I was born in Moscow. My childhood passed in the area of Maryina Roshcha. The main person then for me was my grandfather: he raised me and taught me a lot, laid down the fundamental concepts. And about men’s actions too.
As a child, I played a lot of sports. I still love football. And there were wrestling and boxing, athletics, rock climbing and many other things. He was fond of hiking. Previously, for example, we traveled through the Caucasus in seven to nine days. And today, the same route can be covered in two or three days, or by bicycle it can be overcome in one light day. The infrastructure has developed in such a way that it is unrecognizable. Everyone is going to repeat our routes. Interesting. Now I’m fond of snowboarding – it’s a good rest for me, just a buzz.
I am a lawyer by profession, first I graduated from the Moscow College of Law, then the Institute of Statistics and Informatics. It was 2002. He studied and simultaneously worked as a legal adviser at the Small Business Support Fund, a subsidiary of the Ministry of Antimonopoly Policy. It was very interesting, we actively interacted both within the fund and with other organizations. Great practice. And since 2005, he began to do business: he wanted his own business and economic freedom. At that moment, my friend called me to the sales department of a fish and seafood supply and distribution company. This firm also had exclusive contracts. For example, selling wild salmon from Guinea. In the early 2000s, demand was very high. The business developed rapidly. Companies were happy to buy everything rare and special. We mainly cooperated with restaurants. And the restaurant business is quite attractive: you communicate with chefs, authors of concepts, owners. The people are very interesting.
Later, I myself launched several restaurant projects. Some did not end with anything, some were reformatted, shares in the business were sold. Public catering in Moscow, according to my observations, lives for about three or four years, sometimes more. Restaurants that are now 20 years old can be counted on the fingers.
After gaining experience, in 2009 I decided to start my own fish and seafood distribution company called Nautilus Fish Trading Company. Over time, the company has become quite famous, we work with all the best restaurants in Russia. We have large branches in Sochi, Krasnodar, Kazan, Samara, Tyumen, Novosibirsk. We work with Krasnoyarsk directly from Moscow. We deliver fresh fish by air. We cooperate with almost all million-plus cities. We import fish and seafood from Japan, Morocco, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Turkey, the Faroe Islands and even New Zealand. We buy a lot of seafood on the domestic market – from the regions of the Barents and Black Seas, from the Far East. In total, there are about 150 items of fish, seafood, crustaceans, mussels, oysters, shells in the assortment.
Today, the undisputed leaders of imported fish are chilled sea bass, sea bream and salmon. And also tuna. In general, professionals believe that in the future people will eat only two types of fish: tuna and salmon, and mostly artificially grown. Now we are importing a lot of tuna, and quite large fish weighing around 60-70 kg from Sri Lanka. Gave the tuna a big move. Strongly promoted in the market.
Of our domestic breeds, fish from the North, brought from Murmansk, from the Barents Sea region, are now in the lead in sales. These are halibut, cod, catfish, haddock, saury – wild and tasty fish of good quality. In the Far East, the fishing season is strictly limited by natural conditions. Salmon, black cod, crab, caviar, seafood are great. Through us, including large manufacturing companies, promote their products. For example, you can see Moreodor’s Argentine shrimp in every store. This is our merit. The product quality is very good.
Later, we came up with and created the Fish Place community. It brought together both professionals and amateurs, everyone who loves seafood, fish, raw foodists, who understands fish, knows how to cook it, can share information about it on social networks.
But not everything goes smoothly, of course.
The first crisis that I felt for myself and in my business was the 2010 mortgage lending crisis. Then the purchasing power dropped sharply. And then, in 2014, a period of counter-sanctions began on the supply of meat and fish processing products from the EU countries, Canada and the United States. The company supplied many products from there, including the most delicious fish from Greece, France, and Spain. All this had to be put on hold. And that’s when I lost everything. At that time, I, a 30-year-old guy, owed huge amounts to suppliers, it was urgent to look for new partners, organize deliveries from other countries. And it was also necessary to save the team, for this we had to integrate into a larger company and fulfill their orders for the delivery of cheaper fish, while simultaneously working on our own, new, imports from other countries. That’s when we connected Indonesia, Morocco, Japan, New Zealand. Managed. We were able to make deliveries of high quality and on time. This is how we got out of the crisis, repaid all our debts, saved the team, and today the business lives on. Thanks to this experience, we go through all the following crises, one might say, with a smile.
The pandemic has hardened us. At this time, we restructured our business, organized work in shifts, revised the price list, and began to supply large quantities to private buyers. In general, we survived that year with dignity.
I am fully responsible for the business. And it often happens: first I bring everything home, then, roughly speaking, I take everything out of the house. I am not a spender in my life, so I was able to save money and spend it wisely. Often I hold money and put it into action. The family is sympathetic to this.
Today I am 39 years old, my wife works with me, we have two charming daughters, dogs. I work a lot, but we always go on vacation together. I began to go on a full-fledged vacation from 2016, already when we recovered from the crisis. When I travel or run around Moscow, I am always in touch: I take both my laptop and my phone with me.
I know Moscow well. I often prefer public transport to a car. I use car sharing, and I can ride a scooter. I drive without a navigator. I perfectly understand how public transport has changed. For example, if I need to travel from Kitai-Gorod to Mitino, I will gladly take an electric bus and work on my laptop on the way. Public transport is now one of the fastest ways to get around Moscow. Maybe even faster than a taxi. Fabulous.
I never invest in advertising, I create projects that bring fame to the company. My first open food court was at the Danilovsky market. It was called Fishbazaar. Very successful. Was created in the right place at the right time. He brought a good income and influenced the development of the company as a whole. Or, for example, Oyster & Rawbar – an exit oyster bar. When ordering such a service, the first thing they ask us is where the oysters come from. We answer that the importers themselves are the Nautilus shopping mall. This is advertising. The name will not say anything to someone, but someone will pass the information on to friends who have their own restaurant. This is how word of mouth works.
In December 2021, we held the first Russian oyster festival Nautilus Oysterfest, which brought together oyster lovers and professionals. A championship among oyster openers was held at this festival. In professional slang, a championship of openers. The British call such specialists shucker, the French – ecailler. In June of this year, another such festival was organized, this time in Novorossiysk. South Cup. Actually, we were not going to do the second festival, but there was a request, and we repeated it. In addition, such events contribute to the culture of consumption of oysters. This culture originated in the northwest of Europe. There are many centuries of these traditions in France, Normandy, Brittany. Oysters are the love of all the French people and the business is very controlled there. High culture of consumption of live oysters in Holland, Belgium. But in Japan and South Korea, for example, this is not the case. In Japan, processed oysters are often served: they are blanched, steamed, and soups are made. It’s the same in Korea. And when in 2014 we brought oysters from South Korea, it was difficult to work out a correct and high-quality delivery. Not everyone understands that every oyster from anywhere in the world is special – with its own water, with a set of its minerals, with its own structure. By and large, it is wrong to keep oysters in aquariums, as some restaurants do. Oysters are served raw, and we do not know what microbiology is in the aquarium. But mussels, crabs, lobsters, crustaceans can be in aquariums, because they are served hot.
The oyster itself is a natural filter of the water that surrounds it. A small oyster filters 40 liters of water through itself per day. Oysters are mostly poisoned not because of protein poisoning, but because there is an infection in the water in which the oyster was located. The infection that the water contained. With global warming, this is now very relevant. For oysters, an increase in water temperature by three degrees per year is already a problem. What is the way out? Breed oysters on farms. And in our country it is also possible. Good ecology for this we have in Primorye. This is perhaps the only place in Russia where you can breed farm oysters.
Today we are the largest oyster growers in Russia, we started doing this business in the pre-sanction period. We honor traditions. For example, who else remembers that oysters should be delivered in beautiful wooden boxes… Now the culture of oyster consumption needs to be developed, this is facilitated by oyster sommeliers, I am one too.
The Oyster&Rawbar project is already eight years old, and the Vkusoteka online store is the same age. The online store is developing well, and maybe in the future we will connect it with a ready-made food delivery service and turn it all into a new service site. There is a desire in the future to make some kind of seafood catering, that is, an exit restaurant with an extended menu of fish and seafood. Why not. Especially since I’m an importer myself. Quite competitive. Then there is a desire to open a restaurant with the delivery of food, finished products. I think I’ll launch it in the next six months. Here are the plans.
I don’t lose interest in all my projects. You just always want to improve your business, create even greater beauty.
Photo: Alexander Lepeshkin