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

25-02-2020
You can too! How the EU supports women entrepreneurs in Moldova
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 Moldova, often with a focus on rural and disadvantaged areas. So don’t think that you need to be in Chisinau, 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 – in fact you may end up taking advantage of several of them!

Here are some examples:

The Women in Business (Femei în Afaceri) programme implemented by the Organisation for SME Sector Development (ODIMM) provides training and guidance to prepare women who are planning to launch a business, as well as grants.

The network of business incubators in 10 regions of Moldova provides business counselling and mentoring, legal advice and accounting support, seminars and courses on how to start a business, draw up a business plan, communicate with customers, or expand into foreign markets.

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 Moldova, three – Edinet, Gagauzia and Cimislia – are running pioneer projects including support for new entrepreneurs with training and business development facilities, ensuring the equal access of women to development opportunities.

Moldovan entrepreneurs also have access to the EU’s COSME programme, which includes grants for SME development, and also funds the Enterprise Europe Network, which helps Moldovan SMEs find business and technology partners across Europe and beyond.

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

Of course, many women who want to start a business do not have the money to invest in the facilities and equipment necessary to set themselves up, especially if they have been at home looking after children, or even in salaried employment.

EU support is available through ODIMM’s Women in Business programme, which provides small grants to help you set up a new business, as well as larger investments to support growing companies. So far, the programme has approved grants worth 39.58 million lei through 282 financing contracts with women entrepreneurs.

In addition, the EU-funded PARE 1+1 programme seeks to encourage investments by Moldovan migrant workers, either returning to Moldova to set up a small business or sending remittances to their relatives. If you have a husband, a parent or other close relative working abroad and willing to invest in your business, PARE 1+1 will match the amount sent home with an equivalent grant, up to a total of 200,000 lei – so far, 322 million lei have been granted in more than 1,500 SME projects.

To find out more about EU and other funding opportunities under ODIMM programmes, visit the Organisation’s funding page.

A page listing sources of funding has also been published on the AA/DCFTA in the Republic of Moldova website.

3. How should you apply for such grants, are there specific requirements?

ODIMM’s Women in Business (Femei în Afaceri) project will support businesses planned, founded and managed by women (Moldovan citizens), with priority to:

  • Innovative products with export potential;
  • Businesses (non-agricultural) in rural areas;
  • Creative industries, agro-tourism and crafts;
  • IT and communications services.

Financial, banking, and insurance businesses are not eligible, nor are real estate, retail and wholesale, or businesses in the gambling industry, alcohol or tobacco, and military-related production.

Check out details on how to apply, including link to the application form.

4. 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 the Republic of Moldova.

Specifically, the EBRD’s Women in Business programme offers loans, training and advisory services that are specifically tailored to women-led businesses. The programme works with local partner Prime Capital to offer dedicated financing to help women entrepreneurs, with products that specifically address the needs of women-led SMEs. 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, as well as a specific lending facility – Fruit Garden of Moldova – for investments in the horticultural sector. The European Fund for South East Europe (EFSE) also provides small loans (average loan size €10,000) to the smallest businesses (less than 10 employees) in sectors such as agriculture, industry, trade and services.

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

There are lots!

Irina Timbur ran a small clothing repair shop. Now, she manages a mini textile factory and produces clothes for foreign entrepreneurs, after taking advantage of facilities and mentoring offered by the Nisporeni Business Incubator, and then receiving a grant from Women in Business.

Alina Daraban produces melon and watermelon preserves, as well as jams, juices and salads. She had no idea what a business plan, revenue or expenses meant, but then she came to the Singerei Business Incubator and took part in trainings, as well as getting help to apply for a grant from Women in Business.

Olesea Lisai used to make dresses from home, but wanted to open a small shop. She received help from her mother, who is working abroad, allowing her to double the investment with a grant from the PARE 1+1 programme. Now she has her own bridal and evening attire salon.

Click here for more success stories from Women in Business, here to meet women beneficiaries of PRE 1+1, and here to learn about five Moldovan women who have benefited from EU support across a range of areas.

6. 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 the Republic of Moldova, and the EU provides considerable funding for Vocational Education and Training (VET). However, there is no EU programme offering you direct support. Rather, EU support is focused on assisting the government in developing its network of VET Schools, Colleges and Centres of Excellence, including a multi-million-euro programme to help build the foundations of a modern and effective VET system.

For young women under the age of 30, the EU offers exciting opportunities under its Erasmus + youth programmes. You can join the more than 3,000 young Moldovans 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.

7. Whom can I ask for help?

Contact the Organisation for SME Sector Development (ODIMM) – for Women in Business click here for contact details, and for PARE 1+1 click here.

Check out 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.

The EU has supported the creation of business incubators in Stefan Voda, Leova, Rezina, Nisporeni, Cahul, Cosnita, Sîngerei, Ceader Lunga, Cimislia and Calarasi, so look them up if you live nearby!

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

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