been the owner of XO Studio for a long time. But I don't remember when you started your business.
Alina: 8 years ago.
PZ: Sorry for the immodest question. And how old were you then?
Alina: 22 years old.
PZ: Daring decision. In 2012, there was no shortage of event agencies in Chisinau.
Alina: It was not daring. It was steel. I was 22 years old, and, relatively speaking, I had nothing to eat. I wanted to earn and, at the same time, be absolutely independent.
PZ: But have you already had at least some experience with events? Otherwise, it's just like jumping from a boat in the middle of a lake to learn how to swim...
Alina: Before that, I worked at HoReCa. The work specifics, for example, karaoke or a nightclub, was more or less clear and close to me. And then there was a little experience of cooperation with the «Ohotnichii dvor» in organizing concerts. I remember the three of them – the concert of Boyarsky, Ottawan and Guf-a.
PZ: You can count this as graduating from the universities. And how did the XO Studio event agency start?
Alina: We started with the organization of the wedding. I ruined everything, but at least the customers were happy!
PZ: So the first experience was a failure?
Alina: Fail. One big fail.
PZ: And how did you cope with it? I put myself in your place. 22 years old, start, hope, and suddenly everything goes wrong.
Alina: I just did it. I passed out in the car on the way home, and then I started thinking about preparing for a few more events, we even had more than one order at the start.
PZ: Do many of the event agencies work abroad? Did you manage there without fail?
Alina: Overlays always happen. But I learned a good lesson from the first event. Therefore, for example, when we did a big wedding for 300 people in Mamaia, in Romania, on the beach, then, although there were enough overlays during the preparation, the customers said after the wedding that it was the best thing that could happen to them.
PZ: Do you remember the details? It must have been your friends?
Alina: No. The wedding was «Swiss», the groom was Romanian, and the bride was from Russia. They somehow found us because the organizers needed an agency that could speak Russian with the bride and her guests. For the wedding itself, we dug up the entire beach, installed a podium and awnings, organized all the equipment, and worked with the artists. Moreover, why am I talking about overlays, without which not a single event can do, two days before the event, it turned out that we couldn’t withdraw the prepared equipment from Moldova due to customs clearance.
Alina: And in two days we found everything we needed in Romania and managed to assemble everything on time before the event.
PZ: If today, after eight years, you would make a representative portfolio for XO Studio, which events would you place as the coolest?
Alina: A wedding in Mamaia, definitely. Opening of the Land Rover – Jaguar auto center. Several weddings and birthdays, where the preparation went on for six months, and in reality, we spent at least an hour or two every day preparing for these events. Ah! And the VIP zone of the Prodigy concert in Chisinau. Zhenia Boyko (Eugeniy Boyko, General Director of Publicis Moldova, note xoflowers.md) entrusted me with this work, I was so nervous when I took it on, but in the end, I am proud that he entrusted it to me.
PZ: Do you remember the hits of the events? Like «and now the cake will land on a parachute!».
Alina: Cakes did not land on the parachutes. But I remember how a cake was brought specially from Moscow for one private event. It shone, turned, in general, and performed such a set of functions that no one in Moldova undertook to implement. And at the same time, it was also edible.
PZ: Ok. The story of XO Studio is glorious. Let's move on to today's harsh times. And especially to event agencies. After all, you are in the worst zone. It is impossible to work, and it is not known when it will be possible. Worse than restaurants and fitness centers.
Alina: On the eve of quarantine, the asset of XO Studio was like this. The company has 16 full-time employees and 10 more part-time employees. There is an office and a warehouse. Both are rented. Warehouse is 1000 squares. Packed to capacity with chairs, tables, crockery, and equipment. Recently, so much has accumulated that, in addition to events, we began to earn money by renting out equipment. This is an absolutely natural development of the event business. And you can't do without your chairs when you need to. But you can't use them every day either. Ah! And about 60 advances for future events.
PZ: An excellent asset the day before quarantine and a heavyweight the day after...
Alina: Yes. We stopped completely. I clearly understood that, in any case, it is ****, I apologize for my French. Stop for a long time, and we even didn’t understand for how long. But we are definitely not the area that will be allowed to work even in the third, fourth, or at least some queue.
Alina: No. There was no panic. It was necessary to «take hands» with something. And two weeks later, I pulled the team to the warehouse. They are all creative, they are used to working non-stop over the years. So I decided to do something. For example, since it was the time before Easter to make baskets with flowers we had lots of props.
PZ: And? Was there any result?
Alina: Not just a result. It was a shot. So we left in a month in plus, and a serious plus. And not at the expense of corporate clients but at the expense of the client base of individuals.
After the first week, I came home and said to myself: «Here it is, your next step, it just screams: Take care of me!». And, frankly, I was happy that quarantine was outside the windows. For the first time in eight years, I had time to calmly think things through and move on to a new line of business.
PZ: How do you define it for yourself?
Alina: As a floral business.
PZ: What did you manage to do during the quarantine?
Alina: In four weeks we made a complete redesign of the office.
It was for internal work, now it is the office of a florist company. We refurbished and purchased all necessary materials. I bought several training courses in floristry in Moscow, took them myself and trained the team. June 12th was the opening of a new office. But I feel as if I have been in this field for several years.
PZ: Alya, the last question. Already as the owner of the floristic business. What flowers are your favorite?
Author's text by Pavel Zingan https://pavelzingan.md/alya-tropanec-za-vremya-pandemii-my-otkryli-novyj-biznes/
P.S. (xoflowers.md): The interview was published on June 19, 2020, when everything was just beginning. Today, XOstudio FLOWERS is a recognizable brand in Moldova with its unique style, high level of service, and quality of floristic products.