Citius S armored glass manufacturing company has been displaced twice. Despite relocations and loss of equipment and market share, the business owners are successfully developing production in Lviv Oblast. Thanks to consultations from USAID Economic Resilience Activity (ERA), the company is undergoing a transformation, and their customers are becoming brand ambassadors.
In Melitopol, Citius S Limited Liability Company produced armored and architectural glass for non-standard agricultural machinery and yachts since 2014. The company was also engaged in the refurbishment of cars. They produced vehicles for banks and ambulances, and provided all the equipment inside.
This is the second relocation for the company. In 2014, they fled Crimea to Melitopol, and now, during Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, they have moved to Lviv Oblast.
“The capture of Melitopol by Russia’s military in 2022 was very fast. We could not take the equipment out because it was very heavy and needed to be dismantled. At the time, we were thinking about the most important thing: how to save people. We warned all our employees, but unfortunately, not everyone decided to leave. Only nine families of our employees left with us. We completed the legal relocation in May 2022. We were able to produce the first goods in September 2022. It turned out that we could hardly take anything out. So, we were waiting for equipment at the new location for a very long time,” says business owner and manager Oleksii Serov.
Citius S resumed production thanks to a soft loan and customers who placed orders in advance.
“I’ll tell you one story. At the beginning of the war, most banks donated their cars to the territorial defense to use. One of these cars, which we had converted, met a convoy of tanks. It was shot at by a tank machine gun. Of course, the car was not designed for this, but both the glass and the armored capsule survived. It was this bank that asked us to restore it, they were convinced of our quality,” says Serov.
“First, we resumed production and assembled our own kilns. We opened one 600 sq.m workshop and rented another of 1,800 sq.m. We have fully restored all the steps of armored glass production.
“Since we moved and had almost nothing with us, we had to give one car we had left as collateral to the bank. We sold the other car to make the first payment for the autoclave. We had no resources of our own. Everything we managed was due to our frantic activity. We looked for all grants, opportunities, and support programs. We constantly monitored social media and telegram channels. We took out a soft loan under one of the government support programs and received support from Lviv Oblast State Administration,” adds Serov.
The company started looking for grant opportunities and, as of July 2023, had received nine grants – from Lviv Oblast State Administration, the International Organization for Migration, United Nations Development Program and other donors. The grant money was used to purchase a generator, a hydraulic crane, a compressor, and the necessary hand tools.
Thanks to consultations provided by the All-Ukrainian Association of Business Executives with the assistance of USAID ERA, the company began transforming and adapting its business processes to the new environment. Consultants helped them find the necessary legal support, contractors, and grant opportunities. Now the company’s priority is to promote itself, advertise online and rebuild its website, as it was forced to close the old site for the safety of those who remained in Melitopol.
“With the help of consultants, we gained connections of the same scale as those we had been accumulating in Melitopol over many years. During the consultations, we realized that we didn’t need a sales department to further develop our business, so we abandoned it and created a representative structure. Our clients became our representatives, which gave us a significant boost in development. In other words, we work on a win-win basis, when everyone benefits from cooperation. As a result, when we shifted our focus to the client, we gained many more clients. We continue to develop the area of customer representation. We are also actively working on supplementing the further development strategy and appropriate market positioning,” says the company’s director about the benefits of business consultancy.
The Serovs say they have adapted to the new location and plan to further develop their business. They have no plans to return home after Melitopol is liberated.
“We are starting from scratch, because everything was taken away from us. To survive, we must move frantically. We are really very active, for example, we have already received nine grants. Our business is growing qualitatively – we have more machines, we have taken care of the welfare of our employees. We have a friendly team. Everyone knows what they are working for. At first, locals were watching us closely and were reluctant to respond to our vacancies. But in the end, they saw that we were serious and joined the team,” says Anastasiia Serova, Deputy Marketing Director. “We have no plans to close the plant that has already been established in Lviv Oblast; on the contrary, we plan to look for premises for purchase and further development here. After Melitopol is liberated, we will have much more additional opportunities – we may leave the plastic workshops at home and the production of ambulances. In Lviv Oblast, we will develop other areas of work. Time will tell.”