There’s a Helen Keller quote that Oksana Koriakova loves, which perfectly captures her outlook on life: “Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.”

Oksana, the 361st person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, is a peerless networker, who loves forming relationships and connecting people.

Oksana grew up in the former Soviet Union, and by the time she moved to Australia, in her twenties, seemed to know half the people in her city, Togliatti. One of her former friends told her that if she hadn’t emigrated, she would’ve surely become mayor.

By the time she left Russia, Oksana had built a successful import-export business, travelled to a few countries and learned some valuable life lessons.

She knew business would be easier if she was able to speak English, so she travelled to Australia, in 1998, as a student to learn English, on what was supposed to be a short six-month trip. She’s been in Sydney ever since. Who can blame her?

Relationships are at the heart of everything that Oksana does. As she says, it’s always ‘Who, not how’. After Oksana finished her English course, she launched a corporate gifts business, Gifts on the Run, which grew rapidly thanks to her ability to network and connect with the right people, and her fearlessness.

Four years later, Oksana was so overwhelmed by the long hours that she decided to walk away from Gifts on the Run – it never occurred to her that she could sell it. She then launched a corporate merchandise business, Impero Group, that she’s been running ever since.

Impero has also become a great success due to Oksana’s business philosophy, where she doesn’t just sell products: rather, it starts with the marketing strategy and creating products with purpose. So Impero is relationship-driven rather than transaction-driven.

Oksana derives tremendous pleasure from meeting and getting to know people, which makes her a great networker. So much so that now she teaches people how to use networking to grow their businesses.

For me, networking still feels quite unnatural, but for Oksana, it’s like breathing. Before we farewelled each other, she had compiled a list of people she said I absolutely had to meet for lunch. I will definitely do so.