SPOTLIGHT: Irina Solovianenko Transforms Male Dominated Industries
Access Machinery Inc. is a Canadian Importer, Distributor and Service provider for metal fabrication equipment partnering with global leaders in sheet metal fabrication – Durmazlar Turkey. Providing innovative technologies, high quality equipment and exceptional customer service are their guiding principles The result to customers is cost effectiveness and productivity efficiencies including reduced labour requirements… key concerns for all manufacturers.
Equipment distributed by Access Machinery Inc. is energy efficient and requires minimal servicing. Access Machinery delivers capital assets at prices that break down barriers for manufacturers starting a new plant and for existing companies modernizing their obsolete technologies. In doing so, it gains customers for life, servicing and replacing functional parts and modules for its equipment, providing reliable consumables.
Access Machinery is headquartered in Vaughan, ON. They have a sales office in Quebec and plan to open a showroom in Quebec September 2020.
WBE Canada President Silvia Pencak sat down with Irina Solovianenko, Managing Partner at Access Machinery Inc. to learn more about her and her business.
Silvia: Tell us more about you – what was your journey before you started your business?
Irina: I am a Civil Aviation graduate of National Aviation University in Kiev, Ukraine. I did not work as an engineer, but I did have the opportunity to work with different technology brands in the industry. My space was and still is very male dominated with 99.99% male representation. Even though I was a great salesperson, any career progress for a woman would take 3x longer and I would have to constantly prove my professionalism over and over. Which has resulted in my goal for perfection in all I do. Everything has its meaning. Challenges are meant to make you grow. The rest is your vision, discipline and dedication.
Silvia: How did Access Machinery start?
Irina: I started Access Machinery in 2016. The beginning was very tough. In spite of being a highly skilled salesperson I wasn’t able to sell a single product in my first year in business. It discouraged me a lot, but surprisingly I kept going. I would wake up at 5am, leave a warm breakfast for my family and hit the road by 6am – the majority of plants/shops start about this time and this is the best time to meet with a plant manager or shop supervisor before they dive into daily routine of manufacturing.
I quickly learned that the Canadian market was monopolized by brands that have dominated the industry for decades, mainly German or Japanese. My biggest challenge was to gain customers’ confidence by presenting brands imported from Turkey. While having significant advantage on the price/quality ration, faster ROI and easier equipment servicing, it took tremendous effort to establish customers’ trust and to overcome their doubts and objections.
Silvia: Where are you today and what’s next for Access Machinery?
Irina: After three years of hard work we succeeded in opening our own showroom in Vaughan, ON in June 2019. Later in 2020 we are planning to open a showroom in Montreal, QC and in April, 2021 it will be Richmond, BC. We are very dedicated to having a positive impact on Canadian Manufacturing. Our equipment solutions are evolving, our service is becoming unparalleled. We watch our customers becoming more successful. We aim to become a leading machinery provider in Canada.
Silvia: Who is your best customer?
Irina: We are a supplier to manufacturers. Whether it’s construction, automotive, aerospace, pharma, we work as Tier 1 or Tier 2 supplier. We also work with smaller companies with $10-150 mil. revenues wanting to have control over their manufacturing and build their own facilities.
Silvia: I want to go back to your industry being heavily male-dominated. We work with a lot of women entrepreneurs who are in the same boat as you. How do you not just survive, but make a way as a woman in such a space?
Irina: You are right, I actually was and still am the only woman in Canada owning a machinery dealership of this scale. As a woman, I receive more questions and have more pressure to prove the value of the equipment we are bringing in. I decided to look at being a woman as an advantage instead of a disadvantage and use my strengths. The traditional approach in the industry is to push equipment on customers. I, along with my team, decided to take a different approach. We take time to understand the customer and their expectations from the equipment. Which machine will generate higher profits, when is the right time to upgrade existing equipment, is now the time to consider owning their equipment or continue outsourcing. We conduct complex studies and take the position of rational advising rather than blind selling. We talk to multiple stakeholders to understand their needs and business before offering any equipment. This creates wonderful customer experiences. Our clients choose us because we provide exceptional customer service.
Silvia: What advice would you give to other women business owners out there who are trying to break through the barriers of biases and mistrust in their day-to-day work?
Irina: I’d like to share with them my favourite quote: “The temptation to quit will be greatest just before you are about to succeed.” it’s a Chinese proverb. Do not give up, victory can be around the corner. It is important to remember that success doesn’t come overnight. Don’t be afraid of hard work. If you do what you can, the rest will fall in place. Also, have a mentor. You will move faster with less mistakes. I wish I had done that early when I started my business so I want to make sure I share this with those just starting up. One more thing – keep in mind that you can’t always win. If you win 3 times out of 5, be happy, analyze where those 2 went and why. Don’t be hard on yourself.
Silvia: What is your key to success?
Irina: Customer service always comes first. At Access Machinery we treat our customers with respect and they like us and refer us to others.
Silvia: Let’s switch gears. You are a successful business owner, but you are also a mom. How do you balance your personal and professional lives?
Irina: I am a mom of 3 wonderful children. They truly are my biggest inspiration, teaching me lessons I can implement in my life and business. As a mom I’m constantly improving my communication, negotiating skills, change management and much more. They make me a better person and a business operator. I am grateful for my parents who live close to me and are there to support me when I can’t – helping me with my children. I have some rules that I am trying to follow, for example – I don’t do business dinners. Dinners are reserved for my kids. Small detail, but it means a lot to keep my balance between business and personal life.
Silvia: It was such a pleasure talking to you Irina. Any final thoughts you’d like to share with our community?
Irina: Life is beautiful. There will always be ups and downs. Just remember to enjoy the journey.
Silvia: Thank you for your time Irina. I wish you lots of success on your journey. I will personally be looking forward to seeing where you will take your business in the future. All the best!
Irina: Thank you Silvia. I appreciate WBE Canada and the difference you are making for myself and other Canadian women-owned businesses.
About WBE Canada
WBE Canada is a Canadian non-profit organization that is opening doors for women-owned businesses to supply chains across North America. It certifies Canadian firms that are at least 51% owned, managed and controlled by women and introduces them to opportunities with corporations. To learn more about how we support women-owned businesses, click here. If you are a mid-size or large company looking to support women-owned businesses through procurement opportunities, we want to hear from you. Click here to learn more how you can get involved.