Mission to Kyrgyzstan Part 3: Karakol entrepreneur Igor Khanin gives us a lesson in building a business
KARAKOL, Kyrgyzstan — A few years ago, adventure tourism entrepreneur Igor Khanin visited North Central Washington as part of an effort to expand and develop Kyrgyzstan’s economy and a relationship blossomed with Cashmere orchardist Randy Smith, who is leading our local delegation to this Central Asian country.
To give you a little insight into Khanin’s personality, consider the following: This jovial and outgoing entrepreneur is a former special forces soldier in the Russian military who, when he stayed at Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort in Leavenworth, took a daily bath in freezing cold Icicle Creek, said Randy Smith. Khanin is truly a unique character and a gracious soul.
When asked how his business is doing, Khanin made a point to say that it not just a job, but it’s how he chooses to live his life. Mountaineering and skiing have been part of his DNA since he was seven years old and his father took him into the mountains for the first time. His wife and young son are integral parts of this family business. He is quickly building a successful adventure company in a unique way that merges his family and his business. They are becoming indistinguishable.
Our delegation from the North Central Washington visited his compound and got a taste of his creative genius and his passion for finding a creative use for everything. He doesn’t believe in wasting anything. He has expanding his home into a compound by using shipping stacked shipping containers. Inside, he has finished the walls in brick and reused pieces of wood for tables and built a special fireplace for clients to warm themselves and share meals and conversation.
He’s converted an old military trailer into a sauna and has used shipping containers as a rental and sales facility for mountaineering, skiing and snowboarding. Mission Ridge General Manager Josh Jorgensen told me he was impressed by the operation. The Dynastar skis that were for rent were higher quality than he expected to find, he said. The retail and rental operation was part museum with old time mountaineering and skiing gear and part modern outdoor store.
Khanin is a gracious human being who is making the most of his opportunities to create a successful business in a poor country that doesn’t have a strong tourism program. The relationship building that our sister region relationship is fostering can help encourage and inspire practical economic development and greater understanding.
The world needs plenty of both these days.