Hailing from Kyiv, Ukraine, Alona Andruk is the CEO and Founder of Take Off and Bundlex, two successful start-ups focused on the circular economy and sustainability in the fashion sector, based in Malta and launched in April 2015. Aimed at redistributing unsold clothing from major Italian and European brands, Take Off has managed to distribute more than 25 million prices of clothing and accessories over the years and has grown to comprise almost 50 employees. Alona also has an interesting past as a professional cyclist, having competed in the 2012 London Olympics for the Ukrainian national team.
“Malta’s international environment is what drew me in initially,” Alona explains of her decision to move to the island, describing its attractive atmosphere for start-ups and the fact that it is very inviting toward hiring international teams, including those from outside the European community, which she deems crucial for global business development.
“The favourable location and weather, low bureaucracy and efficiency in the company set-up system were also significant factors. Malta is a country that believes in and invests in start-ups, making it an innovation hub. It serves as an international hub in the Mediterranean where English is spoken, which is very beneficial. Additionally the small, human-scale size of the island allows for a work-life balance, another important factor in my decision to choose Malta,” she notes.
On a personal note, Alona is fond of the diverse beauty Malta offers. “In summer, the beaches are my favourite spots, and I love the opportunity to hike in the countryside. Above all my favourite activity is kayaking at St Thomas Bay. The blend of natural beauty and outdoor activities is what I enjoy most about the island.”
Having experienced substantial growth since starting out, Alona’s experience of running a business in Malta has been positive, with unique challenges and opportunities. The most impressive advantage she points out is Malta’s rapidly growing economy, as well as it advantageous geographic location. Moreover, Alona continues, Malta is developing into a dynamic tech hub, embracing start-ups and offering opportunities in areas such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and software solutions.
“The island’s support for businesses is demonstrated through various schemes, including several training courses we’re undergoing with the aid of JobsPlus. And let’s not forget about the access to grants via Malta enterprise, which provide another level of support for businesses,” she affirms, pointing out that there are also challenges that need addressing.
“One of the prominent issues is attracting and retaining high-level employees. While Malta is an attractive place for many, it’s often viewed as a short-term destination, leading to high employee turnover and knowledge retention issues.”
According to Alona, another challenge has been Malta’s inclusion on the grey list, which has adversely affected its reputation and made certain business operations more complex, such as opening bank accounts for company’s international branches. Finally she adds, the rising cost of living, especially soaring rent prices, can deter potential employees from moving here.
Sharing her outlook in relation to her sector, the CEO states that the fashion retail sector in Malta is experiencing significant growth, with new brands continually entering the Maltese market. “This expansion signals an active and dynamic local business environment, which is very encouraging,” Alona says, adding that, in broader terms, “Malta’s successful control over inflation, maintaining one of the lowest rates in Europe, is a positive indication for the economy.”
Addressing fellow expats considering the possibility of investing in Malta, Alona’s advice is simple: “go for it!” Highlighting the fact that the island presents a diverse range of opportunities, particularly for start-ups and technology-driven businesses, she describes Malta as “a vibrant, welcoming place that’s rich in history, yet innovative and forward-thinking in business.” However as with any investment, she emphasises, “it’s essential to do thorough research, understand the market dynamics and possibly find local partners who can provide guidance through Malta’s unique business landscape.”
Featured Image: Alona Andruk / Photo by Bernard Polidano
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