Words and story by Yana Papaya
Edited by Rina Patel
Photos by Katherine Brook
Sometimes it feels like the whole world is a colourbook. Each page represents a separate country. People choose colours and creative patterns themselves to illustrate this or that page, this or that country. With help of the media, big or small politicians, corporates, celebrities and the rest of the world, including even the Russian community itself, Russia has been coloured in various colours, mostly dark shades and tones. Don’t you think? The world is filled with many legends, myths and destructive stereotypes about this country.
Today we would like to share a story that could hopefully add more colours to a book of yours and the way you perceive Russia. Our story will show that Russia is fond of not only people who play puppets or grotesque roles but is also famous for its proactive, brave, cool and genuine men who are not afraid of obstacles and difficulties. Besides, you will discover that the term ‘Russian business’ is based on moral principles and trust, its credibility isn’t just a myth, it actually exists in practice and hopefully will continue to thrive on.
WOODWEDO is a small handcrafted workshop of crafted wooden fashion products, accessories and interior items based in Moscow. The collaborative effort of two good friends; Yan Karpas and Michael Gorokhov are the soul and the brain of the workshop. They are a ‘Jack of all trades’, who master up to combine a splendour of human traits including: creative thinking, flexibility, inventiveness, an easy-going and client-oriented attitude as well as great social and communication skills. They are hardworking bastards with an outstanding sense of humour who are willing to make the world a better place!
WOODWEDO mainly specialises in creating and manufacturing wooden sunglasses and accessories. Due to recent challenging economic times in Russia the team made the decision not to rely on a consumers demand for wooden sunglasses only. They naturally proceeded with extending their business towards a more corporate base and in doing so have been successful. At the moment they are also working on manufacturing cutting boards for restaurants; wall clocks made of old vinyl and wood, as well as executing personalised exclusive orders. Their flexible approach in production levels allows a room for creativity, generating new ideas, creating products of great value from various types of wood that match any client’s requirements.
The WOODWEDO team is a very special team. We have never met anyone quite like Yan and Michael from Moscow city who have been so open, warmhearted and at the same time very professional and business-focused. Luckily we had a chance to catch up with the boys during our last visit to Moscow city, which we are keen to share with you now. We talked about serious social-economic issues, business challenges, and especially discussed the possibilities for small businesses on how they can survive or maintain profitability during hard times in Russia. Moreover, the boys shared some business insights and perspectives as well as they told us what makes the WOODWEDO workshop and brand so special, unique, and a stand-out amongst its competitors.
We also talked their perception of themselves and people around them; and how those judgements change during life. Such questions as “What role does the family play in their lives? and, why can’t they live without a sense of drive?” have also been answered.
Please meet Yan Karpas and Michael Gorokhov, founders of the WOODWEDO company; complex, charismatic and interesting characters, whose profound interaction represents an original and authentic Yin-Yang synthesis in a Russian handcrafted industry. From Russia, with Love.
When I was a kid I had a dream of becoming a detective. I was growing up in Moscow in the 1990’s when every walk in my hood was an adventure. One of my favourite things to do was to wander and look for something interesting under my feet. I used to collect rings, necklaces, heaps of coins and some notes. Then my dad told me: “If you would like to become a real detective, you should be fit. So start doing this physical exercise.” That exercise and everything that my dad was telling me about the detective life put so many doubts in me that I changed my mind and decided not to become a detective!
I started to develop a big interest in a certain business industry during my uni years. It was the world of fashion and clothing styles that I had always been interested in. While I was growing up, Russia had just become a free independent country with open borders. Those were times when we were exposed to new western movies, music and fashion, however those fashion brands that were shown on TV were not possible to get access anywhere. Clothes we had at the markets were just an excuse, those clothes that my dad used to bring from overseas were not up to my taste either. At uni I started to buy clothes online and resell them in Russia. That’s how I finally understood that fashion was and is my passion.
“Kotler-based” marketing isn’t everything you need. Four-P basic elements isn’t enough, pay attention to other elements and try new ones.
People from the 2000 generation can do multiple jobs at the same time. Among them it’s popular to be a DJ, a photographer, an architect and art-director. But what sort of professional are you if you are doing so many jobs? It’s hard to say and judge. It remains an open question.
2000 Generation is a whole new world. The main idea about what it means to run a business for them revolves around a start-up or a Kickstarter concept. You have an idea, you create a website for it and collect money online via crowdfunding resources for its development. And that’s it. In fact it’s a game of chances, because as practice shows those projects that collected sufficient amounts of money are less likely to be executed. Only 20% of the whole Kickstarter projects database actually come to life.
A marketing model has significantly changed. It used to be based on a 1:0 strategy, when you sold a product to the client and forgot about him. Then it had changed to a 2:0 strategy when you sold a product to the client and you are keen to build and maintain favourable ongoing relations with him. Nowadays we live in times of a 3:0 marketing strategy when together with the client you develop a product; you conduct a survey, then proceed with market research to understand specific needs of the client, your target.
“Your pussy is my pleasure” was one of the most interesting engravings that we were asked to do on a pair of wooden glasses, thankfully it was what one client ordered for his girlfriend!
I appreciate responsibility in people the most. Sometimes I notice a lack of responsibility in myself which comes down to my laziness. I know this about myself, so I try to work on this to improve it.
It’s bad to be lazy. Although sometimes lying on the couch and being lazy is very health beneficial for you as it provides great stress relief.
The best thing that I love about myself is my zest for life. This drive encourages me to move forward and realise that I am at the right place.
Some time ago I listened to so much music that after a while I became sick of it. I used to be a rapper and a punk. Now I like to listen to deep house, music that creates a chilled mood which is perfect for everything, work and fun times.
We listened to everything from Limp Bizkit to Russian pop music while finishing a big order on a machine.
I choose silence when it comes to serious brain work, especially if I need to focus a lot.
Family is a substantial piece of the puzzle in a bigger picture. Family is an important part of life. However I think that it plays a bigger role in a female’s life as it’s in a woman’s nature to be more keen to look after and take care of the family, household; create a special atmosphere at home where you as a man would like to come back. Man’s nature puts his business on the first place. I am keen to find my thing and grow according to it. My goal is to bring something unique, self-expressive into the world of fashion and marketing, I would love to become a fashion clothing designer in the future.
My upbringing wasn’t modern enough, it somehow limited my personality and a potential I had. Only 10% of your school knowledge is going to be implemented in life, so I felt like I wasted my time somehow as my parents asked me to study hard. When I look at other people who had more freedom and didn’t have to do homework but did everything they wanted I realised that they already achieved more in a self-development way compared to myself. They learnt from their mistakes and understood more about life and what their life purpose was, which they confidently were on their way to achieving.
My wife largely affected my life perception who managed to accept and complete my world vision. She says: “Don’t focus on the fact of making me happy. Be happy yourself and I will be happy too.”
My wife and I went to do a quest game together. We had to do four tasks to find four digit numbers that we would need to use as a code to unlock the room, so we could get out and complete the quest. We found three digit numbers while I figured out the fourth one, so we walked out of the room. I am pretty sure that other people won’t be satisfied until they would find all four digits to let them finish the quest officially in a proper way. They probably won’t understand my thinking and approach, but I am who I am.
My greatest fear is a voice of my ego. What will happen if I am going to completely indulge my sense of ego that sometimes reminds me a lot of Eric Cartman (a character from a “South Park cartoon)? How far can my internal Cartman go? What will be better for me in the end – retaining myself within safe boundaries or letting myself go into the world of acid fantasies?…
I have a brother, who is 5 years older than me. We have a similar law education degree but share different opinions on some modern trends. For example, my generation and myself included think of WWW. Internet as not only a standard resource for expanded search and entertainment but firstly as an integrated multifunctional tool that helps to do a research, collect, analyse, process data, manage your life and work through a variety of admin programmes, various software and networking possibilities.
Our desires shape our new goals and motivation to act.
The main problem is that a day consists of 24 hours during which we need to win at everything, execute to the maximum. No time to be wasted. No time for unproductive thinking. All I can see – goals and responsibilities that I need to follow.
We are taking a new step in business development. We have increased our production area and purchased new equipment to perform better at our production services. Using a new technological approach we are on the way to launching a fresh collection of wooden sunglasses full of cool designs and styles. We have also successfully introduced our new business extension, amazing cutting boards that are in high demand among various market segments, including both B2B and B2C. Besides, we’ve also developed a new project idea which is a customised wooden package for B2B markets.
The most important element in our business model is having the skills to identify customers’ needs and the ability to respond to them efficiently.
We have a unique client’s approach which my colleagues call “Get 300 iPhone skins for free”.
The thing is that our clients never leave without a gift. Although my team was telling me that it wasn’t right as I was giving away our second designed product, the practice shows that this approach seems to be beneficial to us. Clients who are well-treated and receive gifts are very grateful. They will keep on sharing good news about your company and they definitely back us as our loyal customer.
Previously we were making everything handmade ourselves. Now, we’ve learnt how to delegate some tasks to our employees while taking the control over along all production levels. We are glad to have more time so that we can thoroughly problem-solve as well as develop new product operations.
While managing online sales we have discovered one interesting trend. Initially we couldn’t understand why there were so many customers who prefered to pick up a pair of sunnies from our workshop instead of using an efficient and fast courier delivery service. Then they told us that they were more interested in coming to the workshop and witnessing with their own eyes how a piece of wood got transformed into a stylish accessory. Now we see our workshop as an additional marketing element.
We get the greatest satisfaction because we are lucky enough to integrate a business model into our trade. We do what we love and get paid for it. We work hard and have fun at the same time.
We set up a sales department as a part of our production company. We are excited to see that our production process has been put in place and the workflow is structured months ahead. The secret lies in simple planning, as well as performing analytics and market research of B2B and B2C market needs amongst our existing and new potential clients.
There are two key business components, final products and services that our workshop provides.
Now we are able to deliver a fully customised wooden frame that will be individually designed and made for each of our clients. No matter what sort of requirements a customer will have, we are able to take into account all his/her preferences, including an engraving option, type of wood, type and colour of lenses etc. Our workshop has also extended its range of engraving services for our clients: we design, work and do engravings on various materials such as wood, cardboard, paper, leather, glass, stone, rubber, fabric and etc.
We do focus on making exclusive frames these days. We designed some very funky frames that allow anyone to complete their summer outfit.
All frames and other products that our customer gets come through each of our team members. We produce our accessories with a strong attention to detail. Each accessory by WOODWEDO is a piece of art, our energy, contribution and work ethics.
One of the most unusual orders that we received was a Harry Potter magic stick that one of our corporate clients had ordered. In the end we created a snow fairy magic stick for them.
The Russian currency crash in relation to the US dollar which happened last year and continues to evolve affects our industry and the workflow. Many Russian companies can’t spend as much money as they used to on getting supplies, corporate gifts from overseas. Now those companies turn their faces to local Russian businesses, including our workshop too, so they could save more money. Moreover, these companies cut their budgets even more as they reduce their amount of orders with us compared to last year.
Credibility and commitments are traits that I value most in people. I can’t forgive a person who betrays me.
Time flies, seize the moment. Be grateful for what you already have. Keep your dreams alive, find something to aspire to, love to the fullest and take care of your loved ones.
I thought that my “I-want-to-do-and-finish-everything” attitude was my biggest hindrance in self-growth. I want to seize the unseizable, divide myself into 1000 molecules. I used to perceive this attitude as a disadvantage. Now I see it as an absolute advantage. And it is my aspiring striving, a desire to explore the world, my driving alive energy, feeling myself while i am working, doing something, moving somewhere…feeling myself: Alive!
Family and upbringing play a key role in an individual’s life. You gain and shape your personality, you become a real person during your life. Self-becoming and self-establishment feeling comes with a long philosophical social process that starts from the moment we are born, continues all the way through childhood when each of us acquires main qualities such as respect, responsibility, gratitude, zeal, eagerness and the rest that makes us human beings.
Family is my key incentive. Family is my meaning in life, my deepest love and motivation. Family is what I live for and what gives me strength and energy. Thoughts of my family make me smile, fill me with joy and support me during hard times.
The most respectful book for me is the Bible, that helps me to discover myself and makes me feel in peace with who I am.
I love spending time with people who are true to my heart.
In general the way we met up with you, Yana, isn’t typical for me. It was the way when you forget about whether it’s right or wrong, when there is no place for mistrust and the only feeling that you get when you see the person for the first time is that you have already met before…This is happiness!
Papaya Stories team is an official NZ distributor of WOODWEDO products. To check out the current collection or get your pair of handmade sunnies, please click here.