The Art of Starting a Successful Business
Aleksandra Efimova left Russia for the United States in 1993 with her mother to finish high school and eventually pursuing a degree in international business. While school became her focus, dance remained her passion. She competed locally and maintained ties to the arts community internationally. Efimova was a junior when she connected with a group of Russian cobblers seeking to expand their ballet pointe shoe business. She ordered boxes at a time to her dorm room and spent time outside of class shopping them around to local dance stores and companies. “At that point, I really didn’t have much to lose,” said Efimova. “The alternatives to starting my own company at age 20 were waitressing and working at a retail store.”
The Prima Ballerina
Fast-forward 15 years. Efimova is the founder and CEO Russian Pointe, a popular brand of professional dance shoes, apparel, accessories and educational materials based in Chicago. Her shoes have become the gold standard for ballerinas around the world and her business is growing at a rate of 25 percent per year. This success propelled Efimova to relocate her headquarters from a cramped rental on Michigan Avenue to an expansive, loft-style space she owns in the up-and-coming Bucktown neighborhood. She is currently discussing with her client manager at Bank of America, John Purtell, plans to further expand the multi-million dollar company. “Aleksandra’s an innovator – a visionary,” said Debbie Chanel, the company’s executive director. “She sees it and she’s not afraid to act on in.”
Small Business Success
Bank of America was the right fit for Russian Pointe. The bank believes in the power of small businesses to fuel economies and revitalize neighborhoods, and so tailored its products and services accordingly. Purtell, an employee of Bank of America for more than 30 years, enjoys working with small businesses owners like Efimova to make their vision a reality. “They have a passion unmatched by other types of companies,” he said. The relationship between Russian Pointe and the bank has been deepened by their shared commitment to the arts. Efimova serves on the boards of the Guild Board of The Lyric Opera, Auxiliary Joffrey Ballet and Young Professionals Auditorium Theatre. She has also been tasked by the local government to deepen collaboration and connection between Chicago and Russia in the areas of art, culture, business, trade and education.
Life Imitating Art
Efimova takes the greatest pride in instilling a love of the arts in her youngest clients. It’s what inspired her to launch a line of educational materials 10 years after establishing her business. “Very few of my customers will become professional dancers,” she said. “But I hope that through taking ballet classes and participating in the arts, they’re going to learn skills like discipline, focus, concentration, ability to work together and independently, that will help them be successful in life as they become doctors, engineers, attorneys – and great citizens.”
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