Lviv, Ukraine December 2017
Rostyk and Uljana have had many jobs. Rostyk made music freelance and studied at University but at the same time traded in cookies, made poppy seed rolls (an art practiced in their family). Uljana worked as a graphic designer and had other jobs on the side too. It all just worked out but Rostyk lost money as trading cookies proved not good business.
He started to make pastry and bread himself, particularly the popular poppy seed rolls. When he met and married Uljana things really started to move. They decided to make good bread based on mother dough instead of yeast as this could not be purchased in the Lviv area. At first for their own use but quickly there was interest from customers.
The first bread was made in the family kitchen, in the beginning even in the kitchen of their parents or relatives as they did not have their own apartment. Then they rented a basement without running water or electricity. One big improvisation that forced them to make very long days especially as they accepted sudden big orders that needed to be finished under time pressure.
Uljana designed the house style and logo of Sam Smak (just taste) and created new and tasty new bread variations as well as unconventional pastry.
“Quality is key for us. We use only pure ingredients, no conservation agents are added and taste is everything as their name of our business says.”
Three years ago they moved to a modest facility in a former factory that was split up into spaces for starting businesses. On a trade fair dedicated to baking and bread they met a French professional baker and he helped to refine their recipes and baking procedures. Also they started supplying an ecological shopping chain in Lviv. Things went fast and now they work with a team of 7. It is hard work as bread needs to be fresh and especially the pastry is often made on a custom order.
There are still many challenges and opportunities: they want to open a flagship store with coffee corner in the center, a webshop and the bakery needs more and better equipment. Credit is difficult to obtain. There are some limited possibilities from a state start-up fund but the interest is 20%. The mother dough procedure needs a tightly controlled temperature and a super clean environment so they had to lend some money to upgrade the windows in their bakery.
Their biggest fear is to lose their business and to be forced to be a “worker” again and resume their previous lives with many jobs and little perspective. When leaving his charming couple I buy a poppy seed roll and a bread with lemon taste and poppy seeds. Of course, I get a present: a freshly baked bread with tomato.