You can too! How the EU supports women entrepreneurs in Ukraine
1. I want to start my own business, but I’m not sure my idea would work. Who can advise me?

The European Union is very active in supporting the development of new businesses, particularly among women and particularly in the regions of Ukraine. So don’t think that you need to be in Kyiv, to have a higher education or an established business in order to access EU support.


The EU supports a number of programmes and business support facilities that provide know how, practical help, and even funding to help you start your business.

Here are some examples:

As a part of the EU4Business initiative, a network of 15 Business Support Centres has been set up across the regions of Ukraine, offering business advice services, trainings and workshops. Visit the network’s website for more information including a full list of business support centres and their contacts.

For women in Eastern Ukraine, the EU-funded Gender Culture Centre in Kharkiv has launched various resources for women including an SME Development Centre, where women can take part in training, get advice on starting or developing a business, have a mentor, and become a part of women’s business network – all for free. The centre provides services for all women, whether you want to start a business, or already have one and want to develop it. Find out more.

Advice on setting up a business in Eastern Ukraine is also available from UNDP as part of the EU’s Support to the East of Ukraine, with business development services and professional skills training. Visit the UNDP website to find out more, and follow their Facebook page to keep track of latest opportunities.

Across the rest of the country, the Mayors for Economic Growth programme supports local authorities in developing economic growth and job creation. Among the dozens of local authorities that have signed up in Ukraine, six are running pioneer projects. The projects in Slavutych and Hlyboka aim to establish an efficient business support infrastructure, offering a range of services to local entrepreneurs, while those in Baranivka and Dolyna aim to develop services for the agricultural sector, and Severynivka and Nove Misto focus on tourism.

Five projects under the EU4Youth initiative – Social Innovation Impact – a strategic partnership, Unlocking the potential of young social entrepreneurs in Moldova and Ukraine (EUnlocking), Enhancing Youth Education, Employment and Participation in Conflict-affected Areas, Employability and Stability, School Garden for Agricultural Entrepreneurship and Better Skills for Better Future – offer a range of services for under 35s that include entrepreneurship training, development of skills, mentorships, internships and career guidance, as well as start-up grants, with a focus on disadvantaged areas and IDPs, and with women among priority beneficiaries.

In the period 2018-2020, 414 young women in Ukraine benefited from training and workshops under EU4Youth grant projects, 82 took part in internships, 132 became self-employed after receiving support, and 174 received grants to help them set up their business.

2. Business advice is all very well, but you need money to develop your business. How can I get funding when I have no money of my own and no business experience?

EU4Youth offers 150 grants to young IDPs for micro-business and agricultural start-ups, and also supports young entrepreneurs with access to start-up funds under the Employability and Stability project. For the very young (14-21), the UPSHIFT programme (funded by the EU and implemented by UNICEF) offers training and up to 60,000 UAH for the implementation of social projects in various regions of Ukraine.

In Eastern Ukraine, grants of up to $10,000 are available from the UNDP – with the support of the European Union – to fund small business initiatives.

Apart from grants, the EU funds a wide range of programmes offering finance for small businesses and women entrepreneurs in particular. One EU-funded programme offers loans that are specifically tailored to women: Women in Business can provide finance both to start and develop a business. The programme works with local partner Bank Lviv and offers preferential terms for women entrepreneurs to finance new business ideas or expand an existing business. Several other projects under the EU4Business initiative also work with local banks to provide loans for SMEs – from micro-finance to major investment loans. Click here to find out which kinds of loan are offered by which banks under the EU4Business initiative.

3. I already have a business, but I need help to take it to the next step: is there any EU support available for me?

If you already have a business and you are looking to develop, funding (and training) is available through a number of programmes under the EU4Business initiative, which supports private sector development across Ukraine.

Apart from providing loans, Women in Business offers training and subsidised advisory services that are specifically tailored to women-led businesses. The programme also offers a personalised online tool – the Business Lens – to assess your business and see what kind of support you can access.

Some EU4Business programmes also offer finance for much larger businesses, but others such as the DCTA Initiative East offer microfinance loans up to €25,000. The European Fund for South East Europe (EFSE) also provides a range of loans (average loan size €51,000) to micro (less than 10 employees) and small (less than 50 employees) businesses in sectors such as agriculture, industry, trade and services. Also, as part of EU4Business’s SME Finance Facility, the German-Ukrainian Fund offers small business loans with the lowest possible interest rates – check out the various available programmes.

Click here for the full list of finance programmes under EU4Business, and here for projects offering training and business advice, B2B activities, internships, and trade information.

Ukrainian entrepreneurs also have access to the EU’s COSME programme, which includes grants for SME development, as well as to the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme, which gives new or aspiring entrepreneurs the chance to learn from experienced entrepreneurs running small businesses in other Participating Countries. Check out the EU4Business website to see what is best for you.

4. I’m not sure I want to start a business, but I want to learn new skills: is there something for me from the EU?

Training and skills are a key priority of EU support in Ukraine, and the EU provides considerable funding for Vocational Education and Training (VET). The EU recently launched EU4Skills: Better Skills for a Modern Ukraine, a major programme supporting vocational education and training. The 4-year programme will support reform at national level and in seven focus regions, an experience that will later be replicated to the whole country, benefiting all 754 vocational education institutions currently serving 253,000 trainees in Ukraine.

In terms of direct support, the individual EU4Youth programmes active in Ukraine have a strong focus on skills for under-35s, especially in less advantaged regions, providing training, mentoring and internships to help young people find jobs.

For young women under the age of 30, the EU offers exciting opportunities under its Erasmus + youth programmes. You can join the thousands of young Ukrainians who have already learned new skills and developed valuable experience by participating in youth projects or volunteering for work abroad under the European Solidarity Corps.

And if you are in higher education, Erasmus + offers student exchanges and post-graduate programmes in Europe. Find out more about all the opportunities and how to apply.

5. Are there women like me, who started their own business with EU help?

There are more than you can imagine!

In 2019, 289 women entrepreneurs in Ukraine received loans to a total value of more than €40 million under EU support programmes for SMEs, while 88 received grants worth €750,000. More than 350 benefitted from consultancy services. Turnover among supported companies rose by almost €129 million, and 16,134 new jobs were created as a result of the support.

For example:

Olena, Svitlana and Yana all received training and small grants from EU4Youth to set up small businesses. All three had lost homes and jobs fleeing the conflict in Eastern Ukraine and have now learned new skills and set up livelihoods to rebuild their lives.

Larysa and Yuliya also fled the conflict leaving behind successful careers, but were able to start new business in Kyiv with training and grants from an EU-funded project supporting IDPs.

Yulia Alekseeva’s travel agency received Women in Business support to develop a new website. The EU grant covered half of the costs of the new website, helping the company grow by almost 30% annually since then. 

Anna Temchyshyn received a cheap loan of UAH 1 million for her farm from Bank Lviv under the German-Ukrainian Fund’s EU4Business loan programme for SMEs, helping the farm to replenish its working capital and purchase agricultural machinery.

And young ceramicist Yulia Makliuk did a two-and-a-half-month mentorship with a potter in Slovenia as part of the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme, gaining valuable experience and skills for her craft.

6. Whom can I ask for help?

If you already have a business and are looking to develop it, check out the wide range of training and funding opportunities available under EU4Business in Ukraine. The website includes comprehensive details of loan and grant opportunities and business development services. It also includes a COVID-19 information support centre, outlining EU support measures to help small businesses in Ukraine to withstand the crisis.

Find out if there is Business Support Centre near you, and what training and advisory services are available by visiting the network’s website for more information, including a full list of business support centres and their contacts.

Look at the Mayors for Economic Growth website to see if your town is among the signatories and what it is doing to support jobs and businesses near you.

For education and youth opportunities, contact the national Erasmus + office in Ukraine.

And login to Facebook for the latest updates and opportunities from the EU Delegation to Ukraine and from UNDP in Ukraine.