A second chance in Donetsk: how EU support gave Olena better skills for a better future

17-12-2019

An internally displaced person from war-struck eastern Ukraine was able to open her own beauty salon in a new city. Another EU4Youth success story.

There is a beauty salon on the first floor of the usual five-story building on the outskirts of the city of Druzhkivka in the Donetsk Region. At first glance, there is nothing unusual. There are dozens like this one in the city. But in fact, this small and modest business is a "dream come true" for Olena Marushevska, who fled from the war. She comes from Horlivka, one of the first cities where protests of people hostile to Ukraine began.

This is Olena’s first own business, which she runs with her husband Eduard. Both novice entrepreneurs completed a training course in the framework of the EU4Youth programme ‘Better skills for a better future’, funded by the European Union. The project aims to support young people from the conflict-affected areas of Georgia and Ukraine. Its main goal is to increase the level of education, employment and social integration of youth.

In addition to knowledge, Olena received start-up capital, in the form of a grant of 1,000 euros to start her own business. With this money, she purchased manicure and pedicure equipment. This is the field of the beauty industry that she is involved in, while her husband Eduard is a professional massage therapist.

"We had many applications from specialists of manicure and pedicure, such as Olena, but we decided to give the grant to her," says Anton Stukalo, coordinator of Save the Children, an organisation that implements the programme in the Donetsk Region. According to Anton, they were struck by the level of Olena's thinking, the fact that she knew exactly how to achieve her goal. "She looked very confident and was able to convince us that she could do it and would manage it," says Anton.

This is not surprising, as Olena has higher economic education and she worked at a bank before the outbreak of hostilities. She says that she considers the EU's support for Ukrainian entrepreneurs very important and not only from the material point of view. "They do not forget about us in Europe, they believe in us and it is very valuable," she says.

Druzhkivka-style beauty

We arrived at Olena's salon a little earlier than planned. And we had to wait: Olena and her husband had clients. Looking at the cleanliness and cosiness inside, we also wanted to sink in the comfortable chairs of this family beauty salon and become its clients.

Olena explains that she is originally from Horlivka, and moved to Druzhksvka in 2014. She liked working at the bank, but wanted to do something more creative. She chose manicure because she loves beautiful nails. At first, she went to manicure courses, and then she saw an announcement about the business training conducted by Save the Children. Olena attended the course with her husband, who by that time had experienced a serious illness and had difficulty walking. She says that communication with motivated people literally pulled Eduard out of his depression. "New faces, new knowledge, it stirred him up," she says.

After the training, Olena wrote a business plan and received a grant for the purchase of equipment. "I bought a cutter, a device for removing gel polish, a shelf, a lamp for drying nails and a beautiful screen to separate my clients from those who come to my husband for a massage," the novice business woman explains.

Olena built an advertising campaign according to all the laws of the local market: she posted advertisements inviting people to the salon on boards in the city, and handed out flyers with information about her services at Druzhkivka enterprises.

I asked what manicure colour scheme was preferred by residents of an industrial city. It turned out that local women preferred classic nude colours. "This is what is fashionable now," Olena shrugs. Another favourite service of local women is nail extension with polymer material.

Olena is preparing to increase her prices in the near future. The high demand for her services allows her to do so.

Author: Kateryna Shapoval

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About the project: "Better skills for a better future" is implemented as part of the EU4Youth programme. The aim of the project is to promote the development of entrepreneurship of young people who are in adverse conditions. It provides these people with access to education and increases the chances of finding a job.