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One of our series of articles was dedicated to the topic of business in emigration. Now we decided to publish an article with Alexander Volodin, owner of the consulting company Skoll. We talked about business relocation and the specifics of doing business in Poland.

– Good afternoon, tell us about yourself.

– My name is Alexander Volodin, I am the owner of the consulting company Skoll https://skoll.biz/ . We are engaged in business consulting in the field of relocation and adaptation in Poland. Before that I worked as a crisis manager, I had a chain of catering establishments in Minsk.

– How many entrepreneurs from Belarus moved to Poland after the events of 2020?

– In 2020 people started to move away en masse and continue to do so now. Only last year 1730 companies with Belarusian roots were founded in Poland. Can we call it a business relocation ? I think no. It is impossible to copy and simply move your business from Belarus to Europe, because the laws and the market work differently here. Basically, you start everything from the beginning. The experience that an entrepreneur has gained in Belarus is not always relevant in Poland.

Alexander, photo from the personal archive of Alexander Volodin

– Is it difficult for Belarusians to open a business in Poland?

– No, you can open a sole proprietorship in Poland in half an hour, and in an hour you can already work. The package of documents is minimal. Another thing is that not every Belarusian has the necessary grounds to open a sole proprietorship. These are a Pole’s card, international protection status or permanent residence permit. But any foreigner can open a limited liability company in Poland (here it is called Spółka z o.o.), it does not need any special grounds for staying in Poland. It is opened through the service https://ekrs.ms.gov.pl/s24/ within two days. It takes about the same amount of time to open a bank account and other formalities. Roughly speaking, in a week you will have a company that is ready to work.

– What difficulties are usually encountered? What should a person who wants to start a business in Poland expect?

– The most important thing is the right sequence of actions. I know that people are often refused to open a bank account. But often they don’t even fill out an application to the Centralny Rejestr Beneficjentów Rzeczywistych. And sometimes they are in a hurry and the application is not processed in time. It hasn’t been processed yet, it hasn’t been confirmed, and people already go to the bank, where the data may not be seen. And so you can get a formal refusal. And this is not due to the fact that a person with a Belarusian passport opens a bank account. It is simply a matter of improper observance of some formal procedures.

Alexander, photo from the personal archive of Alexander Volodin

– Is it possible to find sponsors for business in Poland or are there any bonuses?

– There is no such word as “sponsor”. Nobody gives money for nothing. Sponsors can be found in the organization of concerts, when someone wants to promote himself, and that is not free of charge. You need to place logos, make a stand, brand the stage. But sponsors as such do not exist in nature. Yes, there are patrons of the arts who give money for art. But there are no sponsors in business.

– Are there investors in Poland?

– There are a large number of foundations in Poland that invest in business and support it. There is also a system of grants. This is partial funding, but it is allocated for specific tasks and under certain conditions. You can get money to start your first entrepreneurial activity. You can have Belarusian citizenship, but you must be registered in the “Urząd Pracy” as unemployed and not have your own business for the last two years. In this case they can finance up to 40,000 PLN. In some cities it is easier to get this amount, but in Warsaw it is very difficult. Money is not given here just like that, you have to comply with a number of requirements – a strong package of documents, a business plan.

You can get money to create new workplaces, for their improvement: computers, equipment, furniture. For each employee, the Urząd Pracy can allocate subsidies of up to 10,000 PLN.

Many people think that it is easier without this money, but I think it is better to try. With IT and startups everything is much easier, there are many accelerator programs where you can get funding for your project. In Poland there are more than 30 such accelerators. They are not investments, they are issued as a grant or as a prize for completing some program. The amounts are small, but it is worth applying there.

Alexander, photo from the personal archive of Alexander Volodin

– What kind of business is more relevant now?

– In Europe, the market is oversaturated. There is no sphere where there is no one. I can give an example with food service. Belarusians often come to Poland, see bad cafes with bad service and maintenance, and think that this is a free sphere. That they will bring Minsk service and make some gastronomic revolution. But this is far from true. This is just a market, there are establishments of not very good level and there are high-class establishments. And it is quite difficult to occupy your place. Moreover, there is such a nuance that the Polish food service differs from city to city. The most top establishments have always been in Krakow and Gdansk, not in the capital. And before you open anything, you need to research the markets and understand how you’re going to market yourself. I would try to open test variants first, to feel out the market and understand how to make money from your product.

– One last question. Are there any characteristic differences in doing business in Europe and Belarus?

– There is no fundamental difference, but in the nuances everything is quite different. Therefore, a person who has a background of doing business in Belarus will not be able to fully apply his experience in Poland. As Poles say, it is better to find a local boy – a local Pole, who for some time will just help him to adapt to the new conditions, to understand the local legislation and local taxes. Unlike Belarus, here you can optimize taxation and do it legally. This is done not by accountants or lawyers, but by tax consultants. Therefore, it is desirable to find a good specialist to reduce the cost of doing business. There will be a lot of unplanned expenses as it is, because Belarusian entrepreneurs do not know all the specifics yet. That is why I would try to immediately find people who will help to build everything correctly. Otherwise, there is nothing to be afraid of.