20 Feb 2023
Stoli Group: 2022 – A Year of Challenges and Bold Changes
At the end of February 2022, as, indeed, now, the eyes of the whole world were riveted to Ukraine. These events served as a trigger for changing the image of the famous vodka brand from the Stoli Group portfolio.
Damien McKinney took over as head of the Stoli Group in October 2020, when the covid epidemic that brought down the entire global economy was gradually declining. Stolichnaya vodka has been produced in Latvia for many years, and the Founder of the company, Yuri Shefler, is among the long-standing and staunch opponents of the existing government in Russia – all these details were hardly known to those who called for a mass boycott of the “originally Russian product” – vodka.
Therefore, McKinney’s first priority was to convey the truth to people, to clarify the company’s position, to rigidly formulate its attitude to what was happening. In a matter of days, a program was developed that allowed not only to reshape the global business, but also to help real people who found themselves in the most difficult moral and psychological situation.
Stoli Group management contacted the international organization World Central Kitchen (WCK), which specializes in the distribution of free hot food to refugees and repatriates. Since March 2022, WCK, with the active and continuous support of the Stoli Group, has provided hot meals to thousands of people forced to flee the war zone. To support this initiative, a limited edition bottle was launched, aged in the colors of the national Ukrainian flag. All proceeds from the sale of the limited edition went to support the WCK.
Ukrainian business partners of Stoli Group – Guala Closures Technologia and Technologias, also Ukrainian distributor Vinfort were not forgotten either. Despite all the difficulties of wartime, cooperation with them did not stop for a single day. And yet the main thing was the people. It was not only about themselves, but also about their families, visa support, housing, work, moral and physical condition…
Yuri Shefler, the Founder of the Stoli Group, considered this task a top priority. To save means to act! Not a single person should feel abandoned, abandoned, forgotten. This was Shefler’s first order. According to the Ukrainians themselves, when they arrived in Riga, they were greeted with ready-made apartments and refrigerators with food for the first days. Everything possible was done to facilitate the entry into a new life and new circumstances. The company took upon itself the solution of visa and legal problems, which require a lot of time and organizational efforts. It was possible to quickly resolve issues about schools for children and about work for other family members.
Most of those who were forced to leave their homeland are now in Latvia or Cyprus. People immediately joined the work process. And this, according to the Regional Marketing Manager from Kyiv, Kateryna Kyrychenko, was a real salvation for them. “I flew to Cyprus with my son for literally three weeks to see how events would develop. But in reality, it turned out that we have been here for a year. All my family stayed in Kyiv. And the only way not to go crazy with anxiety and worry for them was to work. I am eternally grateful to Stoli, who gave me and many of my colleagues the rare opportunity to maintain this balance between war and work, between war and life, which would otherwise be impossible. Sometimes I think that I myself do too little for my compatriots who remained in Ukraine. But, on the other hand, each of us should work where he can be most useful and successful. My area is marketing. This is my territory, which I defend, for which I am ready to fight. The difficult experience of this year taught me that one should not be ashamed to turn to other people for help, one should not close oneself in one’s anxieties and sorrows. By becoming more open, you yourself will be able to help those who need it more.”
Stoli Group has always prioritized the human factor. “We are members of the same team, we are a family,” its employees like to repeat.
“2022 has been a test year for the Stoli Group,” says Damien McKinney. Will we be able to survive in a situation of severe stress, will we cope with all the trials that we face? According to McKinney, the company’s main goal for the coming years is to develop a portfolio of ultra premium spirits and wines that will take the company to a whole new level.
The company’s success is not numbers, but people. It is they who provide all these long-term plans and ambitious goals with their enthusiasm, energy, desire.
“We remain true to those humane values that have always professed and our motto: “Liberate Your Spirit,” McKinney says. Stoli Group chooses the side of light, peace and justice without hesitation. And this is the key to her success.