Sausages lead to success for expat entrepreneur

In the past decade Russia has seen a wave of ambitious foreigners willing to build their career in the country where those prepared to take a risk can find fame and fortune.

John Warren is one of the type. He came to Russia at the age of 22 in early 1991 and has lived here ever since. Like many who've been in business over that period, he won and lost a fortune before starting all over again.

“Nothing here is impossible and it takes a bit of energy, a bit of effort. When you sort of feel the wind – it is a big time in Russia. There were times when it was bureaucratic but it is bureaucratic in England too, bureaucratic in France. So I do not necessarily think it is that much more difficult to set up here. What I do think is difficult is that if you are a foreigner and you do not speak the language, then it just seems that bureaucracy is ten times more difficult,” explained John Warren, entrepreneur.

He managed to become one of the leading exporters of sunflower seeds from South Russia's Rostov city.

But after 7 years, his business failed in the financial crisis of 1998 and he moved back to Moscow.

“The conditions for Russian and foreign entrepreneurs to set up their own small business in the country are the same. Still only a small number of expatriates have a business. The challenges for them are a lack of communication skills in the Russian language and awareness of the market,” commented Tatyana Ponomareva, a project co-ordinator Russia, IFC, Moscow.

In John Warren's own words the idea of selling sausages came out of the blue. It all started with him cooking sausages at home for friends, within three years he realized that making sausages could make money.

Sausages are a traditional part of the English breakfast along with beans and scrambled eggs.

Sausages on butchers counter, Britain.
Sausages on butchers counter, Britain.
“Sausages more than fish and chips are a national dish, definitely. Fish and chips are something that is a bit more exotic than sausages to the outside world, which is why fish and chips in Britain are sort of going hand-in-hand. But far more sausages are eaten by the Brits than fish and chips,” explained John Warren.

With the growing demand for sausages his own business started to expand far beyond satisfying the appetites of British expats. Now he produces 26 types of sausages, each one with a unique recipe, using different kinds of spices.

Warren's sausages are currently delivered to a number of embassies and supermarkets chains in Moscow.

“Any business idea gets to the stage where it only becomes a good business idea if you can expand it further,” added John Warren.