Entrepreneur & Co-Founder of Two Chicks
Today we meet Alla Ouvarova, born in Russia but raised in the UK from the age of 9. Alla is one half of Two Chicks, a business producing liquid egg-white. Alla tells us about her role at the company and how she manages this alongside her family life.
BoardroomMum Can you please tell me a little bit about yourself?
I moved to London from St Petersburg with my family in 1991. After finishing school, I went onto study Economics at University College London. I really liked maths and business and thought about a career in banking, but did not pursue this. I had been coaching tennis whilst at university so carried on doing this for a little while after graduating, which I really enjoyed.
BoardroomMum What was the idea around Two Chicks and how did you take your idea forward?
My business partner had noticed whilst she was in LA how important egg white was around healthy eating and for fitness. With my sports background I could immediately see the benefit and opportunity. We have complimentary skills, which makes the partnership work really well.
In November 2005 we registered our company and in August 2007 we launched our product. We had written a detailed business plan, however, we struggled to raise the money we needed. I reworked the model to find the minimum investment required for launch - and so with one tenth of what we had originally envisaged, we went ahead. We were offered exclusive launches with Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and Harrods and in August 2007 we launched in Selfridges. We had no salaries and had to do everything ourselves, handing out leaflets outside Sainsbury’s whilst pregnant was definitely a highlight!
We now also sell in Waitrose, Sainsburys, Tesco, Asda, Ocado and other outlets.
BoardroomMum How many children do you have?
Alla Ouvarova My son is 6, he came along the year after our launch!
BoardroomMum How do you combine career with family life?
When we started I was working from home, which made it relatively easy.
Around the time of Zac’s birth, we were in serious negotiations with potential investors for second round funding. One minute I was meeting investors and then would be back at home working, sending emails whilst breastfeeding!
When we received the funding we moved into offices. I was very lucky that my mum lived nearby and was able to help me out.. It was very tiring but it was also really rewarding on all levels.
BoardroomMum How did you meet your business partner?
Alla Ouvarova We became friends after meeting at a party and get on really well. Of course we can have difference of opinions but we also have separate business roles. I look after finance and operations, Anna looks after sales and marketing.
BoardroomMum What is it like being in a partnership?
Alla Ouvarova We had so many obstacles to overcome at the start, that it would have been almost impossible to have done this on my own, we helped each other through the difficult times!
BoardroomMum What was it like setting up your business? What are the challenges?
Alla Ouvarova Fundraising was difficult. Also, we had to go outside of the UK to find our producer. We were very lucky to secure listings quite quickly but we also had to educate the retailers and consumers as to the benefits of eating egg white. It was difficult for customers to find our product, as sat in the bakery section alongside ready-made pastry. The eggs are not kept in the fridge in the UK, as they are in the US.
BoardroomMum Have you won any awards?
We reached the final 10 of the HSBC Start up Stars and I was a finalist in the NatWest everywoman awards.
BoardroomMum You launched a new product – are you able to tell us anything about that?
Alla Ouvarova Yes, we have just launched Chirps. A low-fat, high protein snack product. Reception from the public has been great so we are really looking forward to promoting our new product, adding to our range and building and growing our business.
BoardroomMum What can be done to encourage more girls/women to fulfil their potential?
When I was a child, Margaret Thatcher was in power. I remember hearing about her free market policies, and how good this was compared to the socialism imposed in Russia at the time. That drilled into me that with hard work you can achieve. I think that it is very important to give others self-belief and encourage them to strive towards their goals.
BoardroomMum Do you have any tips or recommendations for other women out there who wish to pursue their career ambitions and aspirations?
Alla Ouvarova Just go for it! Do not be frightened about taking the first steps. There may be a lot to do, and it can be daunting at first, but take it step by step.
BoardroomMum Would you have done anything differently?
Alla Ouvarova I am sure that I have made mistakes, but you learn from them and on the whole I am happy with how things have turned out.
BoardroomMum What are your plans personally and professionally?
On a personal level I would like my son to continue to do well at school and in the sports he plays. I want to continue to improve my golf and would like to do the London marathon once I quality for the elite line up. I would also like to have more children!
Professionally I am very excited about the Chirps launch and continuing to grow the business.
BoardroomMum Thank you Alla for your time and insight. We wish you and Two Chicks every success for the future.