Updated at 11:50,16-10-2017

Woman learns English, then opens Aroma Joe's

By Mark Kobzik news@seacoastonline.com, seacoastonline.com

Woman learns English, then opens Aroma Joe's
By Mark Kobzik news@seacoastonline.com
When Maryna Shuliakouskaya arrived in the United States from Belarus, a small landlocked country on Russia's border, she didn't speak any English. Now, 10 years later, she has opened her third Aroma Joe's franchise in Kittery.

"I've already been in the United States for 10 years and looking back another five, I feel like I was born in the business world," Shuliakouskaya said. "My dad always tried to open some kind of business during some pretty tough years back home. Belarus is right next to Russia, it's part of the former Soviet Union, and it was pretty hard to open your own business. Especially under a communist government."

She arrived in the United States having completed five years of college education at home. Her plan was to stay long enough to make $5,000 and then return home to Belarus. When she met her future husband, Adam Young, those plans changed.

Shuliakouskaya's first job was with Young at the Weathervane restaurant in Kittery. She began to teach herself English, along with help from Adam, by studying receipts to learn the names of food and drinks.

"She caught my eye because of how hard working she is. She brings a passion to the work that she does. One reason I felt attracted to her was her drive to succeed," Young said.

Only three months after meeting, Shuliakouskaya and Young married and have been business partners ever since. They work together to run three Aroma Joe's franchises, with Young managing the newest location in Kittery.

Shuliakouskaya had almost graduated with a computer science degree in Belarus, but she had to drop out once she decided to stay in the United States.

"You pretty much feel like you're someone and then you're no one. I'm a dreamer, so I wasn't going to give up. There were times when I was ready to pack my clothes and go back," she said.

Woman learns English, then opens Aroma Joe's


Without speaking English, she continued working various jobs until deciding that she wanted more. Shuliakouskaya completed math and English courses at Marshwood High School's Adult Education program before she went to York County Community College, the first of three colleges in the United States where she has earned degrees.

At one point Shuliakouskaya lost her work visa and couldn't drive or work. As Young described it, she was housebound taking care of their newborn baby. But with the help of Young and others, Shuliakouskaya started making it to classes at Marshwood High School. Steve Boillot, her language teacher, visited her home to study and even helped her get admitted to the University of Southern Maine.

She obtained a degree in international business at USM before going to Southern New Hampshire University for her master's in marketing. Between classes and her jobs, Shuliakouskaya was working 70-80 hours a week. Now she says her life is even busier with owning a business, being a marketing director for Subway, and raising the couple's children Nellie, 8, and Nadia, 5 months, at their home in Eliot.

In 2013, Shuliakouskaya was approached by her boss at Subway, where she had been a manager and later a marketing assistant, with the offer of opening an Aroma Joe's. Two years later, she opened her second location in Gorham. The Kittery location opened in November.

Shuliakouskaya now gives inspirational talks to students at Thornton Academy and Marshwood High School, and she also teaches business and marketing at Great Bay Community College. She tells her students that working hard means giving your best effort to everything you do.

"You can achieve something if you work really hard. Don't give yourself excuses, I hate excuses. You have time for everything. When someone tells me 'I didn't have time,' I lose my mind. Time is for everything. It depends on how you prioritize," Shuliakouskaya said.

"What was your comment? asked Young.

"You can sleep when you're dead," Shuliakouskaya replied.