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The Warsaw Voice » Business » September 16, 2009
Special Section - POLAGRA FAIR
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Business With a Female Touch
September 16, 2009   
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Teresa Mokrysz, owner of the Mokate Group, talks to Agnieszka Ważyńska.

How do you reconcile the role of a homemaker and mother with that of a businesswoman?
Taking on the double role of homemaker and company manager you have to prepare for a tough time. It's a time of seeking a compromise between what your family expects and what your business needs. I went through this myself, raising two children and working to develop my company. Sometimes, of course, no compromise was possible and I had to make a choice. Then, I would choose my family, which was and still is the most important to me. The support of those dear to me has always meant a lot. I have always received it from my husband Kazimierz, and later also from my son and daughter. They have committed themselves completely to Mokate and its affairs. Today we work together; my daughter Sylwia is a member of the board at Mokate in Ustroń, and my son Adam at Mokate in Żory.

What were the milestones of Mokate's development?
There were several defining moments in the company's history and each of them involved a degree of risk. I remember the breakthrough year 1992 particularly well, when I decided to launch an instant cappuccino mix on the Polish market. The product, unknown here, began filling store shelves, unsold. Extraordinary means were needed. With my husband, we shelled out all the money we had and paid for a TV commercial, one of the first commercials by a Polish producer. After that cappuccino sales started snowballing. With time, this resulted in the popularity of the new Mokate brand and the company's strong position on the domestic market where we continue to be the leaders in cappuccino, with an 80-percent share.

There was risk involved in the decisions to build two modern factories-in Ustroń in 1995 and five years later in Żory. Investing with a slight "allowance for growth" I assumed we would win new markets. I was proved right. In 2000, both factories worked three shifts and employed 1,000 people. The startup of two divisions making creamers and frothing agents from Polish milk was similarly important, freeing us of the need to import these components from the Netherlands and allowing us to export our own components to countries all over the world.

Other milestones included taking over other production companies, three in the Czech Republic and one in Poland. That's when we entered the tea market (winning second place in Poland) and increased the proportion of exports in sales to 40 percent. I'd like to add that behind each milestone there were huge financial outlays, hard work by many people and a lot of stress.

Does a family business find it easier to deal with the crisis than other companies?
It certainly isn't the rule. But family businesses do have certain features that are important in a time of economic turbulence: the staff is consolidated around the owners, who, in many cases, have run the business for years; it is easy to communicate within the organization; and it is relatively easy to promptly introduce remedial measures to stave off threats.

Mokate's strategy remains unchanged. Based on high quality and innovation, we will continue to grow stronger on the domestic market and step up our export expansion. The markets of Central and Eastern Europe are our priority, but we will also work intensively to increase our presence in the Middle and Far East. We plan to take full advantage of the prospects opening up on the Chinese market. We look toward the coming years with optimism.
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