British Jane Crawford is fond of traveling, and she wanted a pin board to mark places she’d been to. Now she has one – Crawford ordered a big cork wall map from a Ukrainian company.
“We did think about it for several months, as it wasn’t cheap,” Crawford told the Kyiv Post. “But the map is stunning, it’s really worth the money.”
Crawford is one of about 1,700 customers who have bought maps by Enjoy the Wood. Although the company started producing wooden maps back in 2016, it only became internationally known almost two years later, after a successful Kickstarter campaign, says the company’s co-founder Igor Fostenko.
Starting their campaign on the U.S.-based crowdfunding platform in early 2018, Fostenko and his business-partner and wife Maryna planned to raise $15,000 and get some publicity. However, eventually they raised over $100,000 from 655 backers, and earned some publicity too.
Fostenko says there wasn’t any secret behind the success – just an interesting idea with interesting presentation, a high quality product and support from a huge circle of good friends.
“We were just in the right place at the right time,” he says.
Fostenko and his wife started Enjoy the Wood in 2014, after the EuroMaidan Revolution ousted President Viktor Yanukovych on Feb. 22, 2014. More than 100 people were killed as the Yanukovych regime attempted to put down the protests.
“2014 was a tough year for Ukraine. The country expected some changes and I decided to change my life as well. I started to do woodworking,” Fostenko says.
The idea came to them after they found out about the latest laser machines for working wood.
“I always knew that wood products were promising,” Fostenko says, adding that he has always loved wood, as it’s a natural material.
Initially, the company produced custom engravings, mostly cutting out Biblical quotes on wooden boards as interior décor.
For Fostenko, it was a symbolical beginning of the business path.
“Religion changed my life,” he says.
Fostenko’s father left the family when he was 3, and his mother died when he was 11. The boy moved in with his father for a while, but they couldn’t agree on anything, so he ran away, and was taken to an orphanage. Fostenko soon ran away from that as well, and lived on the streets of Kyiv for several years. When he was 15, he met a Christian, who became his friend, invited Fostenko to live with him, and introduced him to a church.
Since then, Fostenko has graduated from a vocational school and a seminary, got married, made peace with his father, and even hired him.
About a year after starting Enjoy the Wood, Fostenko and Maryna decided to expand their range of products.
The first new products made by Enjoy the Wood were beard combs, which soon became popular in the United States. Fostenko’s company also manufactures wooden accessories, sunglasses, watches, cutting boards and rolling pins.
At some point, Fostenko came up with another idea.
“We had an empty wall in our new office and I could not decide what to hang there until I was searching for something on the Google Maps. That is how I came up with the idea of making a modular wooden wall map of the world,” he says.
The company started producing the maps in 2016, but sold only about 200 of them over a year. But the situation changed completely after the successful Kickstarter campaign.
“I’ve been following this project for years, and eventually decided to try it myself. I regarded it more as a PR platform, hoping that more people would find out about us. In addition, Kickstarter is a great chance to assess the company’s capabilities,” Fostenko says.
Although initially it was a small family business, now the company has over 20 employees, and recently Enjoy the Wood entered Ukrainian market.
Fostenko says they never wanted to make cheap products and have always focused on quality not quantity, so they didn’t think that Ukrainians would be ready to pay
the prices his company charges for its goods.
However, the situation seems to be changing in their favor, with more and more local customers interested in Enjoy the Wood.
Vladimir Naydyuk, the founder and headmaster of the British Study Centers Ukraine language school, bought the wooden map for his students, and is happy with the
“We did not consider buying any other map, as the wood material is natural, and it definitely livens up our office. Moreover, it’s useful for marking the places where our students go,” he says.
Check out our Kickstarter video