Fedia Kourbatov

Founder of Baba Bags

Fedia Kourbatov was born and raised in Chicago, IL. He went to Lincoln Park HS in the city. Growing up Fedia spent most of his free time playing sports and being involved in the Ukrainian community. Once it was time to go to college he decided to go to The University of Oklahoma. He studied Finance and minored in Management Information Systems. But it was at OU where his curiosity for entrepreneurship began. After his roommate introduced him to the podcast “How I Built This” (a podcast about how the founders of some of the worlds most influential companies built their businesses) his interest in starting a business began to grow. Hearing how ordinary people could build such influential businesses he was inspired by these stories that he could also build an impactful business. He just needed an idea.

The summer of his junior year that idea came to him after a conversation he had with his mother about a reusable bag his grandmother had brought from Ukraine to give to his family. When he got back to school, he applied idea to the “Sooner Innovation Fund”. The fund saw potential in his vision and funded his initial market research while also giving him valuable mentorship. After completing the program his market research gave him enough positive feedback to take the leap in starting the business! Baba Bags was launched on May 1, 2019 and is now a year and a half old. Fedia graduated from the University of Oklahoma in Spring 2020.

Where did the idea for Baba Bags come from?

Baba means grandma in Ukrainian. I got the inspiration for Baba Bags from a bag my Ukrainian grandma brought from Ukraine and gave to my family. I quickly fell in love with the bag because it was compact, held so many groceries, and often my mom would come home from the store with a big smile on her face telling me how she would get a compliment on the bag. After talking to my mother after one of her grocery trips I had a light bulb moment that I needed to share this bag with the world. I saw this bag as a great opportunity to eliminate single-use plastic bag usage. Right around that time, I was starting to educate myself about our earth and how it needs our help. I had diagnosed that climate change would be the biggest challenge our generation would face and was thinking about how I could help. When this light bulb moment came, I was very excited. Not only was my idea centered around helping our planet but I was going to be able to share my Ukrainian heritage in the process!

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Every Sunday evening, I make a checklist of things I need to get done for Baba Bags and in my personal life. I then designate a day of the week I plan to do certain tasks on the checklist. Currently, most of my time with Baba Bags is split into 3 categories: Sales & Finding New Leads, Social Media, and R&D (Improving our bags)

How do you bring ideas to life?

Once you get an idea execution can seem overwhelming. I like to map out my ideas and break them down into small actionable steps. This makes the whole process less daunting and creates a great plan of attack.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Eco-friendly products and renewable energy. Our society is becoming more environmentally conscious and understanding that the way we have been doing things is not sustainable. I truly think that the renewable energy industry is going to boom in the next 10 years and give traditional oil & gas companies a run for their money if they do not change their ways.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Taking lots of calculated risks. Risks make everyone uncomfortable but you need to take them. Trusting my gut & my research/preparation has allowed me to take calculated risks that have paid off and allowed me to achieve my goals quicker than expected.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Never feel ashamed to ask a question and always stay curious. You never know where the inspiration for your next idea will come from!

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Most people don’t start their business because they don’t have a good idea, don’t have money to start or resources, etc.
They don’t start because they care too much about what their friends & family will think of their business and afraid of the judgment they will face if they fail.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Continuous learning. I do this by reading non-fiction business books and listen to business podcasts. Books and podcasts give me new ideas for growing my business and help me solve unique business problems.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Word of mouth is so important for a business. To increase word of mouth I created a “Baba Bag Appreciation Scratch Off” that comes with every bag. The concept of the scratch-off is that a Baba Bag customer gives the scratch-off to someone they appreciate(since often we forget to show our appreciation to others) and that scratch-off recipient can win 10% to 100% off of their first Baba Bag purchases. This has increased our word of mouth business. Think of ways you can encourage your customers to talk about your brand to others!

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

A large portion of our business is selling our bags at Farmers Markets. There have been a few times where I go to a brand new market and sell 0 or 1 bags. This can be very discouraging. When something like this happens, you need to remind yourself that failure is part of the process as an entrepreneur and to learn and reflect on your failure. Why do you think you failed? What did you learn? What can you change so that this does not happen again?

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

The best business ideas come from a problem you have that by no coincidence many others may also have. One problem I always have is I feel like I never get a good haircut. My barbers never have the same vision as I do. What if there was an application that scanned your whole head, and you could try on different hairstyles on a very realistic virtual version of yourself. That way you could show the barber exactly what you want and it could give the barbers notes on how to get your hair to look like it does on the app.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Getting press is very important for a business. One of the best 99 dollars I ever spent was a course called “Master The Media” by Peter Shankman. I found this course very valuable. It was easy to follow and gave me a lot of great tips on how to get more press for Baba Bags that have already paid off. Link: https://www.shankminds.com/master-the-media/

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

HelpAReporterOut.com is a very valuable resource in getting press for Baba Bags. HARO connects journalists and bloggers with relevant expert sources to meet journalists’ demanding deadlines and enable brands to tell their stories. Every business needs to create a free HARO account!

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I would instead recommend a podcast that has been the most influential to me as an entrepreneur. This podcast is “How I Built This” by Guy Raz. This podcast interviews the founders of some of the world’s most successful companies such as Starbucks, Spanx, Lyft, Lululemon, etc. Hearing how others built these very successful businesses is great for inspiration and idea generation.

What is your favorite quote?

“Macro Patience, Micro Speed” – Gary Vaynerchuk
In the macro (big picture) stay patient. There is no such thing as an “overnight success”. Becoming successful takes time!! In the micro (day to day) be productive and work your tail off!

Key Learnings:

  • Take Calculated Risks. It will take you where you want to be faster.
  • As an entrepreneur pursue your dream (don’t worry what others say or think), never stop learning and work hard every day!
  • Eco-friendly products and reusable energy are the way of the future.