Peter Sobiecki, Board Member of The Polish Business Club in Moscow

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What made you come to Russia?

I was born in Moscow and lived more than half of my life here, with the rest spent in Poland, USA and Australia. I graduated from the Department of Journalism of Moscow State University, with specialization in TV Journalism, but never made it to work on TV. I have worked for the largest international companies such as Allianz, SAP; I was head of the media relations department at Philip Morris. I have my family here – two lovely kids and a Russian Korean wife.

Peter, what’s your official position within the Polish Business Club?

I am a member of the board. There is a Chairman, Mr. Aleksander Janeczek and several other members of the board.

How long has the Polish Business Club existed for?

The Polish Business Club was established back in 1999. There was always a group of people who helped organise networking events for Polish business people, and the commercial department of the Polish embassy has always played a role in this. I have noticed that recently there has been a tremendous desire for business people to come together to help each other.

What does the business club try to do?

The main focus is to foster relationships between Polish business people in Russia. For example, if you are a newcomer, you can come along to some of our meetings free of charge and get some advice from people working in your trade, from embassy people, from people working in small companies and also some very large companies. You can speak to people who have been working here for 5, 10 or even 30 years.

Our key tasks now are to increase the number and variety of our activities and to increase the membership. We cannot compete with AmCham or AEB both in membership strength or lobbying power. But we want to become a mini AmCham or AEB for Polish companies doing business in Russia, or wanting to.

What about Russian companies wanting to do business in Poland?

We’re now discussing the possibility of opening membership to people from different countries. For example, we have one British man who wants to join the club and his membership application is pending at the moment. All of our decisions are taken by members of the board, and members collectively.

How many members have you got now?

We have about 60 active member companies and over 100 ‘supporters.’ Living and working in Moscow is, as you know complex and not everybody can find the time to come to all of our meetings.

How do you finance your meetings?

We have agreed that our club should be non-commercial. The club charges a membership fee of 6,000 roubles a year, which we consider to be a modest fee. We stage several major events each year. Recently, we had an event in June to mark 10 years of Poland joining the EU, another one in July – organised jointly with AEB. Such joint events are very good, because there are a number of Poles who work for non-Polish international companies, and we like to include them in our activities. However, we welcomed many Russian and European business partners at these events.

Are your meetings social events or do you have lectures conferences?

We organised seminars on various business-related subjects (taxation, doing business in Russia and similar). A company that specialises in this field comes and does a presentation, and shares its knowledge with members, and also benefits from making new contacts. We will continue with such seminars. As I said, our main goal is to foster networking, grow our membership, to invite people to speak at our seminars and to organise joint events with other organisations.

And you are able to pay all your bills from the membership fees?

We also helped by the embassy, they let us use the embassy building, support the logistics, and recently provided genuine Polish alcohol and food, which goes down very well! We are a small organisation, and a little help goes a long way.