The next time you dine in a restaurant, there’s a chance you’ll be served by an alum of Authentic Server—a first-of-its-kind training program for New York City waitpersons founded by BMCC graduate Marina Kazakova.
Launched this summer, Authentic Server was one of 10 finalists in SmartPitch, a competition designed to foster and promote student entrepreneurship.
Born in Russia, Kazakova came to the U.S. on a student exchange program in 2006, settling first in Kansas, and, after four-and-a-half years, moving to New York to follow a lifelong dream of starting and running her own business.
But first she’d need a college education. “I selected BMCC for a number of reasons,” she recalls. “I was living in Manhattan and working as a waitress, so the location was perfect. The flexible schedules and affordability were also factors; so was the range of course offerings.”
In the footsteps of a beloved aunt
From the outset Kazakova knew she would major in business. “For as long as I can remember, I have been inspired my aunt—a single mom who has worked all her life and created her own jewelry business,” she says. “I decided that if I wanted to go in that direction, it would make sense to pursue a degree in business management.”
In her first year, Kazakova took a marketing course with Professor Joel Evans. “Marina was an absolute standout,” Evans says. “She excelled in many ways—her ideas, her participation in class, and her work ethic, and especially her writing ability, which was evident in a blog she wrote as part of a class assignment.”
Each student was asked to choose a brand, product or company and write about it, applying marketing principles they’d learned in the class. “Marina wrote about Swarorski Crystal with exceptional passion and clarity,” Evans says.
“I make a point of instilling in my students the notion that an ability to write well is essential if you’re planning to have a career in business. You’ve got to be passionate about your product and communicate that passion to your market.”
From BMCC to Baruch
After completing her studies at BMCC in two years, Kazakova transferred to Baruch College, where she majored in marketing with a minor in communications, and graduated this past May. She came up with the idea for Authentic Server while still a student. “SmartPitch helped me determine if the idea had potential, and then to develop it in a real-world setting,” she says.
Authentic Server is based on a simple business model—a week-long, 10-hour course that includes lectures and practice. “Trainees get hands-on experience working in a fast-paced restaurant,” Kazakova says. “Once they’ve completed the course, we help place them in suitable positions.”
While Kazakova is the very definition of “self-starter,” she credits Evans with having been a key factor in her success.
“He has been my inspiration—a dedicated mentor who has always been there for me and given me the confidence I need to keep pursuing my goals,” she says. She maintains regular contact with Evans, who often sends her articles and links with relevance to her business. As Authentic Server evolves and grows, she says, “he will continue to be a valued mentor to our business.”