UNICEF grant boosts Ukrainian teen’s technology dream

What began as a dream for Artem has now grown into a small business, thanks to a project supported by UNICEF and European Union

Yulia Silina, Kate Bond
25 February 2020

Artem Zinchenko whizzes through a park in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on an electric skateboard. Nearby, a group of teenagers gaze in awe and wonder where he bought it.

“You can order one from the US or buy it from an expensive store,” Artem, 21, tells them as he passes. “Or I can assemble it by myself at home. It will only take me one day.”

What began as a dream for Artem has now grown into a small business, thanks to a project supported by UNICEF and European Union (EU). A small grant means Artem can assemble electric skateboards not only for himself, his family members and close friends, but also for sale.

“This is something new for the Ukrainian market,” says Artem, proudly.


Something that brings you joy

Artem started dreaming about owning an electric skateboard more than a year ago. But his student stipend was too small to afford buying one.

“Our stores only sold Chinese skates, but their quality left much to be desired,” he says. “I started thinking of how to buy it in the US and have it delivered to Ukraine. But I understood that I would need to pay excise duties and VAT in addition to its price – over USD 1,000 in total.”

That was when Artem decided that it would be cheaper to build a skateboard by himself.

“It took me the whole year to figure out and pick all the details,” he says, adding that to his mind, a perfect electric skateboard has to meet three requirements.

“It has to be reliable, fast and cheap,” Artem explains, ticking off his fingers.

For his first skateboard, Artem had to wait months to receive the accessories he had ordered on the internet. While he was waiting, he learned how to make the battery casing.

“The hardest thing to do is make a plastic case. It costs USD 150 if you buy it, but I learned how to model plastic cases at a factory, and its only costs me UAH 150 – 25 times less expensive.”

After making his first skateboard, Artem tested it in parks. He made notes on how to improve its design and increase the speed.


Not only about entertainment

Before long, Artem was desperate to share his joy with others.

“First, I thought it would be just fun. But then it became boring for me to ride alone, and I engaged my friends into it.”

Artem and his friends soon realized that there was a demand for electric skateboards. He already had the knowledge and a team of helpers – he just needed the money to make them.

So when Artem learned about UNICEF’s UPSHIFT project at university, he immediately applied for a small grant.

“I admire that my skateboards help people to develop a love for technology”

“This competition gives young people an opportunity to fulfil themselves and find money for their ideas,” he says. “I didn’t believe they would really give me that amount. But they awarded me UAH 100,000. And that was enough for everything. I assembled four skateboards for sale, and I still have some money left for their repair and promotion.”

Artem is now selling electric skateboards at below-market value, in an effort to attract customers.

“Producing skateboards is more fun than riding them. There is millions of options – different engines, different wheels, boards, batteries, controllers and control panels. You can take big wheels and ride over hedges and ditches.”

He also provides free maintenance, stating that this is not just a job but a passion.

In the future, he plans to assemble drones for aerial photography and electric motorcycles.

“I admire that my skateboards help people to develop a love for technology,” says the young entrepreneur. “Not everyone can assemble a car. But you can use your own hands to assemble a vehicle that will carry you at the speed of 40 to 60 kilometers per hour.”

“When you ride, it’s like a huge adrenaline rush. You feel the wind and it really brings you joy.”