“This is My Life’s Work”: How Maria Kuzmina Started a Flipper Swimming Club

How and where do you run your business when you live in one city, but in your heart, you keep coming back to your hometown? Maria Kuzmina knows the answer: as long as you have the basic inventory you need for work, you can act confidently and independently.

Maria is a professional athlete, a member of the national team, and she specializes in swimming with flippers. Before the full-scale invasion began, she lived in Kharkiv and taught sports classes for children there. Things were going well, with about 4O students attending the swimming club.
But with the full-scale war and frequent shelling of Kharkiv, the students left, the club suspended its activities, and Maria decided to flee the danger as well. That’s how she ended up in Lutsk.

At the new place, Maria worked as a coach, helping to engage children in swimming on a volunteer basis. Maria has always been convinced that all children are talented, and her goal is to help students discover their abilities without physical and psychological pressure. 

Maria was trained at the Women’s Business Support Center. There, she gained the knowledge necessary to run her business and wrote a business plan. While she was looking for a place to live in Lutsk, she saw a grant announcement on the website of a charity fund under the project “Economic Opportunities for Women Affected by Conflict,” which the Ukrainian Women’s Fund implemented with the support of UN Women and the UN Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund. 

“I thought I had nothing to lose, but I could do something to improve my situation,” Maria recalls today.

Maria applied for a grant, won it, and invested in the equipment needed for swimming lessons. That was the beginning of her business and that was how she started implementing her long-held dream of owning a flipper swimming club. Maria found a swimming pool in Lutsk and started inviting children to join the group. Her son was studying at a school in Lutsk, so Maria asked the teachers to share the information with parents through their Viber groups. She also posted the information on social media and put up notices around the pool building. Step by step, students started coming to the pool, and then word of mouth helped. And in May, there were 25 people in the club: one group and 15 students who were practicing individually. 

But while the club was slowly growing in Lutsk, Maria was still thinking about her hometown and wanted to return home to Kharkiv. At one point, she finally decided to do so. However, it didn’t mean the ending of her business. First of all, she gained experience that she can use to open other swimming clubs. Secondly, with the equipment purchased thanks to the grant support she can keep coaching in any swimming pool. Maria also shared that the new business has helped her increase her income. Now she continues her business in her native Kharkiv as an independent entrepreneur with her own club.  

Maria shared her feelings, “I’m on a new level because I’ve finally done what I’ve always wanted to do – I have my own equipment and I am independent. I can come to any pool in Ukraine and not worry at all that I won’t have enough boards or flippers. I am free to do anything I want.”