Eastern Michigan University
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Aleksandra Efimova's Journey from EMU to Successful Entrepreneur

Published April 26, 2016

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Eastern Michigan University College of Business students have only to look at Aleksandra Efimova to see the potential their education holds.  

Twenty-one years ago, Efimova was a college freshman in Eastern’s international business and marketing program dedicated to pursuing her education as an important element toward her long-term vision for a fulfilling career. Today, she is the founder and CEO of Russian Pointe, a thriving Chicago-based manufacturer and seller of elegant dance supplies and educational materials designed to inspire dancers to lead extraordinary lives.

Efimova, who was the keynote speaker for the COB’s 2016 Business of the Year Award Luncheon on March 18, credits Eastern with providing a framework for her success.

“I had an idea to launch a start-up business as a student, but one of my entrepreneurship classes provided the practical framework for that idea by requiring students to develop an in-depth business plan. Through the plan, I was able to think more thoroughly about such essentials as financing and marketing,” says Efimova.

Eastern also provided critical moments of inspiration, she adds. “I can still recall an entrepreneurship conference that my class attended. A fellow attendee who had researched statistics on entrepreneurs told me that only a small percentage of start-up businesses still operate after their fifth year, and that most likely, only a handful of the students in attendance would be successful.

“It was a defining moment for me. I told myself that my business was going to be one of the successful ones,” says Efimova, who went on to graduate from the Harvard Business School’s Owner/Management Program for executives in 2010.

Ironically, operating a business was one of the last things on her mind as a young adult. Efimova, who was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, graduated from the Art School of the Hermitage State Art Museum, where she was trained in visual art. She also took dance lessons. The budding artist immigrated to the United States with her mother and sister in 1993. The family resided in Ann Arbor for 12 years. Efimova moved to Chicago in 2005.

“When I moved to America, I could barely speak English. Originally, I envisioned a career in the arts,” she says. But a high school business class intrigued her, and Eastern’s international business and marketing program drew her in, she says.

“I didn’t think of applying anywhere else. I knew Eastern was the university for me,” says Efimova, who balanced her studies with her passion of competing in ballroom dancing nationally. Ultimately, she decided to reflect the best of both worlds—the arts and business—in a business plan that involved importing and marketing pointe shoes from Moscow.

“I knew some people in Russia who manufactured shoes for dancers in Russia, and I came up with the idea to import them to the U.S. I used a $1,200 student aid check to register my business, buy a fax machine, order business cards and purchase inventory,” she recalls.

She couldn’t afford an attorney or accountant, so she registered her own company, Russian Pointe, for $95. By the time she completed her classes at Eastern, she already employed staff, had a network of clients and had established a revenue stream.

Her dedication paid off. While Russian Pointe began as an importer and marketer of pointe shoes from Moscow, today the worldwide seller of dance supplies and educational materials has established itself as a premium brand. Merchandise includes apparel and accessories for all types of dance, from ballet to jazz, as well as resources that introduce children to dance, theater and music performance. A new line of products reflecting ballroom dancing will soon be included. The multi-million dollar business employs 20 fulltime, but expects to expand to 30 this year after planned distribution center expansions, says Efimova.

In addition to her career, Efimova is dedicated to public service, especially in the areas of Russian-American relations and culture, performing arts, business development and education. She serves as vice president and head of the Midwest Region for the U.S.-Russia Chamber of Commerce and chair of the Moscow Committee of the Chicago Sister Cities program.

In her spare time, she enjoys traveling to exotic locations for adventure sports, including white water rafting in Chile; cycling in Tuscany, Italy; and hiking the glaciers in Alaska.

Efimova considers her COB keynote presentation as one of her career highlights, she says. “I so enjoyed interacting with the students and seeing their enthusiasm. I’m grateful for a chance to pass the inspiration that I received from EMU on to them.” 

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