Belarus: How to help your business recover after COVID

September 9, 2021

  • COVID hit my business badly. Where can I get some financing to recover?
  • How do I apply for a bank loan? What are the requirements?
  • The pandemic showed that there is sustainable demand for my business. How can I get knowledge, advice and skills needed to scale up my business?
  • I think exporting to the EU could help my business recover. Where do I start?
  • Are there SMEs like me that got help?
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COVID hit my business badly. Where can I get some financing to recover?

The EU offers financing and guarantees to local financial institutions to unlock lending. This makes it possible for the local lender to provide more affordable financing to SMEs. For instance, you could benefit from lower-interest loans, longer repayment terms, loans based in Belarusian ruble instead of foreign currencies. Check what these banks in Belarus have to offer: Belinvestbank.

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For instance, Irina Serezhonok and her company SuomiKids, a Belarusian brand selling warm clothes for children, turned to EBRD consultants under the EU4Business Initiative to learn about expanding into foreign markets, putting together advertising strategies, developing an incentives system for employees and a loyalty system for customers. The business plan helped get a bank loan to expand its retail network and implement innovations. As a result, SuomiKids doubled its customer base, increasing its working capital by 116% and sales by 80%.

 

How do I apply for a bank loan? What are the requirements?

The EU offers a wide range of options for different types of SMEs. For instance, the EU provides concessionary loans to underserved micro-enterprises and low-income households as well as women-led SMEs.

You can check the conditions for the EU partner banks on the EU4Business website and just call the bank directly. Remember to mention the programme. Very simple!

The pandemic showed that there is sustainable demand for my business. How can I get knowledge, advice and skills needed to scale up my business?

To support SMEs like yours, the EU provides considerable funding for business development services in Belarus. The EU assists local business associations and agencies, leading to SME growth. Just check all available business development opportunities, pick the one that suits your needs, and get in touch directly with the organisation!

For instance, women-led businesses can benefit from the EU4Business Women in Business Advisory Programme implemented by the EBRD to access know-how to transform their businesses. This covers a wide range of topics, from the technical knowledge to build a website, for example, or to introduce a quality management system that meets ISO standards, improve energy efficiency or improve Human Resources management. These usually involve working with qualified local consultants with a portion of the net costs reimbursed.

Through the Local Economic Development (LED) programme implemented by UNDP, SMEs may receive business advice to improve their performance and growth.

I think exporting to the EU could help my business recover. Where do I start?

Indeed, that’s a great way to scale up your business! And we have something interesting to offer.

The EU4Business Eastern Partnership Trade Helpdesk will facilitate you in identifying trade obstacles and better understanding regulatory and procedural issues in trading goods and services. Soon, this one-stop-shop online platform will be available that will offer access to trade information (tariffs, non-tariff measures, taxes, trade statistics and procedures).

The EU4Business: Connecting Companies project supports SMEs with export going to EU countries. You can apply for training, coaching and even matchmaking with businesses in the EU.

Are there SMEs like me that got help?

There are more than you can imagine! Between 2019-2020, 2,863 SMEs in Belarus received support through the EU4Business Initiative. Among those, a total of 821 entrepreneurs received loans for a total value of €24.23 million under EU programmes that support SMEs. Over 1,846 consultancy services were delivered to SMEs. The income of these supported SMEs rose by 8% in 2020 amounting to almost €45.91 million, and 5,895 new jobs were generated as a result of this support in 2020 alone.

Here are some success stories from SMEs like yours:

Natalia Vasko received EU funds under the EU4Business programme to open a support centre for novice beekeepers to popularise beekeeping in her community. The centre teaches novice beekeepers the know-how of keeping bees and provides access to equipment, such as a honey extractor, a wax melter, etc.

Svetlana and Vyacheslav Talchuk, farmers from the village of Veletin, attended specialised EU-supported courses on where and how to look for customers, how to increase sales, including online. They learned how to make presentations and mastered video filming. As a part of a wider team, the couple also applied to compete in the project for socially significant initiatives and was selected for additional funding.

Click here for more success stories to learn about Belarusian SMEs that are doing business in many different areas and have benefitted from EU support.

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