MixVille: The do-it-yourself online candy shop

MixVille Gives customers an opportunity to make DIY sweets by mixing and matching an assortment of ingredients online. Source: Press Photo

MixVille Gives customers an opportunity to make DIY sweets by mixing and matching an assortment of ingredients online. Source: Press Photo

Moscow college students start a food company that turns customers into confectionary artists.

The MixVille project was born from Russians’ desire to enjoy increasingly wider choices. Yet the startup went beyond its original idea of offering a kind of “sweets construction set.” Its founders have set out to prove that shopping can be a real art.

“You are what you eat”—this slightly paradoxical motto reflects the philosophy behind MixVille, a startup company that wants to prove that choice is actually much wider than it seems.

MixVille is an online store, where shoppers can come up with their own recipe to make chocolate, muesli, or even macaroon. Source: Press Photo

The idea of starting an online confectionery shop came to MixVille CEO Oleg Guskov almost by chance, in 2011, when he was still a student at the Higher School of Economics. He had to choose candy to give to a female friend as a gift, but this proved to be an extremely difficult task.

Guskov was unable to find anything original, beautiful and tasty in the shops. Even wrapped in shiny packages, the usual chocolate with raisins, hazelnuts and almonds from premium shops just did not cut it. This made Oleg think seriously about giving customers an opportunity to make DIY sweets by mixing and matching an assortment of ingredients. 

The upshot: MixVille was born in the fall of 2011. It is an online confectionery store, where shoppers can come up with their own recipe to make chocolate, muesli, or even the particularly trendy macaroon. First, customers choose a base for each of the treats, and then they add all kinds of ingredients as original additions.

There are marmalade figurines, fruits, spices, and all kinds of greetings and personalized messages. Online recipes include sugarless black chocolate with marzipan roses, gooseberry and guava, or macaroons with roses and green tea. 

The project’s seed capital came from an unusual source: Oleg Guskov won it at a bookmaker’s. The sum of 100,000 rubles (around $3,300)—a tiny amount, even by small business standards—was enough to pay for website development and the filling of initial orders.

For a period of time after the launch, Oleg and his business partner were very careful with money, counting every ruble. The project thus broke even surprisingly fast, after just a few months.

MixVille’s offerings had greatly expanded by then, as had the number of regular customers. Predictably, orders increased close to holidays—something that was initially not so easy to deal with.

MacaroonsOnline recipes include sugarless black chocolate with marzipan roses, gooseberry and guava, or macaroons with roses and green tea. Source: Press Photo

“Our first New Year’s was the hardest of all,” says Oleg. “We did almost zero advertising at the time, but orders suddenly soared more than tenfold! We didn’t get any sleep for almost four days, spending the nights at the production facility—but we filled all the orders.”

A year into the project, its founders faced a difficult dilemma: to remain a small, niche undertaking, or to search for investors, develop and tap new markets. Rising sales were a tell-tale sign that MixVille had a bright future.

The founders raised investment from Target Ventures; under agreement with the venture capital fund, the size of the investment is a commercial secret and cannot be disclosed.

Most of the money MixVille founders raised has been spent on thorough optimization and expansion of the production facilities, new product launches, hiring skilled personnel, opening an office in St. Petersburg and marketing. At first, orders were outsourced to a Moscow restaurant.

MixVille siteFirst, customers choose a base for each of the treats, and then they add all kinds of ingredients as original additions. Source: Press Photo

Subsequently, MixVille established in-house production at its own small plant located inside the Third Transport Ring.

The partners were enthusiastic about promoting their product. They launched a number of partner programs, conducted cross and promo offerings, and took an active part in all kinds of events.

Their most recent addition is a master class and a charity program (when ordering, customers can send a sweet gift to an orphanage). They call quality work their main marketing tool.

Having started out with a focus on b2c, MixVille’s founders were quick to realize that the b2b market was worth their while too. Some major players expressed interest in the project. MixVille clients now include the Coffee House and Сoffeeshop café chains, the Respublika bookstore chain, and numerous local points of sale.

In addition to this, various companies order corporate gifts around holidays, jumping at the opportunity to buy what no other retailer in Russia offers.

Meanwhile, there are a number of successful companies around the world that offer similar services to MixVille, such as Germany’s Chocri.de and mymuesli.com, with annual sales of more than €10 million ($13.1 million).

The people behind MixVille are not going to rest on their laurels. They have big plans for the development of their project: They are intending to set up a large regional chain and continue with expansion of the product range.

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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