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Where are parachutes sewn – PROBUSINESS.IO

Sergey Nasatovich and Oksana Rutkova. Photo: Igor Matveev

Sergey Nasatovich from Vitebsk is the USSR Master of Sports in skydiving. He has stepped overboard more than 3,000 times. But one day the moment came when I had to stop jumping: an injury. It would seem that everything is with the sky. But the athlete began to sew parachutes! Read the story of Belahavis Company LLC, the only enterprise in Belarus that has been manufacturing such equipment for 20 years, in the partnership project Pro Business and Alfa-Bank in Belarus.

“We started by sewing windbreakers in a pharmacy room”

In this company, many are sick with heaven. Sergey Nasatovich and his deputy Maxim Zverev – master of parachuting. Jumped second deputy Oksana Rutkova and some seamstresses.

Sergey is modestly silent about his sports past. And there is something to boast about: he has 3,000 jumps on his account. He remembers the very first one to this day:

— It was February 23, 1982. I am 16 years old. It was wildly scary to jump, but it was even scarier to refuse. Jumped! Then he walked around the city and was so proud of himself: everyone around was pedestrians, I was the only eagle! I already had 324 jumps to the army. But, it just so happened, he served not in the landing, but in the artillery.

Photo: Igor Matveev
Photo from the hero’s archive

One of the jumps, at the age of 24, put an end to a hobby – a pelvic fracture in two places. Three months with almost no movement. After that, Nasatovich practically gave up sports. He worked as a trainer in FOK, an instructor in the flying club. And in the late 1980s, still under the Union, he came into business:

— Initially, he sold medical equipment and dental materials. Some worked, some didn’t. It only happens in fairy tales that a person opens a business – and now it grows and develops.

The first Belarusian entrepreneurs left the USSR, and none of us knew what business was in the long run. They knew only one thing: buy for a ruble, sell for a ruble and a half. We traded as best we could.

Then large firms began to push small industries out of the market. I realized that the business of selling medical equipment is declining. And, as an athlete, I knew that in the early 2000s there was a large shortage of parachuting equipment in Belarus. I decided to try to close this niche.

Photo: Igor Matveev
Photo: Igor Matveev

But the unique sewing production, which sews sports, training, rescue parachutes, did not appear immediately.

– I started with sewing parachute packs, windbreakers, overalls. I bought a couple of sewing machines, met a girl on the train who knew how to sew and cut. She brought her friend, she brought another. So the first three seamstresses appeared in my company. I rented a room in one of the city pharmacies. We worked there for a year. When there were no orders for overalls, they sewed, for example, cases for cosmetics.

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“At first we worked with the Russians. They sent fabrics, sold products, paid wages.”

Parachutes, paragliders, kites began to be sewn in 2002 – by order of the Russians.

– In Moscow, I met a company that is very famous in this segment of the clothing industry. They suggested: let’s work together. It was beneficial for the Russians. In Moscow, hiring seamstresses was expensive, where they were paid 200-250 dollars, and in Vitebsk they received half as much. Moreover, for Belarus, 100 dollars was a good amount then! We called ourselves “Belaavis” and began to fulfill the orders of the Russians. Muscovites sent fabrics, sold products, paid us salaries.

The room in the pharmacy became cramped, and the company moved: “We rented a room from DOSAAF. This is a former auditorium. We made two levels in it: on the first floor there is a sewing factory, and on the second floor there is an office and a place where slings are being installed, etc.”

Photo: Igor Matveev
Photo: Igor Matveev

There were so many orders from Russia, Sergei recalls, that three employees could no longer cope. Hired almost 20 seamstresses.

– Every week we sent 12 huge backpacks with products to Moscow. Then there was a border with Russia, you can’t bring goods by car. We took a diesel to Smolensk, where a local man picked up the backpacks, who also sent them by bus to Moscow.

In general, the beginning of the 2000s was a “golden time”. We made good money: I, a hired director, received $ 300 dollars, and the seamstresses had about $ 100.

The Vitebsk enterprise actively worked for Russians for 8 years, until the crisis of 2008.

– Moscow did not help us in any way, and we decided to open a new enterprise – Belahavis Company LLC. We started working for ourselves. I had to deal with sales issues, learn how to calculate the cost price, and lay a profit. But we are still cooperating with the Russians.

There is no assembly line at this production: the parachute is sewn from beginning to end by the same person. But the process is not devoid of creativity.

Photo: Igor Matveev
Photo: Igor Matveev

– It happens, we’ll take it and come up with some kind of parachute! It’s like with cars here: as a mode of transport, it was created a long time ago, but in models something is constantly changing. So do we: we change the shape, area, fabric in the parachute. Let’s see how this affects the behavior of the dome in the air. And then we test the finished parachute, – says Sergey.

Testing parachutes in the Vitebsk flying club. The technical requirements for the test have not changed since Soviet times: with the new model, you need to make 2,000 jumps, of which 200 are special (with dome overlap, with lines twisting, etc.). Such jumps are “performed” by a mannequin, the remaining 1800 are human.

“On average, a new parachute is bought every 12 years”

The Vitebsk enterprise has had no competitors for all these 20 years.

— We are the only ones in Belarus who sew parachutes. This is a big plus. It would have been worse if, for example, we had been sewing shorts – in Vitebsk there are enough sewing enterprises even without us. But this is also a big minus: I know all the buyers by sight. Parachutes are not hot rolls, they are not bought every day. There are people who jump with one equipment for 20-30 years. But on average, a new parachute is bought every 12 years.

Parachutes cost from 5 to 10 thousand dollars.

The main customers of the company now are specialized public and private structures.

– For example, we sew for DOSAAF, all Belarusian flying clubs know about us. But there are practically no private buyers. Why would a person need to shell out 5-10 thousand dollars if you can come to the flying club, where they will give him equipment, he will jump and pay only 25 dollars for it? the businessman says.

The Vitebsk enterprise is not moving into the Russian market.

– We have an agreement with a Moscow partner: they do not trade with us, but we are in Russia. If they have a customer from Belarus, they call us, give us contacts and say: serve the client. We are doing the same thing: we are sending Russians to a Moscow enterprise.

The entrepreneur does not hide the fact that downtime occurs at the enterprise: “Early spring is always not the season for us. This year the seamstresses were on vacation until April 12th. Now the work process has resumed. Most of all we have orders at the end of summer, then we work hard. Work is available until the New Year. And we will financially compensate for everything we missed during downtime.”

One parachute is sewn for about a week.

The cost includes materials, salaries of seamstresses and engineers, taxes, rent.

– How much money is spent on the purchase of materials, I will not tell you: this is a trade secret. Renting a room together with a communal apartment costs us 3,000 rubles a month (about € 1,000). In the heating season it reaches 3.5 thousand.

Now the company has 5 seamstresses, in total there are more than 10 employees.

“There are more idlers than seamstresses,” Sergei jokes.

Seamstresses, according to the entrepreneur, receive 550 rubles a month (about € 170) even during production downtime.

– And in the season, if people work 40 hours a week, the salary is at least 1000 rubles (more than € 300). But they can get even more: if, for example, the seamstress is late after work for an hour or two or comes to the shop on the day off.

The company pays income tax – 18% of revenue. The amount of payments depends on the workload of the enterprise: if there is work, there are payments, if there are no orders, then nothing is paid.

“Everything in the parachute is imported. Belarusian only hands”

Vitebsk parachute manufacturers, they say, use only materials recognized in the world – not the kind of business and not the kind of responsibility where you can “try” something cheaper. Fabrics are from France and South Korea. Slings – German, threads, ribbons and accessories – American, electronics – Czech.

– And only passports with instructions and hands [швей] – Belarusian, – says Sergei.

Photo: Igor Matveev
Photo: Igor Matveev

Now, when many countries have imposed sanctions against Belarus and Russia, it is still possible to buy materials, but it is difficult to deliver them.

— Literally a week after the outbreak of hostilities in Ukraine, a letter arrived from Germany in which we were notified: due to trade restrictions, you can no longer place orders with us. But the order for the same materials was accepted in the USA without any problems. However, there is a problem: they cannot ship the product to us. I found an airline in Kazakhstan, with which they agreed that the cargo from the USA would fly to Almaty, and then it would be sent to Minsk.

Photo: Igor Matveev
Photo: Igor Matveev

Nasatovich does not lose optimism:

– Fabrics that were previously bought in France are also sold in Russia. Korea and South Africa also work with us without problems. By the way, for the first 15 years of the enterprise’s activity, we sewed parachutes from their fabrics.

The essence of any business is to find ways to solve problems. We’ve been doing this for 20 years. And we will continue to do so.

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My profession is a journalist, but my hobby for 8 years has been studying Forex investing and trading. During this time, I managed to gain extensive experience in investing and trading cryptocurrencies and double my capital in the Forex market. To be the author of this magazine, the site owners invited me to participate in one of the 2020 trading webinars, and I will try to reveal the most relevant crypto market news for you.

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