Time goes by, we live

Zhulduz Kasymbekova, the owner of the Kyz Paradise and Over Pack Lounge Bar fashion stores and mother of four, lives an extraordinary life full of adventures and tragedies. You can write a whole novel from her biography, which we did by dividing it into chapters.

Chapter 1. How Zhulduz founded a small confectionery empire at age five, and at 14, she became the queen of cross-sale thanks to a healthy lifestyle.

I started working at an early age, at the age of five. I grew up in an ordinary family in the 1990s in the Zhambyl region. Kazakhstan became independent, and Tenge started pushing away the Soviet Rubles. Consequently, this led to the fact that parents' savings turned into dust. Mom had to trade in the market, where she often took my brother and me with her. There we collected full pockets of chocolates and sweets secretly from my mother and sold alcohol. We shared the income in small denominations (1, 3, 5 tenge) and spent it in the school cafeteria.

Once, with this "criminal" money, we bought toys. They told my mother they had given them to us, but she did not believe it. She thought we stole them and burned them as punishment. Later, as an adult, I told my mother how everything happened, and she asked with surprise: why didn't you tell me?

I started working legally at the age of 14. I graduated in the seventh grade, and my aunt and I moved to Almaty. Another aunt had a bag and accessories store; she was a representative of Benetton (an Italian mass market with a network of franchise stores worldwide. - Editor's Notes). She offered me a job there. On the first day, I made a total haul of 140 thousand Tenge! I didn't even know I could trade. It helped that I did not smoke. While the other female consultants ran out for a smoke break, I stayed on the trading floor and snatched the customers who came. Over time, colleagues realized this and tried to smoke less.

At that time, I did not think I would be engaged in retail. I dreamed of opening a travel agency. Do you know why? To be able to travel the world for free! The thought that I would be able to travel because I could afford to buy a ticket wherever I wanted hadn't even crossed my mind!

Chapter 2. Adventures of a Kazakh woman on the East Coast of the USA. How Zhulduz Introduced Kazakh Food to North Carolina Farmers and Became a Star in a Small Town in New Jersey

A clear understanding of how much I can do in this life came to me when I went to the United States on Work and Travel (one of the most popular student exchange programs of the US Department of State, which provides full-time students from universities in other countries for up to four months to work temporarily and travel around the USA. - Editor's Notes).

The first stop was a ranch in North Carolina. I worked as a waitress there and lived with girls from Mongolia and Ukraine. I remember one resident asked me about Kazakh cuisine, and I said we eat horse meat. At first, he thought I had mixed up the words and asked again. Then he went to the window, pointed to the grazing horses, and asked again: "Did I understand correctly that you eat THEM?" Having received an affirmative answer, he was shocked.

And one day, I discovered that the beef patties I had been eating for three days were actually pork. The whole family consoled me!

However, I left the ranch, as taxes ate up the already low salary. I moved to a small town in New Jersey. Only older people lived in this town, and I, of course, stood out from the background of the local population and quickly became a star. With one such older woman, I was a nurse. She had Alzheimer's, but we somehow became friends with her. And then, when I was getting paid, I discovered that my grandmother had a reputation for being violent and prone to aggression, which nobody had warned me about.

After this trip, I realized that I am sociable and can get out even in the most challenging situation. My relatives persuaded me to stay in the USA, but I didn't consider this option - I love Kazakhstan! By the way, I wrote in my diary that I want to earn $10,000 in America. That's exactly how much I've made!

Chapter 3. As the lawyer melted the heart of the fatal beauty Zhulduz Spoiler: professional competencies and housekeeping helped

I met my future husband Olzhas on VKontakte. He wrote me a lot personally, but I initially ignored him because he was not my type. But everything was decided by chance.

My relatives and I got into a severe accident in Almaty, and the second participant was determined to prove our guilt (which was not the case).

Then my mother began to persuade me to write to Olzhas so that he would help us, as a lawyer, write an application. I refused, but in the end, I agreed. And so, it means that such a solid guy comes to our house with a folder, sits at the table, and writes a statement. In the end, we won the trial. I was grateful but did not plan to be with him yet. And my aunt, of course, immediately said that I urgently needed to marry him.

He came to the first date not with flowers or a plush toy but with a huge bag of apples. "He's such a capable guy; you should take him," my aunt said then. As a result, he impressed me with his reliability, and after a while, we got married.

Chapter 4. How Zhulduz went into retail, turned the apartment into a shopping pavilion, and inspired her husband to leave law enforcement and, after a while, to open a bar.

In 2009, I became a manager in a travel agency for 50 thousand Tenge a month (you remember, the dream!), and Olzhas continued to study. After a while, we had two children, and my husband began a career in law enforcement - he very quickly rose to the rank of investigator for critical cases.

At the same time, my aunt again invited me to her store, but this time to the manager position. They paid well (about $1,000 a month), but I wanted more. Purely as an experiment, I posted one T-shirt in the "Center of Gravity" (an Internet forum popular in Kazakhstan in the late 2000s and early 2010s, whose participants, among other things, sold and bought personal items. - Note ed.), see whether there will be a demand for it. There was a demand, and I bought more T-shirts to sell there.

I liked it, but it became clear that you can't go far on T-shirts alone. I decided to buy bags in China, in Guangzhou, and then resell them. At first, she did it at a flea market and invited buyers to the apartment. Imagine, my entire hall was littered with these bags!

Once Olzhas came home (and he worked for days, he only came to sleep, and even then, not always), he saw this sight and asked how much it brings. I answered how much I earned; it was more than his monthly salary. Then Olzhas offered to develop the business together and decided to quit the department.

We began to travel to China together to make purchases. My husband flew to China himself. After a while, I opened the store. We complemented each other well. For example, Olzhas masterfully knew how to make discounts so that the client would come again and again. I couldn't do that! True, sometimes it turned out that he makes discounts for everyone in general (laughs).

The second point, in Astana, was opened by Olzhas himself. And he was great with it.

A bar in Almaty was already his project, and he wanted to open a hookah bar. We sold part of our property, and he fulfilled his dream! I was always surprised how someone who had never worked in a catering business could do business competently.

You know, it seemed to me that all businesses are conducted according to the same principles. But when Olzhas got sick, I immersed myself in the bar's experience and realized how difficult it was. Now I have decided that the bar needs to be sold.

Chapter 5. The most challenging period in life and the loss of a loved one

My father-in-law died in 2021. Olzhas felt terrible at the funeral - ringing in the ears, then fainting. He went for an MRI, which revealed a brain tumor the size of an apple. Long, costly examinations began, and, finally, they did an operation. But during the procedure, the doctors touched the cerebral ventricle, which led to irreversible changes in intelligence.

We went to Turkey for a second operation, and every day there cost us a lot of money. In addition, I was pregnant with my fourth child, already a long time. He underwent an operation, but after a while, I was informed that, most likely, Olzhas would die. At the same time, everyone persuaded me to return home so that I would not have to give birth in Turkey. I left, and he stayed there. We organized video calls together: it was hard, but although Olzhas could no longer speak, it was clear how important it was for him when he bombarded me with air kisses through the screen. However, it soon became apparent that he should return to Almaty. But how? For a person lying down, a routine regular flight will not accept him. Air ambulance? It isn't easy. But in the end, we were able to arrange transportation.

New, 2022, I met in a semi-conscious state. Somehow I scrounged together a feast table but had forgotten the champagne. There was so much on my mind I couldn't focus on holiday preparation.

The last days of Olzhas' life coincided with January 2022. The city was under martial law, looters rampaged, and a curfew was declared.

I was informed about Olzhas's death on January 7 by his brother. In addition to the fact that it is already insanely hard, we took his body from the morgue (to be buried in his hometown), in fact, under the flying bullets.

Chapter 6. About life, no matter what

A year has passed. Of course, without Olzhas, it is challenging. Shortly after his death, our fourth child was born. I tried to run his bar business for a long time, but now I have decided to put it up for sale, although it's hard - I feel a responsibility to my husband. But my store is still open and thriving. My dad helps me raise children: he is a wonderful grandfather and devoted himself entirely to his grandchildren! By the way, this is how he imagined his pension (laughs). I managed to come to my senses, love life again, and communicate with people.

And most importantly, I began to share my life and professional experience on my Instagram, and I got a lot of feedback from other women with questions about how I coped with all this and still cope. As a result, I decided it was time to give back: I will also conduct business consultations from now on. Time goes by, and we live!

Author: Igor Toporkov

Photo: Aidyn Ahmet @aidyn_ahmet

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