It takes only one thoroughly planned route, and Yulia Bevzenko is changing your perception of Kyiv completely. You're immersing in her world instantly: a short story of Serge Lyfar, your eyes scanning the neo-Gothic House with Chimaeras, and just in a second her smile is reflected in your own. Yulia has special addictions: theater and acting, which laid the foundation of her as an artistic guide and manager of Kyiv. She shows the city through secret yards, e-scooters rides and yachting down the Dnipro. We talked to Yulia about the selectivity, juggling on the balance board and the summer she plans to spend, maneuvering between city tours and sailing.
Is it your first season with ‘Judy’ yacht?
Second one. There were circa 15 walks in September and October last year, because we got really lucky with the weather.
And how did you come up with idea to buy a yacht?
My boyfriend Sasha and I were on a Greek yacht trip for a week. Both of us were quite inspired. He had a dream to buy a yacht and came up solidly to this last year. We decided to share the joy and arranged tours on the Dnipro for our people. For many of them, this was the first experience on a yacht, on the water, especially in Kyiv. We recently transferred to another club, Riviera Riverside. It's considered to be the most beautiful yacht club in Kyiv. We love to show people these breathtaking views. You look at Kyiv and realize that it’s the most amazing city on the planet.
Your union is very harmoniс.
We wanted to do any kind of a project together. It's simple and difficult at the same time, but I would probably never implement such an idea with someone other than Sasha. We do have a full understanding of communication and service: in terms of tact, talking with guests, marketing stuff. It's cool that we don't have to explain to each other why do we need to be on yacht two hours before the trip, rather than 15 minutes before the start; when it is appropriate to take up prosecco and drink it with a guest, and when it's not relevant at all.
I saw you in action during one of Kyivness weekends for the first time. It was ‘5 inspiring stories about Kyiv’ lecture. A woman in a white suit on stage just ‘took up’ people and led them. How do you do that?
You know, I've been on stage since 7 years old: children's theater, performances, comedy clubs. ‘Going to the head teacher’s office with books on your head’ is totally about me. I adore the stage, people's attention and communication: during city tours or on camera. I rarely agree to perform at events, but if I do, the preparation is very thorough. It doesn't matter if the lecture lasts 60 minutes or 15. In fact, a 15-minute speech is harder to prepare than an hour one, even TEDx confirms this. When you saw me on stage, I was 1000% prepared. That is why everything worked out.
You studied screenwriting. Where exactly?
In Kyiv, at the National Academy of Managerial Staff of Culture and Arts. These are the former Karpenko-Karyy film faculties located in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. All of the screenwriters, directors, choreographers, vocalists study there. To be honest, I didn’t succeed in entering the actor faculty, thus had to opt for another. In general, I had to be a hairdresser, because all the women in my family are hairdressers. Later I started working on completely different jobs and realized that communication skills, talking with people - this is quite the base.
I was a girl with a serious face and complaints for everyone. At some point, I realized that people don’t like to communicate with me. And that has become the start to change. But during my studies, I was a thrill ride.
Tell us about your background? What did you do before becoming a tour guide?
At first, I worked in the Ukrainian Comedy Club: arranging guest lists for parties and used to work as an administrator; had also tried myself as a dress seller, jobbed in an event agency, a toy warehouse - sticking barcodes on boxes. Then I was hired as Margarita Sichkar's personal assistant: I’d sent resume after the TV ad announcе. Afterward, I started contributing to the PR department in ‘Komsomolskaya Pravda’ and later - to the Ukrainian office of Artemiy Lebedev Studio, where I worked as a manager. After all of this, I fully realized that I want to explore and show Kyiv. It was a desire to follow the interest and I went on my own.
If you look at that Yulia, who used to work at Artemiy Lebedev Studio, how has your mindset changed?
I’ve read a phrase today that I liked so much. It says that the path to success is lying in understanding yourself, meaning, the more you understand yourself, the more you achieve what you want. The motto of Julia, who had just started, was courage and pure amateurism. Now it is intuition multiplied by the laws of common sense and professionalism. They say ‘it is difficult to take the first step’. It's not difficult, because you don’t know what awaits you. And if you do, you are not afraid. What’s really difficult is to take the second, the third, the hundredth step, because you’ve already faced problems, nuances and feedbacks.
Everyone can TAKE A shot just once.
It’s important to move on so the next step is better than the previous one. Later, I discovered psychotherapy: this is the start that separated my before and after.
And how did you start moving forward?
I started walking a lot, got a job at the Museum of the History of Kyiv and became a blogger. It seemed that I was the first guide to start posting specific professional stories on Facebook and, in general, wrote the word "blog" on the cover. At the same time, I created various projects dedicated to Kyiv. For example, Kyivbox. This is a box with event tickets: people buy tickets without knowing what's inside. For instance, you open the box and realize that tomorrow you’re practicing yoga, and the day after tomorrow going to a concert. Then I had a map of ‘100 cool places in Kyiv’, and now there is a project "Shukai", which I develop: we are installing bronze mini-sculptures in the city.
That means, at the age of 24 you were already the manager of Kyiv. Wow.
Yes, but a lot of things were unclear: will there be a city tours, how to make them happen? How to make guests come to you? Meaning truly your clients. Because every professional has its own type of customer. Not all of the clients need me exclusively. I am not a historian per se and am not the “Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra” type of guide. That is, there is a tour that I fulfill, and there are people who fulfill the tour in Kyiv of Mykhailo Bulhakov and they will definitely give me a head start.
At some point, I realized that I needed to give up many things to achieve more. The main thing is the focus. You can't be a dentist and a guide or a singer simultaneously. Well, you can, but then the question will come: "Are you a profi in this?". The focus should be on the niche. I had a million projects and was a workaholic everywhere. Honestly, I didn't really prosper. And when I started focusing, it started to bear fruit.
The modern approach to creating tours is ...?
Understanding that no one needs a сity tour with dry facts from a dissatisfied guide. Old formation guides don’t make it personal at all. They’re like: “Did you come to me for 3 hours? Here, listen to what I have."
The guide must have a route, a plan. The guide makes the decision, and the client is relieved to thank him for the decision made for him. It's great when the tour is tailored to the client: you should find out what does a person love, what will not be appropriate. Using this information whilst city tours will make you definitely stand out.
Quick recap on how to be a cool guide:
To hold a conversation during the walk, you need to be in the know of many areas: digital, marketing, construction, gastronomy, medicine. I’m always looking for opportunities to grow: visiting various business and lifestyle camps, attending events not related to my profession at all. For example, ‘how to open a cafe.’ Although I never wanted to open a cafe. I do this for full immerse, to meet people's interests. Let's say someone from the restaurateurs comes to me for a tour, I’ll be able to maintain a dialogue.
You never know who is in front of you, but you have to hold a high level of tour for both: a teacher from Zaporizhzhia and an expert like David Allen, who wrote "Getting things done".
How to tell a cool story?
Well, the habit of reflecting, critical thinking and experience at the age of five or ten will definitely help (smiling). It’s the most difficult thing to tell a story impartially. For example, in my opinion, the House of Chimeras is a business card of Kyiv, if we talk about an architectural object. The guide should analyze the history of the house, biography of the person, interpret it and give the guest a short summary. Imagine you’re telling someone a long story and you see that your guest is already yawning. Then you: ‘Okay, this is the House of Chimeras, it was built by Gorodetsky, who lived here. Let's go see what’s next.’ I love watching people focus. Basically, storytelling is all about it.
What does a woman look like in business?
Imagine a person juggling and standing on a balance board. It's about the ability to combine all things together.
Is a startup about overcoming, or about ease, if it's really yours?
A startup is definitely not about ease. This is about the unknown. You don’t know the future, yourself. You don’t know your capabilities, prejudices, limits. The whole point is to understand yourself. And it takes a long time. If something is too difficult for me, there's probably a bug. You need to look at the clock mechanism: if the hand doesn't work, unscrew and see if the gear has not taken off.
Not everything can be done in life. But you can do what you planned.
I know that after a two-hour tour, I need two more hours to rest, answer letters, be in silence. Then I can take the next tour instead of starting a new one in 15 minutes. At the beginning of my career, I did 3 tours in a row for several months, and then I was totally burnt out. To prevent this, you need to deny the client that wants to have a city tour on a day when you already have two.
I was always living in the Golden Gate area. I rarely go anywhere else. How do you explore other parts of the city?
During the city tours, I don’t actually explore other areas than Golden Gate. I show secret yards, do sightseeing tours. We also goof around Lypki, gardens and parks on e-scooters. But on social networks, I show a different Kyiv: the guide must be the eyes of the city.
Could you single out your favorite Kyiv character?
I love Serge Lyfar very much.
What impresses you about him?
I admire how he achieved everything ‘despite of’. That is like, I achieve things despite of something and he did the same. Of course, my ‘despite of’ approach and his one can not be compared, but Serge’s story is very close to me.
What about the characters of Podil, Lypki?
If we talk about Podil, it’s the businessman Semyon Balabukha, who revived the production of Kyiv dry jam. Literally nobody was leaving Kyiv without this jam. His estate remained: earlier it used to be the restaurant "Old Zaporizhzhia", now it is a Georgian restaurant. For Lypky, it is Vladyslav Horodetskiy, an architect. There were much more professional architects than him, but with such energy, entrepreneurial skills and that crazy ability to make lemonade from lemon it was probably just him.
How do you describe Kyiv to foreigners, what kind of city is it?
Foreigners are the most tactful guests. It’s a pleasure to show them the city, because for them it’s stunning: tasty capital with hospital residents and a lot of activities. And I always say that Kyiv is a city of people who are not indifferent to it.
Words: HELENA EIGENMANN, LENA TSYSAR