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Why this agency founder is committed to hiring refugees and leading with heart

Not all heroes wear capes. Some run their own creative businesses. At least, that’s the case for Julius Miko, founder of UON7, a...

Profile picture of Ido Lechner

6.7.2022

4 min read

Not all heroes wear capes. Some run their own creative businesses.


At least, that’s the case for Julius Miko, founder of UON7, a Prague-based digital agency dedicated to “keeping you online, seven days a week.”

One day, Julius received an email from Dima Kurlov, an undergraduate marketing student from Kharkiv, Ukraine, with experience—and a few awards—as a web designer. Like the millions of Ukrainians who have been forced to flee their country since the Russian invasion, Dima explained that he was looking to rebuild his life elsewhere and needed help.


Thrown into crisis, Dima and his family were forced to abandon the only life they had ever known. His father shut down his business as they fled, a major blow to the family’s financial security. Dima himself was just one semester away from completing his degree at the Simon Kuznets Kharkiv National University of Economics, when his education was abruptly cut short. Uncertain where they would end up or how they would get by, the family reached out to all of their connections.


“The Russian military marched through my city, and I could no longer stay where I grew up, so I had to move into a friend’s house in Prague temporarily,” recalls Dima. “It was a scary time. No one really knew what would happen next.”


While fleeing, Dima Googled agencies in Prague where his design and marketing chops could be of value. He found UON7 online and was brought to tears by the ‘support Ukraine’ donation banner on the website, so he sent Julius a note explaining his situation and asking for work.


Heeding Dima’s call for help, Julius moved swiftly to provide aid.


“We were invaded in 1968 as well, and we still feel the effects of it today. So we understood how it feels, and we wanted to help them as much as possible,” says Julius.


Within weeks, Julius had helped Dima and his family relocate to the Czech Republic. Dima was able to find new schooling and began training with Julius one on one. In return, Julius found the perfect colleague and learned the importance of leading with compassion.



Winning with kindness


Since the start of the war, Ukrainians have crossed borders to neighboring countries like the Czech Republic, Moldova, Slovakia, Romania, Poland, Bulgaria and Lithuania. They’ve been largely welcomed with open doors and hearts.


“The support I've been witnessing on a state, local and personal level is unprecedented,” says Julius. “Since the beginning of the war, so many people have been hosting families in their spare rooms or helping them find work. Everywhere you go, there’s either a Ukrainian flag or sticker on the door.” People have also been donating and buying groceries to help, he adds.


Julius was indeed ready to delegate his agency’s design needs to someone who could continue meeting the demands for UON7’s services: web design, blogging, SEO, social media and eCommerce.


“Dima is very native to the digital [world], so I have to keep up in some ways,” says Julius. “He’s really helped me elevate the brand’s sense of style, and he understands content. That's just a couple of the many reasons why it's very good to have him here.”


Another reason: “We work together and also have some fun during our breaks walking my dog in the woods, playing soccer or rugby in the backyard, table tennis in the garage, and darts inside,” says Julius.


For Dima, the transition to Wix marks both a change in platform, and in language. It’s been a bit of a learning curve, but it’s also given him a chance to explore a new tool as a web designer, as well as a new culture. Most of all, it's given him a sense of security to take a moment to reflect on how much his life has changed.


“My grandma joined us here recently, and she’s shown us some horrific pictures, including one of a soccer stadium that was destroyed where I used to play first league soccer; a part of my childhood that’s now been erased. It’s bittersweet, because reuniting with her is of course the best. Julius has helped us so much.”


What started as an email in Julius’ inbox has turned into a formidable lifelong friendship. In search of a new normal, Dima’s adaptability and future-forward attitude has helped him navigate uncertainty and find stability.


Being a compassionate leader in this moment isn’t just about creating opportunities, it's about recognizing people as human beings.



Humanity is everyone’s business



“Our family has really bonded with Dima’s on a personal level. It’s taught me that there are moments in life where you put the business aside and you focus on humanity,” says Julius. “This is where we want to go moving forward.”


Julius has since been looking to hire more Ukrainian designers, and has been outsourcing specialized projects requiring animations, illustrations and heavy design work to Ukrainian agencies as well. “It’s important to have people locally, and I realized I have to do much more business development rather than designing, so if I have a larger staff working, we can say ‘yes’ to more projects and all grow together,” he says.


Ukrainians have much to contribute in appreciation for these acts of kindness. Highly educated and proficient, many hold degrees in digital media, programming, business, finance, journalism, law and engineering. And, like Dima, Ukrainians are also particularly tech-savvy thanks to the presence of many tech leaders, including Wix, and R&D labs in Ukraine prior to the war. A survey of Czech businesses indicates 72% are ready to hire Ukrainians, according to Reuters.


As the war goes on, it’s important to remember, you can help. For other agencies looking to offer opportunities or work, check with your local state government regulations surrounding hiring refugees, then go to this job board. Add your own Wix donation banner to your website and donate here, and above all, lead with humanity.


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