By Slava Repetina, President of LIFT Enrichment
2023 was one of the most important and fascinating years of my life, as my position evolved within LIFT Enrichment. However, it had a fair amount of challenges and highs.
Back in January 2023, there were only three internal team members: Roj and Eric in Sales, and myself in Operations managing about 20 Chef Teachers on staff. I was the one to hire the chef teachers, onboard them, do all of the scheduling with clients, answer the office phone, and many other things. We had a revolving door of administrative support, but no one was a good fit. I was just focused on staffing for our school districts.
At one point, frustrated with the volume of work I had, I confided in Eric and he said, “You hired an amazing team of chef teachers, now do the same thing with the internal team.”
Immediately, I made that my number one priority for the first quarter of 2023. Slowly, we found good people, so I could delegate more of the workload. We brought on an administrative assistant to take care of the day-to-day and data tasks.
By March, we were already an Operations team of 8 and I served as the Operations Director. Then, we focused on hiring the Sales team to free up Eric’s time, and found two great sales reps, one of which is our current Sales Director, Alex.
Today, in January 2024: We have a team of 140 staff members! We have 25 people in the internal team and 115 Chef Teachers.
My New Role
I had set my sights on becoming the President, a role Eric was ready to pass on. I would be in charge of the Sales and Operations Directors, and later the HR Manager and Accounts Manager.
I’ve always been in a managerial role because I like that I get to solve issues, establish processes, and coach others.
I used to look at the CEOs and COOs of companies from my previous jobs and think to myself, “That’s going to be me one day.”
I knew LIFT Enrichment would be a place where I would thrive. Even though I’m based in Ukraine, I can help solve a client’s problem at any moment.
I remember one challenging moment in February with Palm Springs USD.
Two of our chef teachers suddenly quit on the same day, the morning before their workshops were going to start. We only had a few classes left to end the Winter session and I was frustrated since we didn’t have enough time to hire and train new chef teachers…and I didn’t want to cancel any workshops.
I called the director, Amber, with my idea.
“What if we do the workshops on zoom?” I said. ‘I’ll ship you the culinary supplies and use Instacart to get you the groceries, and our virtual live chef teacher will lead the class.”
Amber agreed. Immediately, I went on to Amazon and shipped everything and offered the job to our favorite virtual chef teacher in Idaho that same day.
After the workshop, Amber called me and said, “Slava, thank you for organizing all of this. The kids were happy that we didn’t have to cancel the class. You are amazing!”
Here’s a picture of thank you notes received from another Chef Teacher:
I felt so happy and fulfilled that I was able to pull it off and make the workshops happen no matter what.
We grew a lot last year, and one challenge was not having enough Recruiters for new clients we had just signed.
In May, we were preparing for the summer sessions and I didn’t expect any new sales coming in because we were already so busy. One day, Eric suddenly called me and said, “I have a question. We have a new client and they are about to sign 16 sites in a new area. Do you think we’ll be able to staff them soon…like in 3 weeks?”
I said yes, knowing full well it would be hard.
For the next three weeks, I had everyone on the phone recruiting chef teachers. Every administrative assistant, onboarder and recruiter were calling and hiring new staff. I called prospects for 6 hours every day until my voice gave out. Fortunately, all that work paid off and we staffed the client with amazing chef teachers, and even had a few backups!
Now we have a team of 3 Recruiters and 3 Onboarders plus middle managers to ensure we are ready to go when we get a new client. We even just had a Christmas party when we all hopped on Zoom dressed in Christmas costumes and shared our expectations and wishes for the next year. It was heartwarming to see how close the team is, and then we all took turns thanking each other. I was genuinely happy and thrilled to hear that the staff feels very connected and motivated by their managers, and I want to continue making this experience even better for all of us.
Even though I manage a sizable internal team, I like to hear from the chef teachers.
I was on the phone with one of them, Daniel, a few months ago. We were preparing schedules for his upcoming session at Val Verde USD.
He said, “Slava, I am the luckiest person to have a job that I actually love and that makes me happy. I am really grateful to you for this opportunity.”
My dream is to provide this opportunity to as many chef teachers as we possibly can.
The Road Ahead: 2024
This year I hope to expand my skills in the workplace and do some fun personal things as well.
I’d like to start a side business and see if I can plant my own business seed and have it grow.
I love the feeling of discovering new places, cultures, and people all around the world. This year, I want to travel to a new country for 1-2 months, probably in South America. I’d like to step out of my comfort zone and learn more about myself. Last year I got to visit Mexico and Spain for some fun travels.
Living in Kyiv, Ukraine this year has been fairly mellow. It’s cold in the winter time, but people go on with their daily lives, have fun, dine out at restaurants, and celebrate holidays. I like that it’s a great blend of a Central European atmosphere and an Eastern European flavor. It is also a very walkable city. Fortunately, my parents are close by, plus my friends and partner are all safe and healthy. Also, I just got a puppy, and he’s adorable. He keeps me great company while working from home.
2023 was fantastic, but I’m determined to make 2024 even better! Reach out to me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org
And if you’d like to book a workshop with us, book a call with our team here