Graduates from the UCL School of Management go on to pursue careers in a range of industries, some in the corporate sector and others in not-for-profits, all making their mark and innovating in their field. After graduating from the BSc Information Management for Business, IMB, programme Anastasiia Nedoluha returned to Ukraine to start her career journey and after a few years in the media and communication industry, she found she had hit a glass ceiling. Undeterred, Anastasiia left the news channel she worked for and started her own communications agency in early February 2022.
Everything changed when the devasting war in Ukraine began. Determined to do everything she could to support her country, Anastasiia founded Leleka, a not-for-profit that supports Ukrainian businesses who were struggling due to the war and were either unable to operate or find clients. Leleka helped them remain operational and connected them with foreign clients.
Why did you choose IMB? What did you learn from your time at UCL and on the programme?
Studying at UCL was my long-perceived goal and, to be honest, a dream. It’s a truly unique university owing to its history, prestige, global outlook and cosmopolitan atmosphere.
Why IMB? I was not only curious to explore the IT industry deeper but was also interested in business, marketing and finance. The IMB programme offered a great foundation across all of those disciplines. What I loved about IMB is that this programme truly encourages you to develop an entrepreneurial mindset. IMB offers a mix of modules from various disciplines, to teach you to look at challenges from different perspectives. Numerous group projects and university-wide challenges (such as the 2016 How to Change the World Challenge) provided me with opportunities to work with people from different backgrounds and disciplines. I believe this was a truly important experience that served me well and has continued to since graduating! I believe I can communicate, negotiate and organise productive work with pretty much anyone. And I certainly now believe that only from a combination of different, sometimes opposite mindsets - something beautiful can be born!
When did you graduate? What have you done since graduating?
I graduated in 2017 and returned to Ukraine straightaway. This decision was made long before graduation and was thoroughly thought through. I felt the need to be useful in my own country and contribute to its development and prosperity.
Over those years I worked in different industries. Assistant in the Energy Committee of the Ukrainian Parliament, product marketing manager in an international IT company, head of marketing in a wellness startup. It wasn’t until 2020 that I found my true passion - communications and journalism. I worked as a journalist on the biggest TV channel in Ukraine for two years. I loved the work but sadly reached a glass ceiling. So, I quit the job and started my own communications agency on 01 February 2022. We already had three clients by that time and business was developing at a fast pace. It all changed on 24 February, when Russia started a full-scale war against Ukraine.
What is Leleka? Why did you decide to set it up? What gave you the idea?
Leleka is a platform that connects Ukrainian businesses and foreign clients. You can find lots of cool products and services on Leleka - from accessories for pets, hand-crafted clay vases and organic cosmetics to a digital marketing agency and interior design firm. You can support all those businesses by either ordering something from them or simply donating.
Leleka acts as an intermediary and does not collect any funds. This is a volunteer, social initiative and our team is unpaid.
Leleka was born out of an urge to help others. When the full-scale war started the first few days I was primarily occupied with making sure all of my loved ones were safe. I left Kyiv, my husband evacuated his parents from Bucha, and my parents managed to leave Dnipro, a city in the eastern part of Ukraine. Once everyone was in a more or less safe place, I started thinking about how I can help my country, army and people. I made numerous donations, spread information, and gave interviews to Western media, but it still felt like I wasn’t doing enough. And then Airbnb inspired me!
Remember how during the first days of war hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world booked rentals in Ukraine? No one of them had an intention to actually come to Ukraine. But that was a great and effective way to support specific Ukrainians, Airbnb hosts. So I thought - maybe there are people willing to buy Ukrainian products? And in such a way not only support Ukrainian people but also get actual products - cool and high-quality - win-win support!
Due to the war, three out of four Ukrainian businesses had to pause their operations. Most of them lost their internal clients, as Ukrainians are currently not really buying or ordering anything. That’s why such support is effective in many ways: a) you support specific people - entrepreneurs that made the decision to stay in Ukraine amid war and keep working; b) thanks to orders Ukrainian businesses get an opportunity to continue working, paying salaries, rentals and taxes; and keep the economy going c) many businesses transfer a certain percentage of their earnings to charity funds (we usually mention such info on Leleka).
Why Leleka? What’s special about the platform?
Leleka is a Ukrainian word for “stork”. The stork is an ancient symbol of Ukraine. A symbol of devotion and love for the native land. Leleka is a social project that embodies these values. We help Ukrainian businesses - those who decided to stay in Ukraine despite the war.
Every business is not just goods or services. These are real people with painful stories. We use our platform to tell their stories. Each business has a page on Leleka, where you meet its founders, find out how the war changed their lives and what are the plans for the future.
Has Leleka helped anyone yet?
Yes, we already have a number of successful cases. Some of them:
- A British client ordered a marketing strategy from a Soda creative agency
- Three scarfs were bought by a user from Greece (Woolkrafts brand)
- A user from Canada bought children clothes from Devi brand
What are your future plans/goals for Leleka? What can people reading this do to show their support?
We’re currently focused on two things: the development of the platform and spreading information on Leleka all around the world. We plan to add many more interesting Ukrainian businesses in the nearest future. Moreover, we are to add a Store to the platform. So soon a user will have an opportunity to order products from businesses straight from Leleka.
Speaking of the second goal, we would be extremely grateful for every repost or like. Telling the world about Leleka and how you can support Ukraine by ordering products from businesses is not an easy challenge. But we do everything we can. Even helping a few businesses already means a lot for us.
Is there any advice you can offer current students on overcoming challenges in the face of adversity/setting up their own not-for-profit?
Be prepared - managing a not-for-profit isn’t easy. Burnouts and fluctuating motivation among team members are super common. For instance, in Leleka all our team works voluntarily, so it’s no surprise that work is being done slower than could have been and deadlines are often missed. It is understandable as everyone has their own projects that require time and earn actual money. Moreover, everyone is under constant stress due to the war. Many Leleka team members have close relatives and friends that remain in occupied territories and those cities that are being constantly shelled, such as Kharkiv. It affects mood, productivity and energy levels.
At the same time, working in a not-for-profit is the most gratifying job possible! Doing something that actually helps others and makes a difference in this world feels great. Maybe it sounds rather pathetic, but it’s true. Giving is always better than taking and the realisation of that is what keeps us all going amid all challenges. Moreover, I believe that by creating and developing Leleka our team makes its tiny contribution to bringing Ukraine’s victory closer. And it gives us hope.