#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. The pandemic hit almost all sectors of the economy, but small and medium-sized businesses found themselves in the most difficult situation in 2020, when the self-isolation regime was announced. Many private enterprises in the country closed. And in small Norilsk, social entrepreneur and choreographer Lilia Yakupova is making plans to expand her dance center.
“I accidentally heard that the Nornickel company has started another enrollment in social entrepreneurship courses”, says Lilia Yakupova. “ I thought: why not? Children from low-income families have always studied with me at a reduced rate. At that time I did not apply for a loan from the company, I was just accumulating knowledge”.
The company launched social entrepreneurship as one of the World of New Opportunities charitable program areas in 2014. The first training course in sales management, mind management and other useful skills was launched in Norilsk and Monchegorsk.
The training course consists of four monthly four-day face-to-face training sessions, where students are to turn ideas into projects and write business plans. The fifth session is an investment session, as a result of which the best initiatives receive from Norilsk Nickel an interest-free repayable loan for the development of a socially oriented business.
What did this training give the Norilsk entrepreneur? She admits: the opportunity to take a fresh look at her business, not be afraid to monetize it, make plans for further development, evaluate her personnel by other criteria.
“We were taught that we have to delegate authority”, Lilia continues. “As a result, I got my own administrator and other teachers. I understood the most important thing: you cannot remain a ‘craftsman’! If an entrepreneur temporarily or completely leaves Norilsk, the business should not cease to exist. You need to build your business so that everything functions in any case and under any circumstances. It made me think”.
There are many case studies on how women enter business. Someone has a predisposition for this. Someone gets a turnkey business from a husband or parents. For Lilia Yakupova, entrepreneurship grew out of her favorite business.
“Having in my hands a diploma of a teacher-organizer of educational activities, I worked at school for several months, and then went into a more interesting sphere for me – choreography”, she returns to the origins of her occupation. “I was dancing in the city cultural center since I was nine. And the base that the teachers gave me, I began to apply in practice. I became the artistic director of the exemplary ensemble of contemporary pop dance Skoda. And after working a little, I saw: there were a lot of children and not enough dance place for them. Therefore, I became an individual entrepreneur”.
By that time, in 2010, the Norilsk woman graduated from a two-year training in the choreography specialization. She received a diploma of a teacher-psychologist in absentia.
“First, at the venues I rented, I taught the kids who didn’t fit into the scope of the city cultural center”, says the founder of Dance Place. I consider my business a ‘fish tank for fry’ – children who come to us at the age of three or six, by the time they move to the studio of a budgetary organization, become more prepared. They already understand what a straight back, a raised chin, and an extended neck are. And by the age of six or seven, we usually have those who are predisposed to dancing, and accept our rules”.
Socially oriented business turned out to be close to Lilia – she herself grew up in a large family.
“What I am proud of is that we have never refused to help those who need it. Children from large families study with us at a discount of 80 percent, pupils of the orphanage do it for free”, says the Norilsk choreography. “Practice shows that they are quite capable and hardworking. These are good, dancing children who, due to the financial capabilities of their parents or circumstances, cannot develop their talents. And I am glad that I can help them”.
Lilia Yakupova’s energy can only be envied – having become an entrepreneur, she did not leave the public sector. The Norilsk woman continues to lead the Skoda ensemble, which over the past three years has taken part in more than 180 concert programs, gave nine recitals, and performed in 66 New Year performances of the city cultural center.
It is not surprising that in 2016 Lilia became The Best Young Creative Worker of Russia of The Future of Russia national youth public award. And besides, she became the head of the Everybody Dance local city public organization she created.
“I got the perfect synthesis of different structures – business, social entrepreneurship, non-profit public organization and the budget sector”, the woman shares her experience. “But the biggest problem is shortage. My energy is not enough, considering that I, along with other teachers, continue teaching groups in Dance Place. There used to be three groups – now there are twelve. Perhaps that is why I am not yet ready to organize additional educational areas – at Dance Place, children learn only to dance”.
The entrepreneur came to the courses organized by Nornickel as part of the World of New Opportunities for the second time in 2018.
“As a result, Nornickel supported my initiative with an interest-free loan in the amount of one million 905 thousand rubles. These funds were used not only to equip an additional dance hall, but also to renovate the space for teenagers”.
The 2020 pandemic and related restrictions have added hassle to the founder of Dance Place. The interest-free loan provided by the company for two years must be repaid. And the choreographic center did not work for several months, like all other institutions and organizations in the country.
“As soon as it became known about the suspension of activities, the company’s specialists called us and said: write an application for a ‘vacation’. Two days later, a letter came from Nornickel that all payments on the loan were frozen for six months. It really supported us at that time!” recalls Lilia Yakupova.
Taking into account the fact that the sector of social entrepreneurship is included in the national project Small and Medium Entrepreneurship and Support for Individual Entrepreneurial Initiatives, the Norilsk woman was able to take advantage of the state program: according to it, entrepreneurs who preserve all jobs during the quarantine period were given a loan at 2 percent to pay salaries. In 2021, this loan, she specifies, will be completely written off, since none of the Dance Place employees has been laid off.
By the way, in the coming days she is again preparing to defend her business project at an investment session. For the third time, Lilia Yakupova took part in the social entrepreneurship studies, which are organized by Nornickel every year, in absentia – she knows all the modules.
Elena Popova, Photo: personal archive of Lilia Yakupova