Ukrainian refugees start a healthy snack company in Estonia

Nurturing hope through entrepreneurship: two Ukrainian war refugees in Estonia, Anna Lytvyn and Maryna Prittshina, set up a healthy snacks company called Fruitiki in Tallinn, with ambitions to sell their products across Europe.

In a world often rife with uncertainty and adversity, stories of resilience and determination shine like beacons of hope. Lytvyn and Prittshina, two dynamic individuals hailing from Kyiv, Ukraine, embody such resilience.

As war broke up, their lives were upended, forcing them to make heart-wrenching choices. Yet, amid the chaos, they found a path forward – one that led them to Estonia and sparked the creation of a startup known as Fruitiki.

Seeds of entrepreneurship: planting hope amidst adversity

Meet Anna Lytvyn, a 32-year-old economist marketer who has worn various professional hats, and Maryna Prittshina, a 33-year-old culinary virtuoso with 16 years of experience in Ukraine’s top-rated restaurants. Both called Kyiv their home, a place where they had built fulfilling lives, nurtured dreams, and embraced the warmth of family and friends. Then, the war shattered their tranquillity, leaving behind a trail of uncertainty.

As they sought refuge in Estonia, Lytvyn, a mother of a 5-year-old daughter named Kira, faced a profound dilemma: how to secure a future? The decision to leave behind their established lives and seek safety abroad was daunting. However, it was a decision they would later affirm as the right one.

Fruitiki’s inception was born out of Anna Lytvyn’s commitment to finding healthy snacking options for her daughter, Kira. Private collection.

While the uncertainty of their new circumstances weighed heavily, Lytvyn and Prittshina discovered a source of inspiration and motivation: the desire to make a meaningful impact in the face of adversity. In response, they embarked on an entrepreneurial journey, giving birth to Fruitiki – a startup that not only provided healthy and delicious snacks but also carried a deeper purpose.

Fruitiki’s inception was born out of Lytvyn’s commitment to finding healthy snacking options for her daughter, Kira. What started as a personal endeavour soon blossomed into a business idea.

Their offerings, ranging from fruit rolls to frips, apples with agave syrup and nuts, jerkies, and a seasoned menu, stood out for their handcrafted quality and nutritional value. With an aim to provide a better alternative to traditional snacks, Fruitiki quickly gained recognition for its unique proposition.

Fruitiki’s healthy snacks. Photo by Fruitiki.

Lytvyn and Prittshina’s commitment to Ukraine goes beyond entrepreneurial aspirations. A portion of their company’s net profit is dedicated to supporting the Ukrainian armed forces, aiding with equipment, humanitarian assistance and more.

Their business model is one of empowerment, uniting customers in Estonia and beyond with a common cause. By enjoying these delectable treats, customers become part of a larger mission – helping Ukraine.

A vision beyond borders

The path to establishing Fruitiki was not without its challenges. From navigating legal and regulatory intricacies to overcoming language barriers and market differences, Lytvyn and Prittshina faced numerous hurdles. Yet, their unwavering commitment and love for their products kept them moving forward.

Maryna Prittshina and Anna Lytvyn at Garage48 hackathon. Private collection.

As the tides of conflict eventually recede, their dedication remains steadfast. Their aspirations extend far beyond Estonia’s borders. With dreams of Fruitiki becoming a recognised brand throughout Europe, they aim to offer a delicious and nutritious alternative to snacks everywhere.

Recently, they achieved a milestone by emerging as the winners of a business competition organised by CAdFE – the business club for Francophones in Estonia. This competition was held in collaboration with Hands for Ukraine, the Estonian NGO dedicated to helping Ukrainian women with children find housing in Estonia, and the Foreign Investor Council in Estonia.

“We are incredibly grateful to CAdFE and Hands for Ukraine for giving us the opportunity to share our story and our project. Firstly, winning this competition has shown us that we’re on the right way, creating a worthy product, and people believe in us. Secondly, we have gained valuable connections and networking opportunities. We have also received support and mentoring from individual experts, which we greatly needed,” Lytvyn and Prittshina said.

Fruitiki’s healthy snacks. Photo by Fruitiki.

Their story stands as a beacon of hope, reminding us that light can emerge. Fruitiki is not just a business – it’s a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, the power of determination, and the enduring bonds that tie us together.

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