How EU4Youth project helped Ella from Belarus find opportunities in hard times


Ella Gukova is 22 years old and is a first-year student at the Belarusian State University of Culture and Arts, majoring in cultural studies. She is an orphan, and her grandmother, with whom she still lives, is her legal guardian as well as her younger brother’s.

In order to help herself and her family, Ella was looking for an opportunity for part-time work ever since she was 14. At first, she worked on a flower farm, pulling weeds and planting flowers, then she earned money by sticking advertisements, worked as a promoter and as a barista in a coffeeshop. But she always wanted more – to become independent, to start her own business, to develop her creative potential.  

In June 2019, Ella enrolled in a course on entrepreneurship, organised in the framework of the EU4Youth: Employability and stability in Armenia, Belarus and Ukraine project.

Having completed the course, Ella wrote a business plan. Her idea was to create thematic travel tours with a personal photographer. Unfortunately, her business idea was not selected for funding. But Ella never gives up: she kept working hard, meeting mentors, studying in a coworking space, exploring the strengths and weaknesses of her business plan in order to improve it.

So, Ella submitted her new business idea – this time for a photography studio – with the next group in February 2020. And this time all her hard work paid off and Ella received a grant of €3,500.

As of today, Ella has already registered as an individual entrepreneur. The young woman organises different kinds of photo shoots: in the studio, wedding, ‘Love story’, family and individual. She also retouches the photographs and provides the customer with a finished product.

During the photo shoots Ella tries to help people express themselves so that they not only get good quality photos, but also beautiful, unique pictures, highlighting their individuality.

“The truth is that nowadays, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the number of customers has fallen… but I hope that everything will return to normal soon and that my success story will not end,” said Ella, admitting it had not been the best time to launch a business.

However, Ella does not give up in difficult situations. She is keen to share her anti-crisis business plans in the current conditions: she plans to take pictures of nature in order to sell them to image banks.

In March 2020, Ella also took classes in web-design in order to improve her photo processing skills. “It turns out that not only could I acquire experience and new knowledge, but also improve my reputation and develop my client network thanks to the practical classes.”

Undoubtedly Ella’s success story will not stop here. Local project coordinator Tatiana Babeikina says Ella’s story highlights the importance of never giving up, and always to search for a solution or an alternative plan: “Whatever challenge life brings (be it COVID-19, crisis or any other difficult life situation), the most important is to take them not as a setback, but as an opportunity for a better understanding of oneself, comprehension and reappraisal of values, changing one’s attitude to life and to other people.”

The “EU4Youth: Employability and stability in Armenia, Belarus and Ukraine” project aims at developing the employment and self-employment skills of young people, as well as at expanding the opportunities for active participation of youth in the job market.

Since 2018 when the project started, a lot of young people from Belarus took training courses in Life Skills and Employability, improved their competencies and professional skills through VET, received relevant work experience through internships and work-based learning, and got jobs at the end of it. Those who were trained on entrepreneurship got an opportunity to develop their business-ideas and to compete for mini-grants. Thanks to the project, 17 business-plans have received financing and the new start-ups will be launched by the project participants. 

Author: Tatsiana Babeikina