Aleksandra Efimova is the founder of Russian Pointe and Growing Through Arts, both Chicago-based arts-oriented brands with a mission to provide elegant dance products and inspire dancers to lead extraordinary lives. Ms. Efimova grew up in St. Petersburg, Russia and moved to the U.S. as a young adult. She founded her first company, Russian Pointe, while still an undergraduate student at Eastern Michigan University, and is an alumna of Harvard Business School. In addition to managing her companies and having great success as an entrepreneur and business leader, Efimova is a community leader highly dedicated to public service, especially in the areas of Russian-American relations and culture, performing arts, business development and education. Read our interview with the lovely Aleksandra below…
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
Growing up in Soviet Union where everything was owned by the government, the concept of ownership did not exist. While studying at Eastern Michigan University I had an opportunity take numerous business and entrepreneurship classes. I was inspired and motivated by observing American entrepreneurs to have my own business and live the American dream. This was the first seed of my inspiration and motivation to start my own first business at age 20 out of my college dorm room.
Tell us about your business.
Russian Pointe is a premier brand for dance and educational products. Our mission is to provide elegant dance products and inspire dancers to lead extraordinary lives. Today the brand is internationally recognized for providing products and services, and its products are available for purchase throughout the world. We are continuously expanding and improving the variety of products we have to meet our customer’s needs.
Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about?
We are currently in the process of selecting 2017 brand ambassadors for the United States and Europe. This program was launched last year in the United States and strengthened the relationship between the Russian Pointe Brand and customers. It enabled dancers to showcase their talents by taking over our Snapchat for a week by sharing their professional experiences. Thus, Russian Pointe has increased its market share, presence on social media, gained new customers and grew sales.
Just recently, Russian Pointe participated in the Metro Chicago Xport Challenge, and was nominated as one of the top 10 finalists of small businesses in the state of Illinois. However, I consider my greatest accomplishment is to create jobs, contribute to global trade and commerce and host events that enrich community both in art, education and international relations.
Where is your business based?
The headquarter office of Russian Pointe is in downtown Chicago, IL. Products are available online and throughout the world, both wholesale and e-commerce.
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
The first and most important step I did was make a commitment to myself to build a successful business regardless of the challenges and obstacles. We identified opportunities and demand for products then developed a collection of products for the US market based on style and need. One of the first steps I took to success was printing business cards and knocking on the doors of local school and stores and asked to look at my product.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
Our marketing strategy is to establish ourselves as experts of the industry on the topics that are relevant to our customers. Starting with product safety to how to use it the most effective way. We prefer education versus selling. This way we position ourselves as experts in the industry by providing training materials, educational seminars and video materials. Secondly, to create great following of loyal customers through social media and position Russian Pointe brand more than just a product that customer uses.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
I think that every single part of the business is challenging, but at the same time, it is an opportunity. Finding the right people, training them, coaching them, inspiring them and motivating them to come to work with full commitment to achieve the greatest results is very challenging for any leader. At the same time, when you get it right, it becomes a great asset, and one of the greatest sources of fulfillment, re-energizing and doing more.
How did you overcome these challenges?
Although a challenge requires its own approach and its own tactics, one common technique I use is allying the strategy with the mission, develop clear systems and operations and most importantly having right people at the right jobs.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
Challenges motivate me. Difficult times are given to us as an opportunity to grow personally and professionally. Finding new ways to handle problems and find better solutions. I look forward to challenges as I know what was a challenge yesterday or a month ago might no longer be a challenge in present moment, since I developed a skill or solution for solving it. However, if I find myself facing same challenge more than once, it means that there are lessons I haven’t learned first time; and that is why life faced me with the same challenge again.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
Russian Pointe stands apart from the competition due to innovative materials and manufacturing techniques, exceptional quality standards and elegant fit and style of products. Incorporating it with effective branding, exceptional customer service, streamline delivery and processes. It positions us for continuous profitable growth and success.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
Sometimes the best deals we make are the deals that we do not make. It is important to know the difference of what business we are in, and what business we are not in. It is crucial to know when to stop and change the course, even if a lot of resources were invested, if this road will not to benefit company long term.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Don’t confuse efforts with results. Keep yourself and other accountable for delivering results instead of creating appearance of being busy.
What is your favorite business tool or resource?
There are many great business tools, but nothing can replace a hand-shake and a face-to-face conversation. It is amazing how much a person can do with even a phone call, instead of endless e-mails back and forth. Of course, we utilize social media and technology to its fullest capacity.
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.
Instagram @worldwithaleksandra and @russianpointebrand
Facebook Group www.facebook.com/RussianPointe
Hashtags #worldwithaleksandra #russianpointebrand
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
“The Seals Way” by Mark Devine.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
Currently Russian Pointe is participating in the Metro Chicago Export program for small businesses to explore opportunities on how to export worldwide.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
I am very optimistic about new opportunities for Russian Pointe and Growing Through Arts in the United States and Worldwide. Russian Pointe has extended into Europe, we have opened a distributing center there last year, and we are doing extremely well there. We also have a strong relationship in Asia; and now we are proud to introduce more dancers worldwide to quality and elegant Russian Pointe products. In regards to personal goals: I am currently working on my book and taking a few classes to expand my skills and knowledge in areas valuable for my business.