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Article
22.05.2018
The force of attraction. A new generation of irrepressible entrepreneurs
EVGENIA RONJINA
30 years old.
WHAT: MyBusiness.Community. Creating and developing communities for business.
SCALE: MyBusiness.Community has 300 member entrepreneurs. Its corporate clients include major Russian banks, companies, and state agencies.
STARTUP: Ambition, summer camp, and the experience of organizing her own wedding.
CREDO: “I believe that there are skills that people must acquire before they can start thinking about the meaning of life.”

What someone might go on to remember as being four days of recharging on the Côte d’Azur in France requires weeks of intensive preparation by Evgenia Ronjina. She is sorting out the final details for the Business Fusion business meeting during a break between two working meetings with the team of the VEB Innovations Blockchain Commune and the owners of the Wilgood franchised chain of car care centres. What these all have in common is the development of communities. This is a new marketing tool that is just emerging in Russia, and Evgenia is the country’s first specialist in this field.

However, Ronjina warns, a group on a social network or a business forum with a set of regular participants is not yet a community. How can a system of long-term relationships be established with a client? During the first stage, a regular event is launched involving certain people. During the second stage, a social organism is established with its own language and traditions. Finally, at the third stage, the community assumes its final form with its own ideology and mission.

Evgenia came up with the idea for her first project, ‘Celebration Academy’, after her wedding, which she had organized herself. She worked as an event organizer while she was a student at the Higher School of Economics. In 2010, she joined her husband’s business, a company that cleaned apartments and offices and installed air conditioning systems.

Perhaps Evgenia would still be fighting for her share of the HVAC market if her Higher School of Economics classmate Mikhail Dashkiev had not asked her to participate in a ‘Youth Business’ training, part of his academic project. She remembers the impression that the first day of classes made on her: there were 400 people in the room, and they were all eager to change something in their lives. They all believed that the future depended on them.

And then everything fell into place. Evgenia asked why Youth Business didn’t have its own alumni club. And she got the following response: “Would you be willing to create one?” Soon the club was set up, and it began to gain momentum. It soon became apparent that running the organization was not compatible with overseeing the air conditioning business. Ronjina had to make a choice.

Many successful projects are created to satisfy the needs of their founders, and that was indeed the case here. Evgenia simply created a community where she herself would be comfortable. This is an environment in which it is impossible not to grow your business. And for business, such a community is designed to help entrepreneurs improve produce recognition, boost customer engagement, and kick start organic growth.

Evgenia launched MyBusiness.Community in September 2017 to function as an international bridge between the business worlds of Russia and the West that would help them to share best practices. Community members can assemble their own programme from the calendar of events consisting of forums, conferences, hackathons, business tours, and field trips. In just six months, 300 entrepreneurs became MBC members. The screening process is tough: only company executives and graduates of certain educational institutions are eligible to join on the basis of a member recommendation. To date, more than 2,100 people have attended field events organized or promoted by MBC.

Evgenia Ronjina is sure that the community market is just beginning to wake up. Major companies have already started to turn to her. She helped Delovaya Sreda, a subsidiary of Sberbank, create a training platform. She has cooperated with Vnesheconombank on the development of its Blockchain Commune. The Ministry of Economic Development recruited her to develop a certification for small business entrepreneurs. Several franchising networks have pondered the question of how their communities should be established. Requests even came in from unexpected quarters: ICO organizers. They were experiencing problems selling their cryptocurrencies. They needed to find ways of keeping investors in their own orbit, and it was impossible to reach token buyers through the usual PR channels.

Evgenia’s personal mission is to make sure that all 6 million Russian entrepreneurs have a common business community to call their own. And what about her personal income? It is currently more than 1 million roubles per month. She considers her financial success as confirmation that her experience and competencies are in demand.

She is constantly studying abroad, where community building practices are much more developed. Instead of utilizing an archaic approach to managing public opinion, the MBC team works at the intersection between this space and modern technologies: participation marketing, gamification, edutainment, and conversational marketing. So far there are more unsolved problems than solved ones, but for Evgenia this has been the formula that has fuelled her organization’s development. As she explains with obvious pleasure: “It’s very cool when you are working in a fundamentally new business space that has not yet been systematized. It adds a spring to your step. And it means that no one will be able to copy it.”

Ivan Prosvetov, Laboratoriya Odnazhdy, special article for SPIEF MAGAZINE



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