This autumn, the second edition of the Empowering Women Entrepreneurship Programme welcomed refugees to start their own micro-businesses in Estonia

A week ago, 27 outstanding women stepped on stage in Tallinn after an intensive 2-week entrepreneurship programme to present their business ideas to the jury and their peers. 16 of them are receiving further mentoring during the next 6 months which will support their entrepreneurial journey and take them a step closer to making their dreams come true.

Garage48 with the Estonian Refugee Council has been empowering new and exciting female entrepreneurs to launch their own micro businesses in Ukraine since 2019. The programme gives them the means to rebuild their lives and support their family as well as their community after the devastating impact of the war that has been going on since 2014. The programme has been designed from a problem-solving ground point, using design thinking methodology and including expert mentoring from the very beginning, the final business plans were sustainable and crisis-resilient.

Empowering refugees to start their micro-businesses in a new environment

Since the full-scale war in 2022, many women and their families who we usually work within Ukraine, were forced to leave their homeland and leave everything they once knew behind. Many of them ended up in Estonia and are facing the challenge of starting over in a new country. The only right thing to do was to help and support them the way we knew best and that is how the very first edition of the Empowering Women Entrepreneurship Programme in Estonia was born in 2022. The goal is to give the participants knowledge of the Estonian business environment, introduce them to entrepreneurship and give them the necessary skills to run their own businesses. Additionally, the project connects people, creating a support system and sense of community that empowers the participants for a long time, even outside of the programme.

Although the reason behind this programme is inhumane and horrible, what comes out of it and what we feel during the programme is something very beautiful, compassionate, and caring. This is a sort of feeling that is not possible to put into words. You need to be in the room to understand it.

- Kadri Tiisvelt

The second edition of the programme took on board all the feedback from previous editions that took place in Estonia and Ukraine. The programme design was further developed by adding more activities before and during the 2-week programme. This was done with the support of our amazing partners British Council Estonia, Swedbank Estonia and BPW Estonia - Business and Professional Women Organisation Estonia.

Empowering Women Entrepreneurship Programme 2023

The first phase was a traditional Garge48 Idea Garage where participants came together in Tallinn for two days to ideate their business ideas and develop them further. This helped the participant to validate their idea and gave them a stronger base to work with during the 2-week intensive programme with workshops and mentoring.

The second phase was the two-week entrepreneurship programme that was full of various online workshops, group and expert mentoring, and peer-to-peer learning. During this time, participants developed their business plans and validated their ideas even more. On the 8th of October, 27 newly started entrepreneurs across Estonia gathered in Tallinn at Palo Alto Club to present their ideas. Participants are drawn from all corners of Estonia - Rõuge, Jõgeva, Viimsi, Inju, Rapla, Märjamaa, Olustvere, Keila, Tartu, Haapsalu and Tallinn. The concepts come from a variety of fields, including food preparation and catering, cosmetic care, handicrafts, education, wellness, and the textile and fashion industries.

Participants had continuous support during these 2 weeks from experts as well as their lead mentors - Jelena Žhovnikova, Ksenia Ipolitoava, Julija Bulgakova and the programme host Maarika Truu. It is amazing to see such a strong bond, support and commitment toward our Empowering Women community.

Many mentors who joined the project went through the very first Garage48 Mentor’s Masterclass in Estonia. It brought together 28 entrepreneurs and experts who were inspired to share their learnings with starting-out female entrepreneurs. The knowledge they gained was immediately put into practice in the programme by supporting our participants with their expertise.

The masterclass was great preparation for new mentors. We talked about how to become a mentor, develop your skills and support entrepreneurs. Not only do we want to empower ladies to become entrepreneurs, but we also aim to help new mentors join our community and help new businesses get off the ground.

- Maarika Truu

Empowering Women Mentor's Masterclass 2023

Here are the top 16 who moved on to a 6-month mentoring programme

Art Kohvik is creating a cafe with various workshops in Rõngu at Kunstikuur. The cafe offers various baked goods using recipes that they have collected from around the world. In the workshops, both children and adults can try their hand at various creative activities.

Fragment Art conducts individual and group silk watercolour workshops.

UniqueTitaniumArt is a family business from Märjamaa that produces handmade jewelry made of titanium metal. They work with titanium metal in two different and complex techniques - TIG welding and cold forging.

SKARB is a store for handmade goods from Ukrainian artists who live in Estonia. It is a pop-up store that opens in various locations at regular intervals.

Свободная Мама is creating a center for psychological help in Tallinn, which offers parallel sessions for women and children. The main idea of the center is to help women and children with migrant backgrounds adapt to a new country and live a fulfilling lifestyle.

SOHA produces natural soaps with Estonian herbs, essential oils, natural clays, extracts and other natural additives.

Maasika Baar is creating compositions of chocolate-covered strawberries with flowers and other decorative elements. Additionally, Yevheniia plans to add a workshop element to the current business.

Fruitiki is making healthy snacks. Their main assortment includes a variety of handmade marshmallows, jerky meats, dried vegetables and fruits, healthy bars, and apples in agave syrup with nuts.

DreamFinanceTeam offers a service that provides financial services and manages grants for non-profit organizations.

Pannochka produces high-quality homemade dumplings, cabbage rolls, cutlets, cheesecakes, pancakes, etc. They have an open kitchen feature, where customers can see how their food has been made.

In the Sky. UA is a dedicated digital space for people who passed or are missing in Ukraine. An interactive map on the main page shows all people as dots, with the ability to zoom in and search by countries, counties, regions, cities etc.

Koonus offers a cone-shaped pizza - lots of filling, cheese, and not enough dough.

Dastarhan is a karaoke bar combining various Asian and European cuisine with entertaining karaoke events. The goal is to create a place where people can enjoy delicious food, have fun and sing their favourite songs in a cosy and unique atmosphere.

e-Vareniki is an online vareniki shop where you can buy frozen products with home delivery or pick up. Besides the dumpling shop, there will be workshops on how to make dumplings.

Mets&Telk is a camping club outside the city where a variety of multilingual weekend events will be hosted with a focus on expats. The goal is to overcome linguistic and cultural differences, unite people with common interests, and educate society about different cultures.

In the mentoring programme teams will have both group and individual mentoring sessions and receive support according to their needs. In addition, the mentoring program includes mental health support. They will have the opportunity to participate in the MindSpring program, which aims to improve the psychological well-being of refugees and promote integration.

Top 16 teams of the Empowering Women Entrepreneurship Programme in Estonia 2023

Programme supporters have put together a fabulous pool of combined prizes.

The 16 best teams were awarded laptops from Atea Estonia and local Estonian products from Looduskosmeetika, HOIA Homespa and a gift card for Hyrv handmade jewellery.

Leading mentors and the most outstanding teams of each group received beautiful Craftory products.

In addition, the prize fund includes:

- Tickets to the Estonian Fashion Festival, sTARTUp Day and Food Innovation Summit (Taimne Teisipäeva)

- Fast track to Impact Crash course from Impact Day Impact

- Rooms rental on good terms in case of a good fit from Telliskivi Creative City and Põhjala tehas.

- Business consultations from Tallinn Creative Incubator

- Product placement to Siin & Sääl e-store

- Hot desk and consultation from Pärnu Business Incubator

Participants were kept refreshed by Kanarbiku and Spläsh.

A huge thank you to all our supporters!

Picture from the final:

Programme aftermovie is coming soon.

The programme is funded by the British Council in Estonia, Swedbank Estonia, The Coca-Cola Foundation and LHV.

Estonian Refugee Council and Garage48 are continuing to support women, who have lost their income due to the war in Ukraine, and the next “Empowering Women Entrepreneurship Programme” in central and eastern Ukraine will be announced soon.

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