Women refugees receive help starting micro-businesses in Estonia

At the workshop.
At the workshop. Source: Empowering Women/Garage48 and the Estonian Refugee Council

Sunday, January 22 the presentation of the "Empowering Women" mentoring program took place in Tallinn. Women who were forced to flee Ukraine because of the war discussed their progress in establishing microbusinesses in Estonia.

The "Empowering Women Entrepreneurship Program" is intended to help Ukrainian refugee women in Estonia in starting a small or family-run businesses.

Refugee women, who have settled among other places in Tartu, Aseri, Pärnu, Saaremaa, Kohtla-Järve, Jõgevamaa and Tallinn, presented over 50 business ideas.

Over the course of three months, the participant attended workshops and mentoring sessions on topics ranging from basic business creation, branding, and marketing to sustainability, zero waste, and crowdfunding, exchanged experiences with local entrepreneurs, developed risk assessments and a network of collaboration partners, and developed business plans with product or service prototypes.

Several businesses have already started their activities and building their customer base.

More than 50 entrepreneurs and experts served as mentors in the program, the majority of whom are women with migrant experience who have successfully launched businesses in Estonia.

Five teams were awarded with €1000 starting grants by the Estonian Refugee Council.

  • "Jooga Ratastel"  yoga classes for elderly in the rural areas of Saaremaa.
  • "Kaya" Ukrainian home- and yoga wear brand with clothes made from sustainable materials.
  • "Croissant" cafe in Kohtla-Järve, which will be run by the whole family.
  • "KohViki" bakery in Tallinn, offering novel bread tastes.
  • "Maasika Baar" handmade sweets of strawberries in chocolate, coming from various designs and flavors and made in Voore, Jõgevamaa.

Garage48 and the Estonian Refugee Council are co-organizing the program, which was launched in Estonia in the fall of 2022 with support of the British Council in Estonia, Swedbank Estonia and a representative from the European Commission.

"Estonian Refugee Council supports the creation and development of micro- and family businesses in various countries: in Ukraine, Georgia, Kenya and Jordan. In light of the war in Ukraine, for the first time also in Estonia and with the goal to help Ukrainian women who have reached Estonia to start or re-establish their enterprises," Estonian Refugee Council Director Eero Janson, said.

"These businesses provide the necessary income and also help by taking their thoughts somewhere else, away from the horrors of war," he added.

"Participants of the program say that communicating with local entrepreneurs and similarly entrepreneurial Ukrainian women across Estonia has given them support and motivation that can not be measured in any monetary terms and which has resulted in several already active businesses," Kadri Tiisvelt, the program manager and Garage48 board member, said.

The "Empowering Women" business initiative was made possible by a large number of partners and supporters, several of whom awarded special rewards. For instance, the European Commission's Estonian representation awarded prizes to two teams dealing with the well-being of children: children's hairdresser "Siil" in Pärnu and a pre-school children's education center "GROW UP" in Aseri, Ida-Virumaa.

Estonian Refugee Council and Garage48 held a similar program in eastern Ukraine in 2019.

The two organizations continue to support women, who have lost their income due to the war in Ukraine and the next 'Empowering Women entrepreneurship program' in central and eastern Ukraine will start in April 2023.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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