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How to start your own business and believe in yourself again – Business School for IDP Women

Publication date: February 18, 2024

Teaching women how to run their own business – from the idea to opening and running a successful business. It was the goal of the “Your New Job” business school for IDP women in Bila Tserkva (Kyiv oblast). In the year since graduation, 25 project graduates have acquired a new profession, 11 have successfully found jobs, and six have started their own businesses.

The Business School for IDP Women “Your New Job” (hereinafter – Business School) operated in Bila Tserkva from March to May 2023 as part of the Regional Coordination Initiative*. The school graduated 53 women. For three months, they attended ten classes held weekly in two phases (1.5 months each). In total, the trainees spent 60 hours at their desks.

The women learned about law, economics and taxes. And because the project participants were women who had been forced by the war to leave their homes, jobs, and familiar social circles, it was important not only to teach them the basics of business but also to help them believe in themselves again, find new meaning, and find the strength to start a new life in a new place. That is why the psychological component of the school’s activities has become no less important in addition to the hard skills.

We talked about the project’s results, challenges, and successes with Olha Moroz, a volunteer at the Bila Tserkva-based NGO Legal Unity. We also learned about the students’ impressions during and after the training.

Olha Moroz, volunteer, project participant. Photo: Bila Tserkva Strategic Development Agency.

– Olha, tell us what results the organizers of the Business School were looking for.

– The goal of the project was to teach women how to run a business from the idea, i.e. from the moment they decide to start their own business, to register their business, to starting their business, i.e. legal registration of business activities, calculating a business plan, hiring employees, or finding premises. The women tried themselves as leaders and businesswomen.

As a result, some of them decided that business was for someone else. And that’s a good thing because having a dream and trying to make it happen are two different things. But we have a lot of successful cases, and that’s very gratifying!

The Business School has trained 53 IDP women. Photo: Bila Tserkva Strategic Development Agency.

– What exactly were the women taught during the project?

– Four trainers worked with the students: a lawyer, an economist, a tax specialist, and a psychologist.

A successful job search and employment, as well as receiving a decent salary, is only possible with practical self-presentation skills. That’s why the training program included a business Ukrainian course, where participants learned about changes in Ukrainian spelling and the rules of the official business style. They also practiced successful self-presentation, writing a competent resume, reviewing the rules of communicating with employers during job interviews, and learning how to better answer tricky questions.

Business School classes. Photo: Bila Tserkva Strategic Development Agency.

Participants learned about forms of entrepreneurship, the rewards and risks of each, and which is best for small businesses.

They also figured out how to understand the mood of their target audience through market research, consumer surveys and feedback collection.

Business School classes. Photo: Bila Tserkva Strategic Development Agency.

They reviewed an effective business planning tool such as the SWOT analysis and determined how it helps analyze the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that affect your business.

They studied pricing consumer profiles, learned about grant opportunities for successful business start-ups, and received a business plan template to fill out for their business idea.

Business School classes. Photo: Bila Tserkva Strategic Development Agency.

We made every effort to ensure that the women at the Business School were inspired through communication with their peers and motivational meetings with successful women in the community. Our participants also had the opportunity to receive quality legal support for business registration and timely legal assistance.

Photo: Bila Tserkva Strategic Development Agency.
  • “Thank you for today! It was interesting and useful for those who plan to start their own business! Time will tell what kind of business it will be. We do not doubt that it will be. We were filled not only with information but also with confidence that we would be successful. All we have to do is start with a positive attitude and an understanding of what we want to do! Thank you again!” (Violetta, an IDP from Skadovsk, Kherson oblast).

– Did your students have to take “exams” at the end of the training?

– At the end of the training, the participants presented their business plans. Another significant achievement of the school was that several participants had already started their own businesses before the end of the project.

One of them is our graduate, Anna, from Sievierodonetsk (Luhansk oblast). While studying at the Business School, she opened her online skincare shop, and after graduation, she wrote a business plan to open her shop in Bila Tserkva.

Video: Bila Tserkva Strategic Development Agency.

“This school has become a little family for me. It gave me the confidence and determination to make certain decisions about starting my own business. And this school provides powerful knowledge about grant writing, which is very important. During my studies, I came up with the idea of opening a skin care store for women. And I am already working online through social media and the marketplace platform. After the training, I wrote a business plan and am ready to apply for a grant to raise funds to open my own offline business here in Bila Tserkva – a skincare store.” (Anna, an IDP from Sievierodonetsk)

Almost all of the graduates noted that participating in this project helped them integrate into a new city, believe in themselves and their abilities, and inspire them to realize their ideas.

To date, 6 business school students have already started their own businesses (hairdressing, massage, consulting, retail).

  • “This school gave me confidence. At the same time, I took a massage course, but after graduating, I couldn’t decide to start working. I kept putting it off, making excuses, and having doubts and fears. It was during my studies at the business school that I gained the confidence I needed. Now I have rented an office and even have a small client base.” (Olha, IDP from Sievierodonetsk)

– Did you face difficulties during your studies because all the students were displaced? I mean their psychological state, the need to start almost from scratch.

– Yes, all the participants were internally displaced, so it was essential to conduct cohesion training first to reduce psycho-emotional stress. To do this, we hired a qualified psychologist to help the girls with various exercises and emotional workouts. Emotional intelligence, stress resistance, management of one’s own emotions, and confidence in achieving goals are the foundation that helps in finding a job, formulating one’s own life goals, and focusing when choosing an idea to start a business.

Psychology classes have become an essential part of the curriculum. Photo: Bila Tserkva Strategic Development Agency.

After these trainings, almost all participants reported that their psycho-emotional state had improved and that they had gained confidence in themselves and their abilities.

  • “When the war broke out, I gave up. I didn’t know what to do in a new city. But it so happened that almost immediately after I moved, I got into a business school, and that’s what gave me the impetus to keep going. Thank you so much for answering my questions! You have no idea how much you help us to be strong and confident. I look forward to every Sunday because I know I will learn about myself and gain new knowledge!” (Tetiana, an IDP from Berdiansk, Zaporizhzhia oblast).

Through informal communication with the participants, I learned that many made friends at the school thanks to the classes. It is significant for the adaptation to a new community because almost none of the women had friends when they arrived, and their circle of friends was only their family.

The girls continue to support each other. They have created an online group where they communicate and share information about job opportunities.

Photo: Bila Tserkva Strategic Development Agency.
  • “I thank the school for bringing us together. It made us realize that we are not alone, that we have the opportunity to meet new friends. In this school, I have gained new knowledge and friends”. (Inna, an IDP from Bakhmut, Donetsk oblast)
  • “I thank the school for new knowledge and positive emotions. I am grateful to my destiny that I came here, met interesting people, and was recharged by people who are changing before my eyes and who have ideas. And I will grow too!” (Olena, an IDP from Shchastia, Luhansk oblast).
  • “I can say this with confidence: I am glad I came here and met wonderful people. Thank you to the lecturers for their kind hearts and faith in each of us” ( Aliona, an IDP from Enerhodar, Zaporizhzhia oblast).

It is gratifying that in their feedback, the graduates noted that the training structure was very well formed, and they thanked the course for the pleasant, friendly atmosphere and the emotional content.

  • “When you have the support of people like this (speakers and organizers – ed.), it’s not scary to look forward to your future in a new city! Thank you for this support! We felt it all the time” (Violetta, an IDP from Skadovsk, Kherson oblast).
  • “I am sincerely grateful to you for the information, excellent teaching, communication and help! I was looking forward to the training days! I wish you success and prosperity!” (Milana, an IDP from Melitopol, Zaporizhzhia oblast).
  • “Your ability to make the complex accessible is fantastic! Thank you for this day! As the final stage of this project, it was filled with essential and helpful information. We will be able to bring our ideas to a logical conclusion! Once again, I thank our organizers for their support and the speakers for their time and the knowledge you invested in us. (Violetta, an IDP from Skadovsk, Kherson oblast)

So, we are happy that participating in the project has helped the women believe in themselves, inspired them to implement their ideas, and given them the confidence to start their businesses.

Our community has been enriched with new business ideas and new entrepreneurs.

– Do you plan to continue this type of business training, especially for internally displaced women?

– We had a great demand for the continuation of the business school because the participants shared their successful and motivating experiences in their community of peers, which encouraged others to learn new things, retrain to find a job or start their own business. 

Currently, our project has moved on to another initiative: with the support of another international organization, we are providing support for IDP initiatives and professional advice to project participants.

In particular, 25 participants of the Business School have been retrained and intend to start their own business, having acquired the skills of specialists in new professions: accountant, barista, tailor, manicurist, driver, hairdresser, excavator operator…

Eleven project graduates have already found jobs as accountants, financial literacy specialists, masseuses, photographers, Zumba instructors, cosmetologists, and salespeople in clothing stores.

In all, we have about 20 success stories of women who have gained new opportunities.

Graduation from the Business School. Photo: Bila Tserkva Strategic Development Agency.

*The project was implemented by the NGO “Legal Unity” in partnership with the Municipal Enterprise “Bila Tserkva Strategic Development Agency” and the NGO “Soniach” with the support of the international charitable platform GlobalGiving and the Legal Empowerment Fund (a program of the Fund for Global Human Rights) in cooperation with the Legal Development Network.

The content of this publication is solely the responsibility of the Legal Development Network and does not necessarily reflect the views of the above organizations.

P. S. More relevant information on legal and humanitarian issues – is in the special section #StandWithUkraine. It accumulates materials that may be useful to those who suffer, whose rights are violated as a result of the war between russia and Ukraine.

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