Freeze N Dried

Calgary Startup a Sweet Opportunity for Some Ukrainian Evacuees

Paula Duhatschek | CBC News | Posted: Thursday, August 24th, 2023 5:00 AM | Last Updated: August 24th

Freeze N Dried started by 24-year-old Ukrainian immigrant entrepreneur

Image | Freeze N Dried

Caption: Sixteen-year-old Ostap Khudych (left) is working at Calgary's Freeze N Dried, a local startup selling freeze-dried candy and fruit. The business was co-founded earlier this year by Viktor Pavlyshyn (right). (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

Like many Calgary teenagers, 16-year-old Ostap Khudych is working a summer job this year.
Unlike a lot of those teenagers, he's not babysitting, mowing lawns or scooping ice cream.
Instead, Khudych is in on the ground floor of Freeze N Dried, a local startup selling freeze-dried candy and fruit.
The business was co-founded earlier this year by Viktor Pavlyshyn, 24, who moved to Canada from Ukraine as a pre-teen.
When it came time to hire, he tapped into his Ukrainian network and says four out of his six staff, including Khudych, have newly arrived within about the last 15 months.
"It is [a] really cool environment," said Pavlyshyn. "Because I'm Ukrainian, I know the language really well and [can] help them to have their culture in the company."
Pavlyshyn, a former financial analyst, founded his first business last year — a dog treat company called Major Zoo.
His second venture, Freeze N Dried, was born after Pavlyshyn started exploring the possibility of freeze-drying dog treats, and decided to make freeze-dried treats for humans instead.
The two businesses are separate entities, though many staff work for both ventures.
Pavlyshyn hopes working at his company will help his young staff learn English and be exposed to different career paths.
For Khudych, who helps with packaging and design work, the gig has meant an opportunity to make new friends and to earn some pocket money.
Some of it has been spent on regular teenage purchases (a guitar, for instance) and some of it is being sent home to his parents, who are still living in Ukraine.
"I'm feeling so glad [that]…I can support my family," said Khudych, who is living with relatives in Calgary.
According to the Ukrainian Canadian Congress-Alberta Provincial Council, it's believed that there are around 40,000 evacuees in this province.
While this workforce has arrived with a diverse skill set, the group says learning English is a major barrier and that it can take up to six months for a spot in an ESL class.
Khudych says the daily reading and writing he does through his job has helped him sharpen his own English skills and allowed him to better communicate with his friends.
As he enters Grade 12, he said it's been a confidence boost as he looks toward the future.
"I want to finish university and then go to medical school to become a doctor," he said.

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