You can too! How the EU supports women entrepreneurs in Georgia

23-02-2021
You can too! How the EU supports women entrepreneurs in Georgia
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 Georgia, often with a focus on rural and disadvantaged areas. So don’t think that you need to be in Tbilisi, to have a higher education or an established business in order to access EU support – on the contrary!

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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:

If you are looking for support in agriculture, the ENPARD programme provides information, training, advice and financial support all over Georgia, with hundreds of thousands of farmers benefitting since 2013. Visit the programme’s interactive map to find regional initiatives, contacts, information centres and cooperatives near you.

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 Georgia, three – Bolnisi, Gori and Tbilisi – are running pioneer projects including support for new entrepreneurs with training and business development facilities, ensuring the equal access of women to development opportunities.

For young women, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds, five EU4Youth projects – Social Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Development (SEED) for Green Growth in Borderline Communities, Social Entrepreneurship in Armenia and Georgia (SEAG), SAY YES Skills for Jobs, Enhancing Youth Education, Employment and Participation in Conflict-affected Areas in Georgia and Ukraine and Fostering potential for greater employability – provide entrepreneurship training and mentorship. In the period 2018-2020, 3,361 young women in Georgia benefited from training and workshops under EU4Youth grant projects, 296 took part in internships, and 96 became self-employed after receiving support.

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?

A number of grants for agricultural projects are available under the ENPARD programme. Follow the calls section on their website to see the list of grant competitions that are available.

While the local development projects funded under the Mayors for Economic Growth initiative do not provide grants, they will help you to access finance. For example, the SPARK business accelerator set up under the project in Tbilisi offers new businesses assistance in preparing a business plan, and puts you in contact with potential investors and sources of finance. 

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 partners Bank of Georgia and TBC Bank 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. You can see the list of available loans and grants here.

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 Georgia.

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 European Fund for South East Europe (EFSE) also provides small loans (average loan size €14,300) to the smallest businesses (less than 10 employees) in sectors such as agriculture, industry, trade and services. Click here for the full list of finance programmes under EU4Business, and here for projects offering business development services including training and business advice, trade support, clusters and incubators.

Georgian entrepreneurs also have access to the Enterprise Europe Network, which helps Georgian SMEs find business and technology partners across Europe and beyond.

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 Georgia, and the EU provides considerable funding for Vocational Education and Training (VET). In 2019, the EU launched a 150 million GEL programme supporting vocational education and labour market development. The five-year programme will help 105,000 Georgians find jobs by expanding high quality vocation education, improving labour policies, and supporting entrepreneurship training.

In terms of direct support, the individual EU4Youth programmes – Social Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Development (SEED) for Green Growth in Borderline Communities, Social Entrepreneurship in Armenia and Georgia (SEAG), Say YES: Skills for Jobs, Enhancing Youth Education, Employment and Participation in Conflict-affected Areas in Georgia and Ukraine, Fostering Potential for Greater Employability, and Better Skills for Better Future – have a strong focus on skills for under-35s, especially in less advantaged regions of Georgia, 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 almost 10,000 young Georgians 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, 919 women entrepreneurs in Georgia received loans to a total value of more than €76 million under EU support programmes for SMEs, while 84 received grants worth almost €500,000. More than 8,500 benefitted from consultancy services. Turnover among supported companies rose by more than €100 million, and 7,895 new jobs were created as a result of the support.

For example:

Nata, Manana, Irina and Dali all received grants under the ENPARD programme. Natalia and Irina come from Tbilisi, Manana from Tsalka, and Dali from Upper Alvani. Natalia grows cucumbers, Irina tomatoes, Manana runs a tea processing enterprise, and Dali combines honey production with educational courses. They have all developed their business with the help of EU training and grants.

Tsitsi Shengelia turned her wood-carving hobby into a business and opened a creative studio with support from EU4Youth, which provided business training, mentorship and finance.

Irina Gloveli and Tekla Mamageishvili both received advisory support as part of the Women in Business programme. For Tekla, the project helped to plan the activities of her eye clinic more strategically and attract financial resources, while Irina received help to put her engineering company’s financial reporting in order, leading to a 7.5% rise in profits.

Manana Chqareuli worked from home as a seamstress. With the help of loans under the EFSE programme, she was able to upgrade her equipment, lease a proper workspace and hire staff to develop her business. Now her company is on its way to becoming a brand in its own right.

Diana Bakradze and Anna Varamashvili benefitted from skills training and internships under a project for ‘Support of vulnerable youth to become productive citizens through learning, training and employment’, an important step to an independent professional life.

Click here for more success stories from ENPARD, here to find out what the city of Bolnisi is doing under the Mayors for Economic Growth project, and here to learn about five Georgian women who have benefited from EU support across a range of areas.

6. Whom can I ask for help?

Visit the ENPARD website to find contact information in all the different regions of Georgia, and check the programme’s interactive map to find regional initiatives, contacts, information centres and cooperatives near you.

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.

If you already have a business and are looking to develop it, check out the training and funding opportunities available under EU4Business in Georgia. 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 Georgia to withstand the crisis.

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

And don’t forget to follow the EU Delegation to Georgia on Facebook for updates and new opportunities.