Alina Daškeviča: an empowering example of leadership and success
Alina Daškeviča is an LCC alumna from Latvia, with a degree in International Business Administration. Alina graduated LCC in 2008 and carries only happy memories about her student years. Currently, Alina keeps herself busy as a wife, mother, and as Cafe Manager at one of the students’ favorite coffee shops in Klaipeda, Coffee King. Alina opened the coffee shop with her college sweetheart, Anton Dashkevich, shortly after they got married. She loves seeing LCC students coming to study there, reminding her of the times when she was an LCC student herself.What keeps you busy at the moment?I am a wife and mother, and also the manager of a coffee shop, which I proudly call “my third child.” I am involved in my business as much as possible, every day taking on a different role. One day I am a decorator, another day I am cleaning tables, a barista, or even the accountant. I truly love what I do and try to make sure that both my customers and employees are happy with the work and service at Coffee King. I constantly look for new ideas and improvement because there is always a place for further growth.At LCC, what did you study and why did you choose that major?I was majoring in International Business Administration at LCC because it seemed to be the only right choice at the moment. I always knew that I wanted to study at LCC and move to Klaipeda. At that time, LCC had a more limited choice of majors, offering Psychology or International Business Administration. I took my parents’ advice and chose what they thought would benefit me the most. Even though I was majoring in IBA, the thought of opening my own business never crossed my mind during my years of study.What were your interests at LCC and how did they change over time?During my time at LCC, I used to teach ballroom dancing, as it was my biggest passion at the time. I was lucky enough to meet a boy from Ukraine, who was also very keen on dancing. We often performed at talent nights and other events, any time we got a chance to dance. During the four years at LCC, dancing was always a part of my life, no matter how busy I would get with university work and other activities. Unfortunately, I do not get to dance anymore but I do try to be as active as I can despite the busy schedule. Instead of dancing, now I do pilates, go swimming, and work out, because I believe that one’s body must be in balance with the mind.What did you like about LCC the most?I think that LCC is a unique place that is very different from any other university. The courses, faculty, and people there create a special atmosphere which makes you see the world from a very different perspective. If I had to describe LCC in one sentence, it would be, “Think outside the box.” I live by this principle still and it never lets me down. My LCC experience has helped me to be more creative rather than just following the standard patterns.What did you do after graduation?After graduation, I went home to Latvia to work at my father’s company, as it seemed to be the right thing to do and was what everyone was expecting from me. I spent almost five years in that new environment of charter ships and it was a very good experience for me. I became very good at my job. Working with your family can be tough in many different ways and eventually I realized it was not something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. As a result, I moved to Lithuania. Even though I spent four years studying in Lithuania previously, it felt like a new country, a new city, and absolutely a new foreign language.How and when did you come up with the idea of Coffee King?My husband and I opened Coffee King years ago when Klaipeda was not as developed as it is today, especially in the sphere of foods and beverages. At the time there were only two other coffee places on the main street. Now there are eight shops, making the coffee business much more competitive than it used to be. It was very different than it is today and more oriented to takeout service. During my second pregnancy, we decided to renovate the place and switch from takeout to a pleasant sit-in place, where people would want to stay and enjoy their coffee. Later on, I became more involved in running the coffee shop, loved the experience and haven’t stopped since.In the process of opening a cafe, we thought about who our main customers and the target audience would be. Because of our location, we tried to make it welcoming to various social groups and age groups as it is surrounded by schools, stores, and two courts. I can always spot LCC students among others in the coffee shop because they are always very friendly, polite, and outgoing. Every time I see them, deeply immersed in their laptop screens doing homework with a cup of our black coffee, I remember myself being a student and think that I would have loved to have a place like this to study and take a break from the campus noise.How did you come up with the design and celebrity theme?We were very certain about the name of the place, Coffee King, because it is simple, loud, and sends a strong message at the same time. With the help of a designer we created the whole concept with the central idea of “being a king’ in any field you choose. Our walls are covered with photos of famous actors and musicians, and regular random people wearing crowns. The concept of king is also represented in our service. We do our best to make our customers feel special, let’s say “to be royalty” in their time spent in Coffee King.What are your main responsibilities as the owner?There are things that no institution can function without; the paperwork, hiring employees, making orders, creating schedules, accounting, and much more. I love days when I need to fill in as barista and get to make coffee myself, which gives me a better perspective of what can be improved in terms of service and menu. This job definitely requires a lot of time and hard work but I love doing all of it and could not imagine myself anywhere else.What was the biggest challenge in starting a business in a foreign country?One of the main challenges was language barrier. For a business owner, proper communication is very important to handle orders, communicate with customers, and most importantly employees, who need to undergo training too. Again, thinking outside the box helped me to be more creative and find solutions to deal with challenging situations such as language barriers. For example, instead of organizing some processes on the phone, I would switch all the conversations to email communication which was more convenient for me, because I could simply use Google Translate and write back. With time, my Lithuanian became better and it was easier to communicate and do business with people. Every day I enjoy the fact that my job brings me joy and I get to see the results of my hard work through the customers’ experience.In what way has knowledge gained in LCC helped you for your future?I think universities work differently in general, they help us grow and form ourselves as the people we aspire to be. The experience of being an LCC student helped me form my morality, principles, work ethics, and completely shifted my worldview. My own will and motivation to do great things with my life is what makes me the small business owner I have become over the years. Fun fact - because of LCC’s influence, our desire was to make Coffee King a special place that would be nothing like the other coffee shops in town. It may be my objective opinion, but I think that we achieved that and people feel that our place is unique, just like we felt the uniqueness of LCC.What motivated you to get to the place where you are now?My biggest motivation in life is my husband, who always dreams big and works hard. He encourages and motivates me to do the same at work - do better, be better. I am motivated to be the best version of myself for my kids, hopefully they will see me as a role model and develop those skills and character that will serve them well in the future. Of course, in the first place, I do it for myself because I love my job and pour my soul into this place every single day. I love seeing happy customers and hearing people laughing, playing games, and having a good time in general. Being able to put a smile on a face by pouring them a cup of coffee, is very rewarding and encouraging to me.Can you give advice to the current students of LCC?Looking back at my own life at LCC, I would advise students to remember that they are in charge of their lives and they should make their dreams and aspirations in life the main priority. Don’t try to make other people happy by sacrificing your own happiness. You don’t want to look back in time and realize that you wasted your life making someone else’s dream come true instead of your own, and be in a completely different place you had hoped you would be. You should work hard and follow your dreams, no matter how crazy or unreal they may seem to you at the moment. Remember that everything in life is possible as long as you believe in yourself. Don’t let other people define your life for you. To work for something that doesn’t bring you pleasure and doesn’t help you become the person you want to be, can cause great regret later in life.Do you have any plans for the future?My husband and I always have many ideas and aspirations for the future. It’s only a matter of time before we will offer something interesting and absolutely new to our customers. We will try to make it equally good, beautiful, comfortable, and affordable to all Klaipeda residents.