Andrei: Sailing the Estonian Seas of Business with Nautilus
In the cobblestoned streets of Tallinn's old town, a restaurant has become a symbol of ambition and determination. This month, I, Richi Fox, had the privilege of sitting down with the restaurant's owner to dive into the story of its creation and the challenges they've tackled along the way.
R: Can you trace back to when you first anchored in Estonia?
A: I landed in Estonia in 2016 to kick off our restaurant's construction. Even before this step, I had been visiting here on business trips for about a year, planning my business's future.
R: Estonia as your chosen land - what drove that decision?
A: Business was the main driver. I received a compelling offer from my partners and investors to oversee the launch and daily operations. I was already considering relocating to Europe, so this offer was a timely one, and I jumped at the chance.
R: What facets of Estonia appealed to you for establishing your business?
A: The transparent tax system and lack of bureaucratic hurdles stood out. The ease of accessing government services online was another plus. Not to mention the zero income tax. The fact that Tallinn is a significant tourist hub, despite its smaller local population, was attractive. The swift process of getting activity permits, especially for alcohol sales, was a refreshing change from my past experiences.
R: Reflecting on your journey post-launch, could you share the pros and cons?
A: Most challenges were anticipated. The market size in Estonia is a constraint, limiting our potential to scale within the country. The business's seasonal nature is another challenge; there's a marked difference in revenue between the peak season (about four months) and the rest of the year. Additionally, finding skilled staff has been tough, pushing up our payroll costs as market competition drives up salaries.
R: The global pandemic surely took a toll on most businesses. How did Nautilus navigate through the challenges posed by COVID-19?
A: COVID-19 was an unprecedented challenge for all of us in the restaurant industry. In the initial phase, with the lockdown and decrease in tourism, our revenues took a significant hit. We pivoted our approach by enhancing our takeaway services, introducing health-centric menus, and leveraging online platforms for promotions and deliveries. Maintaining a close bond with our loyal customers, communicating transparently about the safety measures we were implementing, and offering promotional deals helped us retain a steady stream of customers. It wasn’t easy, but our team's resilience and adaptability were pivotal in weathering the storm.
R: We’ve heard you’ve shown tremendous support towards the Ukrainian community, especially during the recent conflict. Could you elaborate on this?
A: Of course. A significant part of our Nautilus family, including our head chef, is from Ukraine. In light of the recent events, our primary focus has been to ensure that they, and others from Ukraine seeking employment, are supported. We've been actively hiring those from Ukraine, offering them not just jobs but also a sense of community and belonging here at Nautilus. It's more about people than politics for us – we believe in standing by our team and extending a helping hand wherever we can.
"It's more about people than politics for us – we believe in standing by our team and extending a helping hand wherever we can."
R: Every entrepreneur faces challenges. Could you shed light on yours?
A: Initially, the language was a hurdle, as was understanding the local administrative processes. However, I personally managed most approvals. English was sufficient for most interactions, and I found officials to be quite accommodating.
R: Future Plans: Looking Ahead as Business of the Month
A: The current economic headwinds in Estonia have affected us. Increasing taxes and other financial pressures mean rising costs and fewer customers. However, as the "Business of the Month," our commitment is renewed. We're contemplating changes to our business model and pricing to ensure we continue to cater to our patrons. While "Nautilus" remains our cornerstone, we're also thinking of expanding. Our goal is to balance our passion with market needs.
The journey of "Nautilus" is a testament to entrepreneurial spirit, adaptability, and tenacity. As they grow and adapt, we're sure to hear more about their successes. Let "Nautilus" inspire you to dive deep, reach for the stars, and always strive for excellence. Our "Business of the Month" series celebrates dreamers and doers like these. The adventure is just starting. Stay passionate, stay foxy!
For more such engaging conversations with industry leaders, stay tuned to our "Business of the Month" series!