“Giving Up is Not an Option for Me”: How Alla Melnyk Started a Business in Vinnytsia

The Vyshenka neighborhood in Vinnytsia is the most densely populated part of the city. Many families with children live here, and as is often the case, there is a need for a place where children can spend time with benefits while their parents are at work. Alla Melnyk, a grant program participant, founded the Levko art space – a children’s center that addresses this issue.

Creative development of children, helping to discover children’s talents, as well as interesting and fulfilling leisure time are the main goals of the center.

“Children learn to interact with each other without gadgets, to use their imagination in real life, and to be creative in solving life’s problems,” says Alla.

The center includes an entertainment space for preschool children, special interest clubs, a theater studio, a day summer camp, creative workshops, and cartoon evenings. Children can improve their speaking skills, enhance their creative thinking, work on their plasticity, and learn to express themselves through art. 

Alla has been devoted to her work for 14 years and it brings her great joy. It all started in Sumy, where she and her friend created a dance studio for children. Alla never stopped learning, she always worked to improve her skills and even took a refresher course in the spring of 2022. 

Fleeing the war, Alla moved to Vinnytsia. There, she decided to continue doing what she was good at and what she loved the most working with children and facilitating their creative development. Alla was trained at the Women’s Business Support Center, which operated within the project “Economic Opportunities for Women Affected by Conflict” implemented by the Ukrainian Women’s Fund with the support of UN Women and the UN Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund. In April, she decided to open a children’s studio. Thanks to the grant, Alla purchased the necessary materials, equipment, and furniture and was able to equip the center’s space.

“Was it difficult for me? Yes. It is still difficult. First of all, it is hard to start a business in a new city where no one knows you. Secondly, it is hard because most of the responsibilities fall on me. It is difficult to find new children because there is a lot of competition, or, again, because not many people know me in Vinnytsia. But I will not give up. It’s not about me,” says Alla. 

Migration processes affect not only the ability to start a business but also the daily work. Many internally displaced persons moved to Vinnytsia, and most of the children who visit “Levko” come from IDP families. When they return to their hometowns, Alla is sad to see her students leave. However, the happy faces of the children, the progress that the students make, the gratitude of their parents, and the love of her work fill Alla with joy and confidence that she is moving in the right direction.

Therefore, despite the uncertainty, difficult times, and changes, Alla continues to develop her business. Her eldest daughter helps Alla with her work. Her daughter works as a sound engineer at the center’s performances and celebrations, writes posts, and edits videos. Currently, the art space is working steadily, the business plan is gradually being implemented, new participants come to classes, children attend a daytime summer camp, and recently Alla’s students held a flash mob and performance in the city.

“My advice is not to look up to anyone. You have to do your own thing. Because your product will be unique.  And the main thing is – you have to believe in yourself. If you do your thing, there is a place for it,” Alla concludes.