Women’s Leadership in Times of War: A Ukrainian Entrepreneur’s Story

Victoria Repa
Founder and CEO
Automatic Summary

Lessons in Leadership: Navigating Crisis with Innovation and Resilience

Hi, I'm Victoria Ripa, co-founder of Better Me, a leading wellness platform with over 150 million downloads worldwide. My experience in the last couple of years, navigating challenging circumstances in business, has taught me invaluable lessons in leadership during times of crisis.

Crisis Mode: Leadership in Action

The COVID-19 pandemic and current military situation in Kiev confronted businesses to adapt to changing conditions quickly. On February 24th, 2022, the entire team at Better Me's headquarters was put in imminent danger, forcing us to participate in an urgent evacuation. Amid the distress of air strikes, sirens, and explosions - with no internet access in a bomb shelter - everyday operations of the company had to continue.

Despite this turmoil, one year later, I’m proud to report that our team has not only survived the crisis, but grown! We’ve achieved a 20% increase in both financial indicators and employee numbers in 2022, solidifying the strength and resilience of our team.

The Secret: Strong Leadership and Clear Vision

From starting out as a Facebook community sharing wellness advice in 2017, Better Me has since evolved into a renowned healthcare company, noted among the top three apps for home workouts by Apple Research. Amid the challenges, we continue to innovate. Our plans for the future include developing a one-on-one health coaching platform, expanding our Ecommerce hardware, broadening our leisure selection, and adding equipment for home workouts. We are also entering the B2B market for physical and mental health.

Developing Principles for Leading Through Crisis

Throughout this challenging period, I have developed three main principles for leading effectively during a crisis.

  • Define your mission and move forward: Keep focus on the goal; in our case, providing education and health care for our global users. Realize the bigger picture of your business's importance within the economy.
  • Bring stability and control back: Confront fear directly, creating and communicating worst-case scenarios to your team.
  • Manage your energy efficiently: Maintain high energy levels with healthy nutrition, consistent daily workouts, and mindfulness practice to decrease adrenaline levels during a crisis.

In addition to these principles, we’ve laid out three keys of operations that carried us through this crisis.

  1. Play fast and learn from mistakes: Failure can lead to growth. We utilized our mistakes to evolve and strengthen our brand.
  2. Hire people who work with words: To effectively sell and explain your product, you need a team proficient in communication.
  3. First growth in revenue, then growth in staff: The key to retain employees is to grow your revenue before expanding your staff.
  4. Manage your energy, not just your time: Focus on maintaining high energy levels, which is more important than long hours at work.


Navigating a crisis alongside your team may be challenging, but it can also be an opportunity for growth and transformation. Despite the crises of 2022, the team at Better Me was able to exceed our goals, and in the process, we've become stronger and more resilient than ever. Thank you for your time, and remember - resilience fuels success in times of crisis.

Video Transcription

So, hello everyone. I'm Victoria Ripa. Uh I'm the co and founder of Better Me, a Wellness platform uh with over 150 million downloads worldwide. And I'm here today to talk about leadership through the crisis. The last couple of years have been incredibly challenging for business.

The pandemic forced businesses to adapt to the new reality. Better Me is headquartered in Kiev and the current military reality seems to make the time after the COVID-19 appear as mere preparation. I was awoken on February 24th, 2022 to a dreadful new reality that signed a severe crisis of my company. Just one morning, my entire team was in imminent danger and as a result, better Me had to urgently evacuate all the way from the city. Furthermore, we were forced to seek refuge in a bomb shelter without internet access amidst the innocent sound of airstrike and sirens and explosions. At the same time, our users from all over the world expected the usual level of the service and our mining market of Better Me, more than 70% is United States. Did we anticipate the world crisis? No, but now a year later, I can confidently say that our team is navigating through this crisis with dignity. Moreover, despite the year of full scale war, the company continues to grow as evidenced by the 20% increase in better financial indicators and numbers of employees in 2022.

What is the secret? Uh One of the biggest keys is surviving a crisis of any size uh is a strong leadership. So in 2017, be me started as a community on Facebook group where I shared some advice and wellness. When the community reached 100 K followers, I realized how popular the topic was. Within six years, Bey had grown as a healthcare company with over 150 million users worldwide. And today we are among the top three apps for home workout in accordance to the Apple Research. In spite of all challenges facing the Ukrainian business in 2022 bedroom is expanding our products in 2023. And in 2024 we plan to develop our one on one health coaching platform, expand our Ecommerce hardware of leisure selection and add equipment for home workouts. We are currently also working on B two B uh market for the physical and mental health. And throughout this period, we have experienced life lessons that aren't typically taught in the highest ranking Ivy League Business School. This experience has helped me to develop some principles and of approaches that are crucial for leading the company through any kind of crisis. And I excited to share the insights with you today. Maybe someone can use it for your day to day life. So the first one for a company to survive turbulence is need a strong leader. It's like an airplane. You have to put a mask on yourself to on those you are responsible for.

In this time of leadership, you need to stabilize your emotional system, your emotional mental and physical health. Uh Personally, I have identified three key principles that I have helped me stay on top of this is uh as a CEO of th of while is define your mission and move forward. I realized that business is an important component in supporting the economic frontier and Ukraine needs. It's like never before. My task was not only to focus on education and health care for my user across the world, but also the safe and protect my business and there are more than 250 plays. Number two is bring stability and control back to the team, meet fear in its face and then create and communicate all the worst case scenario to the team. And number three, keep your energy level high by supporting healthy nutrition, consistent daily workouts and wine, healthfulness practice to decrease your adrenaline levels through the crisis. During a crisis, our brain typically resort to sugar, alcohol and drugs to cope with fear and stress.

But this gives only short term results. Stress inhibits you from seeing situations with clarity and ac in a crisis, manifesting energy and solution is a top of priority. Just focus keeps working on the emission and allows the universe to create your vision. Uh Number second, we need to have a common set of working principles so that team can work harmoniously when its matter must. That's what we have chosen the following ways of working for ourselves and our team play fast and cheap better. Me has been on the market since 27. Can you imagine how many mistakes I have made in this time? And if I remember and wrote that all down, I wouldn't have time to make new ones. It's important to make mistakes. This is how we grow. Uh Number second hire people who work with words, not just with calls, the idea behind that you don't only need to create super product, but you need to sell and explain what is the product it is. So hire journalists hire uh bloggers, influencers who can use words to explain what your product is. Number three, first growth in revenue and second the growth in the staff. So the idea behind uh that the main secret to not fire people, it's not over higher if you not change your business model and not grow significantly.

And now the last one manage your energy, not the times the time when we talk about time management is in past, I think the key important stuff for today is energy. Management. It doesn't matter how many times you are on the work, it's important in which level of energy you are. So to the conclusion, navigating your crisis alongside your team can be challenging and also transformative experience to ensure a business continuity is crucial to perform your duties with excellence as founder, as expo employer and mighty. And I are constantly learning and taking decisive action as the situation unfolds.

As a result of this case, we were able to achieve our goals and even exceed them in 2022. Nevertheless, the world and become more resilient. So thank you for your time. I appreciate you my.