A master of decorative and applied art who has participated in more than 100 exhibitions in Azerbaijan, Sona Maharramova grew up in an artistic family in Ganja. Though she is young, she has extensive creative and teaching experience, primarily in the art of painting on glass.
Maharramova has also been in numerous competitions and projects and was awarded the title "Art Worker of the Year" by the Shamkir District Executive Council in 2015. In 2017, she received a membership card from the Decorative and Applied Arts Department of the Union of Azerbaijan Artists.
Meanwhile, Maharramova has taught art at the Ganja Youth House for eight years and collaborates on very interesting works of art with her students. She had started to think about setting up her own business, but she didn’t know how.
The “Accelerating development of sustainable micro-entrepreneurship in rural regions of Azerbaijan” (ADSMIRRA) project supported by the EU and implemented by the Azerbaijan Micro-finance Association (AMFA) supported Maharramova in taking her first step in this direction. Getting more information about the Project encouraged the young artist push her limits.
Taking part in various activities organized by the Project, Maharramova presented a business plan and won the approval of the jury for a grant to start her own micro business. With that money, the young artist first bought the dishes—cups, pear-glasses, and teapots—on which she would apply special paints and dyes. Not long after, she won a Young Entrepreneur competition held under the Project.
Today she has set up the “Handmade Glass” website, on which she presents her works and takes orders. She also demonstrates her masterpieces on e-sergi.az, which has been developed and is maintained by the Project.
“Financial literacy, business plan writing, setting up a small private business—I used to be a stranger to these concepts and thought they had nothing to do with art,” recalls Sona Maharramova. “Over time, I realized that I needed to have my own source of income. But at the same time, I had no idea how or where to start.”
Thanks to AMFA specialists, Maharramova says, “I was able to create a business and present my favorite art to a wider audience. Since then, orders have nearly doubled. As a result of my participation in the Project, I established an additional source of income and this increased my self-confidence. This is the most important thing I gained from the EU support.”
Previously, Maharramova’s handicrafts were sold only at exhibitions, but online sales have expanded and stabilized her access to markets. Even in 2020, when almost no art events were held due to the coronavirus pandemic, she was able to sell a large number of works through her online page. What’s more, it also became easier and more convenient for art lovers in Ganja to choose an interesting piece of art from their favorite artist and have it delivered to their doors.
Sona Maharramova follows current trends and reflects them in her works. When Azerbaijan proclaimed 2021 the Year of Nizami Ganjavi, a 12th century Persian Sunni poet, she began to actively use the poet’s heroes in her works.
“Given our country’s rich tea tradition, I decided to paint images of Nizami Ganjavi’s immortal characters on a pear-glass set,” she explains.
According to Maharramova, she figured out another important point while participating in the Project: if you want to gain the interest of art lovers, you need to make sure that the presentation of works is attractive and sharp, paying attention to such small details as packaging. Currently, Maharramova is working on this important aspect.
While income is a key part of any endeavor, Maharramova advises students who want to devote their lives to art to focus on developing their fundamental skills. “When you begin to display a positive attitude at work, that’s when you can expect to see benefits,” Maharramova says.
AMFA has been implementing the European Union-funded “Accelerating Development of Sustainable Micro-entrepreneurship in Rural Regions of Azerbaijan” (ADSMIRRA) Project in the economic regions of Ganja-Gazakh, Guba-Khachmaz, Shaki-Zagatala and Aran over 2018-2021. The Project aim has been strengthening the potential of micro and small entrepreneurs in rural areas by providing workshops in financial literacy, business planning, running cooperatives, mentoring, allocating capital for starting or expanding micro businesses, and more. Altogether, the Project has supported the launch of 37 start-ups, the expansion of 76 micro businesses and the generation of 125 jobs in rural Azerbaijan, allowing 202 families to increase their monthly income and 3 cooperatives to be established.