The War Couldn't Break Her Business: Ulyana Kyrychuk's Story of Resilience and Growth
By Lisa Stanford
February 5, 2024
Why it's Encouraging:
Ulyana Kyrychuk, the CEO of Milla Nova - a thriving bridal brand - knows a thing or two about defying expectations. Based in Lviv, Ukraine, she's navigated the tumultuous waters of a global pandemic and, more recently, the devastating war in her home country. Yet, against all odds, Milla Nova has not only survived but thrived, expanding its reach to 59 countries and becoming a global name.
Her story is one of remarkable resilience, adaptation, and unwavering commitment to her people. It's a testament to the power of leadership, innovation, and a company culture that prioritizes human connection in the face of adversity.
Milla Nova is a female-led independent Ukrainian bridal brand founded by sisters Zoryana and Iryna Senyshyn. For the past 20 years, the company has strived to help make every bride’s special day truly special. 95% of the company's employees are women.
Milla Nova CEO Ulyana Kyrychuk
"I believe the key to success is company culture. This spirit of taking care of people — employees and customers — is making everyone feel valued and invested in their work."
by Ulyana Kyrychuk, CEO of Milla Nova
Every morning in Lviv, Ukraine, the hum of sewing machines fills the air at Milla Nova, a once-bustling bridal brand. But instead of delicate silks and intricate lace, the tables are draped in camouflage netting. The skilled hands that once crafted dream wedding dresses now stitch together military supplies and medical garments - a stark reality under the constant threat of air raid sirens.
This is the new normal for Ulyana Kyrychuk, CEO of Milla Nova, and 400 of her employees. Unarmed but determined, they've transformed their factory into a lifeline for their war-torn nation.
When the invasion began, Kyrychuk knew her carefully crafted business continuity plan needed an urgent rewrite. The enemy wasn't a financial crisis, but an existential threat. "I can't fight with a gun, I can't heal the wounded," she says, "but my people can sew." And sew they did.
A machinist in Milla Nova’s Lviv factory
Aided by 70 relocated team members and their families, Kyrychuk set up a temporary haven in Warsaw, Poland. While children played amidst the unfamiliar surroundings, their mothers, grandmothers, and sisters meticulously fulfilled existing bridal orders, their dedication to their customers unwavering even in the face of personal upheaval.
But their focus wasn't solely on the past. Recognizing the dire need for protective gear and medical supplies in Ukraine, Milla Nova quickly pivoted. Their expertise in fabric, precision, and speed proved invaluable, churning out military uniforms, bulletproof vests, and medical gowns.
Camouflage net made in Milla Nova’s Lviv factory
Wedding dresses remained important, however. Kyrychuk understood the significance of these days for her brides and refused to let war disrupt their dreams. With ingenuity and collaboration, they innovated, even asking customers to share dresses amongst themselves in the initial chaotic weeks. By prioritizing communication and finding solutions, Kyrychuk ensured no bride missed their special day.
Courtesy Milla Nova
They continuously strive to broaden their reach and enhance their presence by expanding their presence in boutiques worldwide and extending their production capabilities across Europe. Recently they managed to increase our production facilities in Poland and successfully launched a new modernized facility in Romania.
The establishment of these new production facilities within the European Union empowers Milla Nova to deliver intricately crafted, high-quality gowns while simultaneously generating employment opportunities in both Ukraine and abroad. By strategically leveraging the unique strengths and resources of each country, they have gained a substantial advantage in terms of logistics and production efficiency. These new facilities house skilled workforces and workshops that execute with precision and efficiency, contributing to smoother logistics operations.
A closer look at Milla Nova's production capability in Ukraine, Poland, and Romania
"If you care about your people and know their motivations, you will get results."
by Ulyana Kyrychuk, CEO of Milla Nova
This remarkable transformation is a testament to Kyrychuk's leadership and the resilience of her team. In the face of unimaginable hardship, they haven't just survived, they've thrived, finding purpose and strength in supporting their country and each other. Their story is a beacon of hope in a time of darkness, proving that even amidst the chaos of war, the human spirit can shine through, fueled by ingenuity, empathy, and an unwavering commitment to something bigger than ourselves.