At 28 years old, Slava Govorov is the owner of two Panago Pizza stores, one in Nanaimo and one in Ladysmith. He was named one of Vancouver Island’s Top 20 Under 40 in 2018, and he doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon.
Govorov is originally from Russia. His father, Dr. Michael Govorov is a university professor with a PhD in Technical Science and a Post-doctoral Research Certificate in Cartography and Geograpic Information Systems – a job that led Govorov’s family to move around the world. Govorov started first grade in Papua New Guinea where he learned English. His family came to Canada when he was in the eighth grade. They spent a few years in Ontario before relocating to Nanaimo.
“As I kid I think it was a little bit tough. By the time we settled somewhere and I started making friends or started getting into activities we moved again,” Govorov said.
After the move to Nanaimo, his family stayed put. Govorov graduated from Nanaimo District Secondary School, after which he attended Vancouver Island University for business and University of British Columbia for mathematics. Throughout his time at university, Govorov worked at Panago.
“I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do once I finished school, then the [Nanaimo] location came up for sale. A lot of people asked me why, and I think a big portion was the comfort level… that and kind of being my backyard of where I grew up and where my parents live,” Govorov said.
One of the biggest challenges for Govorov was learning how to manage relationships as an owner. He said that building relationships with employees, and customers has been the most valuable skill he’s learned from the experience. The relationships he has with the community have encouraged him to give back.
“It’s very rewarding,” Govorov said. “It’s extremely rewarding to give back to where I grew up. A lot of these people – the schools, the coaches – they were the schools I went to, and the coaches that were my coaches. It’s nice to return the favour to a certain degree.”
Panago Pizza supports numerous schools and sports teams in both Nanaimo and Ladysmith. Govorov said he loves to support any cause he can, and never turns down a request for support. His efforts are encouraged by Panago, but Govorov takes it a step further. Panago has begun using his stores as an example for community outreach, and Govorov has received numerous awards from Panago for his work in the community.
“We’ve been able to support things from a small beer and burger, or families, or someone in need, to bigger things like Nanaimo Clippers and the bigger summer events,” Govorov said.
The Ladysmith Panago location has been open for a little over a year, and Govorov is looking to expand his community outreach in town. They currently sponsor some youth sports teams, the Festival of Lights, Ladysmith Days, and Fuller Lake Skate Club.
Govorov didn’t know much about Ladysmith before opening a store in the community. He said he was surprised by how welcoming people were to him when Panago first opened.
“I remember I posted about us opening on Facebook a month or two prior. We got hundreds of likes, shares, people asking questions, and people being excited,” Govorov said. “It was really cool to see that [Ladysmith] is much bigger than most people think it is. We’ve been looking at a few ventures in Ladysmith because it is growing rapidly.”
2020 holds new prospects for Govorov. He’s looking to diversify his business holdings, and is in the process of branching out into hospitality management. Govorov has other projects in the works beyond Panago, but nothing he can comment on at the moment.
With all that he’s accomplished, it would be easy for Govorov to rest on his laurels, but he doesn’t see it that way.
“I always feel behind. I’m 28, and I have these goals for when I hit 30, when I hit 40, when I hit 50. Most people tell me ‘oh you’re 28, you’re crazy. You’re so young!’ But it never feels like I’m a success,” Govorov said.
Govorov rarely takes days off. He hasn’t had more than three days away from work for the past few years. This year, he spent Christmas Day cleaning out the Panago oven because it was ‘easier’ than doing it on a regular work day.
“I’ve been working on finding the balance between work and rest. I’m not going to be young forever, and stress is a big killer… I definitely think about that every day and I try to find some kind of balance,” Govorov said.
He finds his balance in quiet days at home with his partner and their dog – something he’s looking to do more of. Another place he finds relief from stress is when he sees the impact that he’s made on the community. Govorov keeps a box full of thank you letters and cards from groups that Panago has sponsored. He’s saved every letter from his time with Panago.
Govorov feels grateful every day for the things he’s accomplished with Panago, and for all the community support he’s received over the years. Now at the beginning of a new decade, Govorov wants to use his businesses to fund further community outreach, and help more people beyond Nanaimo and Ladysmith.
“I want to achieve greater things. I want to help more people. I want to have my own charity or foundation one day that funds some of the causes I really believe in,” Govorov said. “To do that, I need to get bigger, and better at what I do.”