Alumni portrait: CEEsam

From the MBA to a company – Svetlana Kokurina and Iain Coles prepared the business plan for Volga Marketing GmbH (CEEsam) during the Virtual Team Project of the Global Executive MBA – and founded the company after finishing their studies.

What is the idea behind CEEsam? What is unique/special about it compared to other competitors in the market?
The idea behind Volga Marketing GmbH (CEEsam) can actually be regarded as its competitive advantage - 10 years of experience and cross-cultural expertise in the field of media, PR and marketing enables us to bring enhanced value to companies striving to enter the Russian, CIS and CEE markets. Being aware of all the complexities aligned with entering the Russian market, we are willing to support European companies, making use of our local experience and in-depth knowledge to their advantage; as well as to contribute to the development of Russian businesses in the CEE region by applying a European vision and top-notch marketing tools. Both Russian and European companies are seeking a trustful partner operating in the country of their origin and being able to support them abroad in finding perfect marketing solutions at short notice. This is exactly where our uniqueness comes from. Located in Vienna, Austria, and having branches in Moscow and Nizhniy Novgorod, Russia, Volga Marketing is very flexible in terms of face-to-face meetings or personal assistance on-site whether in Europe or Russia. We consider this vital for overall success.
Who is your target group? What kind of company should approach you?
It does not matter where a company comes from. Our target group are those whose interest and business targets are focused on Russia, the CIS or the CEE region. We pursue one simple aim with all our clients, which is to help them in meeting their business challenges in the new markets with unique marketing tools that change the competitive environment. Having all the necessary resources, we are able to assist in creating brand-awareness, forging relations with local authorities and businesses, and searching for partners and affiliates essential for progress in the new market.
What are the benefits for your customer?
Speaking of benefits, I would like to highlight three main strengths that our customers enjoy. Local expertise and well-developed network of suppliers Being aware of local peculiarities and possessing global marketing expertise at the same time, we enable our clients to go international. Through a developed network of suppliers and a careful selection of communication channels we ensure the success of their marketing campaigns. Moreover, our customers enjoy the advantages of a «one window» principle, dealing with one – maximum two managers of the agency.
Wide range of services: We offer our clients a wide range of services, including event marketing, support in trade fairs and exhibitions, PR support, organization of presentations, info sessions, conferences and workshops, media planning and media buying services, branding, direct marketing and various graphic and website design services. Such a variety implies that we can easily create marketing programs from scratch as well as assist our customers with their current campaigns, making them more effective and results-driven.
A team of experts in both Russia and Austria: With the objective of reaching our clients’ business targets with their message the agency offers the best people, the best rates and the best approach. Our team is formed to meet our customers’ needs and make the cooperation convenient, transparent and efficient. Well-developed interpersonal skills and the cross-cultural expertise of the whole team allow us to maintain long-term relations with clients, making their marketing projects increasingly effective year on year. In addition, our locations in the heart of Europe and in the center of Russia provides various opportunities to streamline the entire teamwork.  


Interview with Svetlana Kokurina, MBA

Svetlana, you are both MBA alumni of the WU Executive Academy. How did the program help you in setting up this company? What concrete career opportunities have opened up for you? If so, why?

By the time I decided to attend the Executive MBA (EMBA) at the WU, I was already experienced in marketing and, being the manager of an advertising agency in Nizhniy Novgorod, also in management. However, I wanted to improve my managerial skills by studying the theory of management and by getting insights into business practices in different countries. In terms of knowledge, practical applicability and networking, studying at the WU offers really great opportunities. The curriculum of the EMBA program is structured so as to give participants all necessary tools to succeed in business tasks no matter how difficult they are. For example, in preparing our company’s business plan during the capstone Virtual Team Project, I used the requirements and structure given to us in the course of the EMBA. This allowed me to put theory from the fields of Strategy, International Marketing, International Management and Entrepreneurship into practice. We also improved our presentation skills by presenting our capstone project/business plan in Minneapolis at University of Minnesota.   What made you approach an MBA colleague to found your own company? My partner’s personality. My motto is to learn from the people/professionals I meet in life. Iain is an experienced business man. He has worked as an expert in the fields of consultancy, project management and banking technology for over 20 years and has launched more than 50 projects worldwide. He was one of the brightest and most successful students in our MBA class. Moreover, he is a cosmopolitan in the proper sense of the word – you simply want to follow such people and their example. What also unites us is the fact that we see trust as the foundation of both business relations and our company.
Why would you recommend an MBA of the WU Executive Academy? What did you like the most?

I recommend the EMBA course at the WU because it is a modern, cutting-edge program: the curriculum allows you to improve your knowledge and those soft skills that distinguish a manager from a real business leader. The international residencies provide a clear vision of globalization processes as well as an opportunity to learn the best business practices from all over the world. Apart from our remarkable class 2009/2010 and the world-renowned international faculty, I’d add that Vienna is my favorite city in Europe, and my decision to attend the EMBA program at the WU was also heavily influenced by the location. Situated in the heart of the CEE region, Vienna is home to a great number of businesses and an educational and cultural hotspot.  


Interview with Iain Coles, MBA

Iain, you are both MBA alumni of the WU Executive Academy. How did the program help you in mastering today’s challenges of a newly set up company in a foreign market?
It felt at times as though the program was designed specifically with entrepreneurs as the target group. An entrepreneur needs to have a completely holistic understanding of the business and its challenges. This course stimulated thought and provided knowledge in a very broad range of business areas covering all of the management skills required to start and grow a new business. In addition the residencies in the program gave a strong emphasis to the need to understand and give weight to business and social cultural differences. I am sure that the experience and discussion of these differences and how they might be exploited led directly to our idea to set up a business that directly addresses these cultural differences by assisting multi-national companies to understand and successfully market their products in the Russian speaking world.

Why did you decide to set up your own company together with a former MBA colleague? Any particular reasons why you prefer to found a company with an MBA colleague than with any partner that you might have?

I did not have any prior intention to partner with an MBA colleague. However the MBA brought all 40 of us close together and was a powerful incubator for multiple new business ideas and partnerships. From the start Svetlana attracted attention as a highly motivated and professional entrepreneur and marketer. When we started to discuss how our partnership in a new business might be synergistic the decision to partner seemed a completely natural one. We already knew each other’s personalities, had learned to trust each other in project and group work, and had seen each other perform in stressful and non-standard situations. We had enough experience of each other compressed into this 14 months that we could be confident in our partnership from both a professional as well as personal point of view. In addition the class as a 40 strong peer group was an excellent and challenging place to discuss and brainstorm new business ideas.

Why would you recommend an MBA of the WU Executive Academy? What did you like the most?

Most of the class were in mid-career and the WU MBA was a perfect way to revitalize those careers by rounding of educations and experience into a full armoury of General Business Management skills and knowledge. In addition because of the quantity and length of the residencies, the MBA also deepened our experience and appreciation of business in different cultures and in economies at different moments in their evolutions. In my opinion the strongest features of the MBA were the excellently organized and rich residencies as well as the highly competent, engaging and experienced lecturers in class sessions. Subjects that I had expected to be dry and challenging were presented in such a way as to make them fascinating and to motivate me to accept their challenges.