Mariya Solodar emigrated to the U.S. less than two years ago, and the young businesswoman is already making headlines. Recently, Solodar was nominated for the “TOP 100 USA Entrepreneurs of Ukrainian Origins” award. During her short time in the U.S., she has already created a business from scratch and nurtured it to success.
Mariya, congratulations on receiving a business award! Tell us, what inspired you to become an entrepreneur, and what achievements are you most proud of?
Thanks for the compliments! Looking back, I think that the entrepreneurial spirit was in me from birth, even if I didn’t have any childhood dreams of starting a business. I lived in a small town in Ukraine, where an entrepreneurial culture was in its infancy. In my mind, entrepreneurs were merely “people in crimson jackets” (a popular color in the 90s post-Soviet space).
Only later, when I started working in advertising, did I begin to notice people who sat in cafes all day long, not going to the office but somehow making an income. I saw that they lived very free lives, and it inspired me to learn more about entrepreneurship.
I studied, attended conferences—including those in the U.S.—and immediately put my knowledge into practice. First, I created a marketing agency. Then I formed a Ukrainian-Russian educational business that brought in millions of dollars in revenue until everything collapsed in a day with the start of the war in Ukraine.
What challenges did you face as an aspiring entrepreneur when starting a business in the U.S.?
For starters, I showed up in the U.S. with one suitcase and blocked bank cards. My life had to begin anew from scratch, which in itself is not easy. At the same time, I was building a business in a new country and faced a number of obstacles. I didn’t know how everything worked. I spoke English but was not a native speaker, and I didn’t fully understand the local mentality.
At first, I was even hindered by things that I had considered to be strengths of mine. For example, as an experienced entrepreneur, I had developed an ability to communicate well with employees. However, it turned out that there are completely different standards and rules of business communication in the U.S. I went to UCLA and took a course in business communication, which taught me to express my thoughts without sounding harsh or too personal to Americans.
What kind of business are you developing in the U.S.? Why did you choose this particular industry?
First of all, I am still engaged in the educational business from my new home in America. My team is developing a platform for teaching in-demand online professions called “Todoo Digital”. Education is my calling, and I plan to devote as much time to it as possible.
Additionally, I’m the owner of “More Show USA”, a children’s party agency. My best friend created this wonderful business and, after moving, I developed the agency’s U.S. branch. However, I was not prepared for how difficult it would be. At the very beginning, I had to do everything with my own hands, including loading costumes in a warehouse.
Now I can proudly say that we’ve achieved great results. The agency conducts children’s events in Los Angeles, often working with celebrities. We plan to open representative offices in other U.S. states.
Did your Ukrainian origin play any role in your business?
My Ukrainian background brings a unique cultural perspective to my work. However, in the modern global world, cultural and national differences are smoothed out. The world has few restrictions—you are free to create, no matter who you are or where you’re from.
How do you find balance between your personal life and your work?
For me, balance does not mean an equal distribution of time between all areas of life. I believe that properly setting priorities helps solve the problem of lack of time. I always put myself first: my health, physical condition, well-being, development, and what brings me joy.
Relationships are my second priority. Relationships with family, friends and loved ones are sources of happiness and positivity. Work ranks third in my priorities. I do not live to work, but rather I work to live and achieve a quality life. If it becomes necessary to give something up, I simply make a choice in accordance with my inner values and priorities.
How do you plan to develop in America as an entrepreneur?
I intend to make a significant contribution to the world of Internet education—not only in the United States, but throughout the world. My team is working on creating an IT platform for remote workers that offers job searching as well as training. I also plan to write a book about marketing and to scale the U.S. holiday agency industry.
Tell us about the award ceremony. Do you have any favorite memories from that evening?
Of course, I remember the moment when I was received the award in vivid detail. It was so exciting and unexpected.
Today, Ukraine is going through a difficult period, and I’m glad that society encourages Ukrainians who have achieved outstanding results. It inspires us and gives us confidence that we can overcome any difficulties. An equally important factor for me was that half of the proceeds from the event’s ticket sales will be donated to support Ukraine. As the organizer of the “Peace of Mine” charity, I always support initiatives that help those in need.
What award did you receive, and what significance does it hold for you?
The process of winning an award itself is not important to me. Rather, the exciting takeaway from being nominated for and winning this fantastic prize is that is shows that I’m on the right track. In difficult times, it’s very important to receive encouragement and support. For me, this shows that I will succeed.
You looked incredible at the awards. Who chose your look?
Thanks a lot! I prepared carefully because I was aware that, in a certain sense, I was representing Ukraine at the international level. The dress was kindly provided to me by the outstanding couturier Jacob Meir, who’s known for his collaborations with celebrities including J. Lo, Beyoncé, and Katy Perry. This is our second joint project, as I presented his outfits on the red carpet of the 76th Cannes International Film Festival this May. I sincerely appreciate the help of such an incredible designer in creating an elegant and stylish image for this award.
Tell us about the book “Top 100 USA Entrepreneurs of Ukrainian Origins.”
This book was published by the award’s organizers. It tells the stories of immigrant entrepreneurs, including mine. Many entrepreneurs, especially women, come to the States and feel lonely. I myself went through a similar experience, and I know what it’s like to be in a foreign country, where you know nothing and no one. When you discover people who persevered through the same problems and difficult path, you understand that you can handle it. You feel the support of those who walk next to you, shoulder to shoulder. I think these stories are very important because they create a sense of community and show that we are not alone in our struggles.
Overall, what helped you achieve such success in America?
My main motivation was that I had no way back; I had nowhere to go. I was helped by my wonderful team, including the one I’ve already gathered here, and the support of friends both old and new. God sent me many wonderful people in the U.S.!
It turned out that, in America, the tax, credit, and financial systems are favorable for business. It’s quite easy to scale here if the idea gets accepted in the market. I am very grateful to this country for all the opportunities that it provides, and I hope to make a worthy contribution to the development of the American economy.
Mariya, thank you for your answers, and we wish you further success with all of your plans!