Corina Deleu: from Zorile production director to startup partner
Meet Corina Deleu – the CEO of the Agava Trading project and one of the most energetic, hardworking, and happiest executives of the holding. We interviewed her for the #successtory section. We found out how Corina got into the team, why she decided to leave the production manager's position at Zorile and join a startup, and why it is cool to join her team.
You joined Grafit while being an inexperienced manager. Tell us about yourself before joining the holding.
I graduated from the international economic relations faculty in ASEM in 2002. Right after this, I entered a French business school Grenoble Graduate School of Business, and spent the next two years studying at MBA – Global Management. After the academy, I worked in two German companies: at first, in Schering, a pharmaceutical company, and then in Steilmann, a company selling clothes for men and women. In both of them, I had the position of Representative and Regional Manager. That was a great opportunity to obtain experience and new skills from those international companies that already had longstanding traditions on the global market. In the meantime, in order to improve my theoretical knowledge that could be successfully applied to practice, I received a doctorate in economics in 2010.
The main advantage of getting a degree, I believe, is the general change in mentality and vision.

In 2011, I joined the Moldavian company Zorile and worked there for 3 years as a production manager. My experience of communicating with international companies turned out very helpful here because the Zorile factory was actively working with foreign companies. This is where I accumulated rich experience on a large scale: over 500 employees and, of course, the production that is an incredibly big and complicated process that requires very good coordination.

My work was noticed by one of the company's shareholders that offered me to start a new joint venture on the European market. This is how I got into Grafit Holding and became a co-founder of Agava Trading.
Why did you decide to change your production manager's position at Zorile for the manager and co-founder position in a startup?
I love the challenge! They motivate me as a specialist and help me evolve. In addition, it was interesting to work on an absolutely new project with an unusual business strategy. So, I decided that becoming a co-founder is the next step in my development.

I'm working since age 22 and can say that I'm a strong hardworking person. Work and family are the most important things in my life, but they always compete with each other. I didn't have long breaks in my career, while the birth of my children became an additional reason to become an example for them. I need the movement, drive, challenge! Nothing can keep me in one place – this is my lifestyle. And our work always has something new for us. There are no absolutely similar cases and there's no clarity on the market.
I need the movement, drive, challenge! Nothing can keep me in one place – this is my lifestyle.
How did your managing way in Grafit Holding start?
There was no Agava at that moment, so I was trained in one of the largest projects of Grafit Holding – Sovamax. Despite having experience behind my shoulders, I had to understand the specifics of this business that has a very complicated structure and development strategy. This is a multifaceted process that requires immense attention not only towards sales but to the procurement process in the first place. Before launching the startup, we conducted a detailed test with colleagues: we studied the market to understand what product categories have the highest demand and are going to bring us profit. We planned to embrace many directions at once but then figured out that the only right way is to focus on one of them and do it well by 200%.

This is how we launched Agava, having focused on bicycles and spare parts for them. The thing about cycling is that it's mobile, the promotion of a healthy lifestyle and mental health. Later on, we started to expand and added skis, equipment, and fishing goods. We are growing every year and don't plan to rest on our laurels. The European market is big and we still have room for development, but we have plans for other continents, too.
You are a co-founder and head of Agava Trading. What are the traits that help you to be an executive?
I am going to outline 5 of the most important of them: strategic thinking, decisiveness, desire to work, understanding people, and a sense of purpose.
What is so special about the Agava team? Why should anyone want to become a part of it?
There are many reasons for this. First of all, our work is very dynamic; secondly, we help the ecology; thirdly; we help people to have an active lifestyle; fourthly, it is beautiful and awesome. We manage the purchase and sale of bicycles and spare parts from the best global brands: Shimano, Sram, Giant, Cube, Felt, Specialized, and many others. Some bicycles can rightfully be considered states of the art and selling them is pure pleasure.

My management style is democratic. I like the positive atmosphere and I don't like to put the screws on my employees, but sometimes it's necessary to be strict. I value human qualities in my colleagues. A person may not know foreign languages all that too well, but if I see motivation, interest, and the desire to work in them, we are going to hire that person on the team. My team maintains a pleasant working atmosphere and maximum transparency. If someone makes a mistake, we acknowledge it, fix it, and move on. I like people that do their job with love and enthusiasm. You don't need to motivate such people, because they like what they do.
My team maintains a pleasant working atmosphere and maximum transparency. If someone makes a mistake, we acknowledge it, fix it, and move on.
Do you manage to keep the balance between your work and personal time?
As I already said, I am a frantic worker. In my life, personal time and work are always fighting. But I find balance. Of course, the family is most important of all. But then, if there's a result with my work, I am very happy. I can't imagine myself without work. I like spending my free time, although there's not much of it, with my children and husband in the fresh air.
Work is important, but do you have hobbies that help you distract from it?
I love dancing! Almost every meetup with friends ends with dances. As a child, I used to dance professionally for 10 years. Right now, I dance to relax and recharge my energy. I also like swimming, but I don't visit the swimming pool due to the situation with the virus.
For whom is it more difficult to hold a managing position: a woman or a man?
Both the man and the woman can be an effective leader. Results are what matters the most. But I do think that the woman has it a bit harder because she also has to take care of family and children besides work. It so happened that this is more of a female responsibility and we have to manage to do both the work matters and the domestic matters. It's difficult to switch from family to work and vice versa. But it's really possible. You just have to want to do it!
What do you like the most in Grafit?
Grafit Holding is a company that thinks about its employees and values our professional and personal qualities. Grafit Holding creates excellent conditions for beginners as well as for experienced specialists, for their development, and career growth. Despite the fact that we are a rather young and dynamic company, we managed to show ourselves as a correct and prospective employer. Another very important thing is that Grafit values the freedom of speech, honesty, and maximum transparency.
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