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From fitness to poultry and beauty, women from different regions of Azerbaijan changed professions in order to see their dreams fulfilled. Each of the women who started their own business had been mulling over her idea for many years. Some even changed professions and plunged into a completely new business.

Clearly, all the women were motivated, but there was no real support before they found out about an EU-funded project called “Accelerating development of sustainable micro-entrepreneurship in rural regions of Azerbaijan", or ADSMIRRA.

Tovuz native opens the first fitness club for women in her region

Tovuz’s Taliya Mammadova is currently the owner of the first fitness club for women in this county. Before opening her club, she worked as a teacher, although she always wanted to have her own business. Most of all, Mammadova was attracted to everything associated with sports and with a healthy lifestyle. She admits that she was overweight and opening a fitness club was a big motivator for her to lose weight herself. She also wanted to help other women do the same.

When she found out through the regional Women’s Entrepreneurship Development Association about “Accelerating development of sustainable micro-entrepreneurship in rural regions of Azerbaijan" (ADSMIRRA), a project funded by the EU, Mammadova was plugged in to talented individuals and professional coaches.

“I got the idea of a fitness club for ladies, which I opened before joining this project,” recalls Mammadova. “But I was missing the necessary equipment, especially treadmills. Thanks to grant funding, I bought good quality treadmills. I was able to save time and make my customers happier and more comfortable. I saw strong people and I learned from them.”

As a result, Mammadova changed her approach and learned that women have more power, that they can achieve much if they really want to. Solidarity helps a lot, Mammadova admits.

Learning how to better manage and expand a private poultry farm

Poultry farming is actively being developed at private homesteads in Azerbaijan. On the shelves of local stores, shoppers can find products from various regions and Gedebey, located in the west of the country, is among them.

As farmers know, demand for chickens and eggs increases sharply during the winter. And of course, farm income does, too. Farm owners have advantages in other seasons, as well. They grow domestic chickens, which are in great demand among buyers. 

Gebadek farmer Kifayat Novruzova has raised poultry for a long period of time. She makes her entire living selling the eggs and poultry meat that she raises on her farm. In her search for ways to move forward and expand her own farm, Novruzova joined ADSMIRRA.

“Through this project, I first learned how to better manage my business and how to tap into financial resources,” recalls Novruzova. “In addition, I connected to new people and these successful women entrepreneurs encouraged me to develop my business.”

Novruzova presented her business plan and won a grant, which she decided to spend on restructuring and expanding her poultry business.

“Expectations are up,” says Tovuz beautician about her business

Cosmetology is among the areas of small business that have been developing rapidly in Azerbaijan in recent years. This brings additional opportunities for opening a new business, especially for women. Tovuz native Fargana Asadova decided to get into this business 10 years ago. Luckily, the idea of working in the beauty industry was supported by members of her family.

Before she could achieve her goal, Asadova took special courses and received a certificate. Since there are not many cosmetology centres in the outlying regions of Azerbaijan, she decided to distinguish herself and represent better quality services to potential customers. After completing the courses, she rented a small room. There, she initially provided just a few services. In order to develop further, she needed some help.

Asadova at that point found out about ADSMIRRA project that was able to offer the kind of support she needed. After reading up about it, she did not hesitate to join. In the final analysis, she received financial support. “Expectations are high,” admits Asadova. She has shared her experience with other entrepreneur and even persuaded several to join the project.

“My business used to be tiny,” Asadova says. “Today, my self-confidence is up and I have obtained financial support. The project helped me pay for the necessary equipment and this allowed me to hire more people. With this kind of support, many women can make a living and provide for their own families. I’ve been able to develop and scale up my business.”

Still, as Asadova admits, cosmetology, especially in the outlying areas, is closely associated with mass festive events, which are currently banned due to the pandemic. This is affecting the bottom line, for sure. But, Asadova hopes for the best. In addition, during the ADSMIRRA workshops, she learned how to properly manage finances even in difficult times for her business. This knowledge is more useful to her now than ever.

The EU-funded ADSMIRRA project is ongoing in Azerbaijan. Its aim is strengthening the potential of micro and small entrepreneurs in rural areas by providing workshops on financial literacy and business planning. The project has already supported the launch of 37 start-ups, the expansion of 76 micro businesses and generated 125 jobs in rural Azerbaijan.

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