Designing her way to the top
Skopje, fYR Macedonia – 13 February, 2013 – Jelena Kostovska showed a talent for designing clothes at an early age. After attending textile vocational school, she got to work with two leading designers and sold her products in boutique shops.
But then she ran into obstacles that many entrepreneurs face in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. A lack of capital, equipment, and the inability to write a business plan prevented her from expanding.
Now all that has changed. Ms. Kostovska, 38, is one of more than 5,000 people who took part in a nationwide training programme offered by the Government and UNDP that helps put entrepreneurs on a path to success.
"Now I can grow my company into a bigger fashion house, one that can compete in quality and price with the other more established fashion houses," said Ms. Kostovska.
Turning dreams into reality
In addition to helping her create a business plan, the programme provided Ms. Kostovska with grant money for two sewing machines, a computer and a camera. She also bought business cards, flyers, fashion posters, a company logo and an shop sign to attract business.
Kostovska applied for the programme after seeing an ad for a two-day workshop on business planning and administration that also provided grants for equipment.
"I asked around and it turned out that some friends of mine had already taken part in the scheme and were really impressed," she said. "So I applied and was selected for the course."
The nationwide training programme is open to anyone who can present a viable business idea, and is legally out of work. Like many entrepreneurs in her country, Ms. Kostovska had been officially unemployed since she didn’t have the funds to register her business.
Successful applicants attend an intensive two-day workshop to help them develop their business idea and provide support with marketing and accounting.
"The workshop was a real confidence-booster," says Ms. Kostovska. "I think anyone who has a good idea, the determination to see it through, and the willingness to complete this project will be able to realize their ideas and achieve success in a short period of time."
At the end of the workshop, the training team assesses each candidate’s business plan to identify those with the biggest potential to grow into successful companies. They can win a grant of as much as 3,000 euros.
"It's a great feeling when I see a company established with the support of this programme growing and prospering," says Menka Gugulevska, Advisor in the Employment Centre in Skopje, the capital.
"With the help of the grant money I was able to get going almost straight away," Ms. Kostovska said.
A key goal of the self-employment programme has been to reduce unemployment by encouraging the creation of small businesses that will not only provide a living for successful entrepreneurs, but also employ workers. Jelena Kostovska has already been able to recruit one employee.
Seventy percent of entrepreneurs who have received training and equipment through the course over the past five years have remained in business – well above the roughly 50 percent global success rates for new companies.
More than $22 million has been invested in job creation initiatives tailored to the labour market through the programme since 2007.
"I think this programme offers a great starting chance to succeed in business for anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit," said Ms. Kostovska.