“I want kids to see the diversity we have here in Villach”
Olga's first days in Villach (Autumn 2009) and some impressions from her new project. Click to enlarge.
Olga Bulhac has lived in Carinthia since 2009. She is the founder of the Baby Chat Group and in 2020 started her own business with the project "Small World" in Villach. What Olga has created in Lederergasse 28 is no ordinary playground. In addition to three themed play corners, there is a coffee lounge for parents, a small library and plenty of space to host parties, workshops, or small concerts. We talked to Olga about how this idea came about, why it is so valuable to our international community, and what it takes to make such an undertaking a reality.
Originally, I come from Russia, where I got my first degree in financial management. After I had worked for several international companies in Moscow, I came to FH Kärnten to do my Master in International Business Management. During that time, I met my future husband who was already working for Infineon. So, I started a job in Carinthia at a construction company and never returned to Russia as it was originally planned. A few years later, I got pregnant with my daughter Alissa and after I stayed in Karenz for one year, I decided that I wanted to try something else. I wanted to create my own business.
By that time, I had already initiated the Baby Chat group together with the CIC. As the group got bigger and bigger, parents started to ask me about play dates. But I did not have the place and time to organize it. So, this is how the idea developed to find a place where kids and their parents can have quality time together. And what was even more important to me, to create an international environment for kids where they can see the diversity that we have here in Villach. That is why I call it “Small World”, as it is a small world around us after all. In this world we must take care of each other and we must not give prejudice and discrimination a chance in the first place.
The employees of the CIC supported me to put my ideas into practice right from the beginning. They provided a lot of information and helped me with the public authorities. I could always ask them how it is better to proceed and with whom I need to talk. This was much more important for me than financial help. In particular, the self-employment circle was helpful and motivating for me. In parallel, I participated in the program “Mentor für Migranntinnen” from the integration center. In September 2020 I finally registered my business and could start with the preparations in Lederergasse.
A central idea behind the playground that we created there is that you have thematic areas, i.e. three houses, which are interconnected and have some toys in it. Kids can thus go to the construction site in one of the houses, when somebody gets a bit hurt, they can bring this person to the hospital and afterwards have some ice-cream in the coffee shop. We made the houses tall enough so that the parents can also participate in the game. But the playground is not everything. We will also organize events, e.g. concerts or movie evenings, and will offer workshops for kids and moms. An additional part is the decoration service, where you can e.g., order balloons to surprise your kid.
Becoming self-employed in another country is a long process and not always easy. Especially the pandemic forced me to change my plans again and again. So, you really need to stay flexible, and you should not be afraid to talk about your ideas and look for support. Having a group of people, who are willing to share their experience and help you develop your ideas is really helpful. But the most important advice that I can give is that you must believe in your project.
This is a short version of the interview. Please click HERE to read the original version.
Interview: Gesa Pflitsch