Nestled in the mountains of western Ukraine, the small town of Khust boasts some of the country’s greatest mountain biking trails. Tourists from all over the world come to experience the region’s beauty. For Lesya Login, a native of Khust, biking is a deep passion—something she and her husband, Nicholai, dreamed of sharing with others.
Early in their marriage, Lesya worked as a coach at a school while Nicholai worked as a bike repairman. They dreamed of one day starting their own business selling bikes. After Lesya purchased and sold several bikes to test out their idea, she was convinced that the business would work—but the Logins lacked the capital needed to get it off the ground.
As Lesya sought a solution, commercial banks repeatedly denied her loan applications, doubtful that someone so young—just 22 years old at the time—and with no business experience would be able to repay. Determined, Lesya continued to search for a bank that would give her a loan. That’s when their neighbor, Michael, told Lesya and Nicholai about the organization he worked for: HOPE Ukraine.
“Our passion will become our work.”
Several years before, Michael had shared his faith with Lesya. Curious, Lesya began attending Michael’s church, and she came to know Christ as her Savior. As Lesya’s faith began to grow, Nicholai came to know Christ as well, and the two were baptized in 2005. Three years later, as Lesya shared her business dream with Michael, he suggested she join HOPE Ukraine.
“Choosing to take the loan was pivotal for me,” Lesya shares. “I was full of excitement to have my dream come true—that our passion would become our work.”
With her first loan from HOPE Ukraine, Lesya purchased a few bicycles, renting them to tourists. As they started making a profit, Lesya rented a space for her store so it could gain more visibility. Nicholai also offered bicycle maintenance, allowing them to continue serving previous clients.
In 2016, the Logins wanted to take their business a step further by purchasing a second retail shop and creating their own brand. But to do this, they needed a larger loan than HOPE Ukraine was able to provide.
Adapting to meet clients’ needs
Like Lesya, some entrepreneurs in middle-income countries grow their businesses to the point that they need larger loans than micro-finance institutions can provide, but they still aren’t big enough to qualify for commercial banks. Dubbed “the missing middle,” these business owners can’t continue to grow, which stifles their ability to employ more people and meet local market needs. To meet these needs, HOPE Ukraine has piloted a small and medium enterprise (SME) program for trusted clients with a strong history of repayment, disbursing larger loans so these clients can continue to advance.
Today, with an SME loan and additional training, the Logins’ business includes two locations, their own brand, and several employees. They also have expanded to sell athletic clothing and other accessories.
Seeing a lifelong dream come true, Lesya and Nicholai are sharing their love of biking with others. “When God gives, we are called to give back,” Lesya says. In partnership with their church, they organize an annual bike ride for children, allowing families to connect with their church. They’ve also created a bicycle club for youth, helping them stay away from alcohol or drugs by giving them goals to work toward.
I feel positive about the future. I am full of excitement and hope. I have lots of dreams; I always like to keep on moving and achieve something. My dream is to never stop growing.