Growing Up in the Soviet Union Taught This Founder to be Resourceful

By spotting opportunity in limitations, she learned to create her own success.
Growing Up in the Soviet Union Taught This Founder to be Resourceful
Image credit: Courtesy of Katya Dorozhkina
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the January 2020 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

I grew up in the Soviet Union, during a time of political and economic turmoil. My parents didn’t have much money, and so my childhood was one of hand-me-downs. I’d inherited my older brothers’ books, clothes, pants, and even their tights -- the footed kind to keep you warm in the bitter cold of winter. I had a few cherished dolls of my own, though we couldn’t afford to buy them shiny new dresses. So I put my brothers’ old clothes to a different use: I cut off parts of them and fashioned the fabric into doll clothes. It would take me years to understand what I’d really done there. I wasn’t just dressing a doll. I was teaching myself how to find potential in overlooked things.

Related: How This Immigrant Entrepreneur Is Helping Others Achieve the American Dream

I left Russia about a decade ago, determined to do more than just get married -- the cultural expectation from my old world. Instead, I wanted to continue unlocking potential. I studied economics and marketing in college, moved to New York for a job on Wall Street, left it to start my own marketing and advertising agency, and then sold the agency a few years later. That earned me enough money to become an investor, and I decided it was time to unlock other people’s potential as well. In 2015, I launched a VC firm and accelerator called Starta Ventures to specifically help foreign founders. Then I founded the Immigrant Entrepreneurship Foundation to bring awareness to the challenges faced by foreign founders, as well as a new fintech business, VentureBox, to provide growth capital and other resources to help even more entrepreneurs like myself scale profitably. 

A couple of years ago, I traveled back to Russia to visit family. My young daughter came with me, and she found my dolls -- still adorned in those dresses made from old pants and tights. My daughter couldn’t believe her eyes. So I explained the outfits to her, and told her about how resourceful I had to be as a child. These were the moments, unglamorous as they may have seemed, that ultimately developed my entrepreneurial muscles. Seeing it all, and hearing my story, gave her a new perspective, too: She saw that she can create anything she wants. 

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