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

February 25, 2024

  • I want to start my own business, but I’m not sure my idea would work. Who can advise me?
  • I already have a business, but my biggest challenge as a businesswoman is to take it to the next step: is there any EU support available for me?
  • Are there women like me, who started their own business with EU help?
  • Whom can I ask for help?
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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!

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 new Women’s Entrepreneurship Support Programme aims to increase the number of women entrepreneurs and improve the performance of women-led micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. Managed by the Organisation for the Development of Entrepreneurship (ODA), the programme will provide information, training, consulting and mentoring if you are starting a business. The programme will also provide grants of up to 200,000 MDL to facilitate the creation and development of start-up businesses. Find out more on the ODA website and follow their Facebook page for upcoming opportunities.

The EU4Moldova: Focal Regions (Cahul and Ungheni) programme provides support to entrepreneurs, including those involved in social entrepreneurship, for improving entrepreneurship knowledge and skills, ranging from branding and marketing, ICT skills, market information to innovation and financial management. The programme provides both training and grants for business support.

If you are interested in technology and innovation, or want to create a start-up in the innovative sector, the Startup City Cahul programme provides entrepreneurial education programmes, start-up creation and development opportunities, and the development of an EU4Innovation centre, which will develop local services and programmes and activities to encourage the use of technologies.

The project on Harnessing CSOs’ potential to promote and develop social entrepreneurship in Moldova offers access to professional consultations and a strong capacity building programme, especially on business and financial management, and for regional social business hubs to guide social enterprises. Check out the East Europe Foundation website for opportunities and funding.

The EU-funded Collaborate for Impact project aims to develop social entrepreneurship and social investment in the Eastern Partnership countries. In Moldova, it partners with Ecovisio to increase awareness and collaboration among social enterprises and civil society organisations and provide access to non-financial resourceseducation and mentoring programmes. Check out the Ecovisio website and Facebook page for news and opportunities, as well as other EU-funded resources for social entrepreneurship developed by Ecovisio. Visit the Collaborate for Impact website for success stories and podcasts from Moldova.

The network of business incubators in 10 regions of Moldova (Ștefan Vodă, Leova, Rezina, Nisporeni, Cahul, Cosnita, Sîngerei, Ceader Lunga, Cimislia and Calarasi) set up by the Organisation for SME Sector Development (ODIMM) with the support of the EU, 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.

People on both sides of the Nistru River can receive business coaching and information under the Support for Confidence Building Measures programme, which aims to improve living conditions by increasing economic opportunities and creating jobs; hundreds of entrepreneurs have already obtained business consulting and entrepreneurial training, including in digital marketing. The project has also opened a business hub in Tiraspol for IT specialists and start-ups, as well as four business platforms, and also provides support to civil society and media initiatives. Find out more about the project and follow the UNDP Moldova Facebook page for new opportunities.

In addition, the EU4Youth programme will soon launch a series of projects aimed at enhancing youth employment and entrepreneurship, including mentoring, training programmes and apprenticeships. The previous wave of EU4Youth projects saw hundreds of young Moldovans benefit from skills development activities, as well as start-ups launched with support from EU4Youth projects. Follow the EU4Youth page for upcoming opportunities.

I already have a business, but my biggest challenge as a businesswoman is 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.

Several other programmes under the EU4Business initiative also work with local banks to provide loans for SMEs – from micro-finance (loans up to €9,000) to major investment loans up to €3 million. You can see the list of all the available finance options here.

The Women’s Entrepreneurship Support Programme will help you to take your business to the next level with training and mentoring, as well as non-refundable grants of up to 600,000 MDL and grants of up to 50,000 MDL to support e-commerce activities. The programme follows on from the successful EU-funded “Women in Business” programme (2016-2022), which financed 762 women-led businesses with total investments of 114.4 million MDL. Find out more on the ODA website and follow their Facebook page for upcoming opportunities.

Grants are also available under the EU4Moldova: Focal Regions (Cahul and Ungheni) and the Startup City Cahul programmes.

Subsidised consultancy services are available from the EBRD’s Advice for Small Businesses programme, in areas including strategy, marketing, operations, quality management, energy efficiency, financial management and more. The programme can connect SMEs to local consultants and international advisers who can help transform a huge range of businesses. The EBRD supports businesses from many industries, such as food and beverages, wholesale and retail distribution and construction and engineering. More than 30 per cent of the projects supported are outside Chisinau. Visit the EBRD Facebook page to see examples of the many women and small businesses who have benefited, all over Moldova.

If you are looking for international experience, you can apply for a free business exchange under the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme. The initiative is open to anyone who plans to set up a business or has started one within the last three years, and matches new entrepreneurs with experienced entrepreneurs in another European country for a placement of up to six months. You will benefit from on-the-job training to develop your entrepreneurial skills, gaining knowledge and experience on managing a small business by working with the host entrepreneur. Click here to find out how to apply.

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.

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

There are more than you can imagine!

In 2022, women-led businesses accounted for almost half of the 6,328 SMEs supported through the EU4Business Initiative in Moldova, generating an extra €385 million in income and 22,427 new jobs, growing their turnover by 30%, and increasing their exports by 12% as a result.

For example:

Sisters Nadejda Cornetel and Iulia Grigoriev received support from the EBRD’s Women in Business programme to launch a comprehensive rebranding of their BeSweet cookie company. The project covered 60% of the cost of the operation.

Liliana Starciuc received a €25,000 grant under the EU4Moldova Focal Regions programme, enabling her to modernise her embroidery workshop, producing traditional blouses and dresses.

Ludmila Bodrug has a small factory producing smoked meat and sausages. She applied for a grant for new equipment under the Confidence Building Measures programme, allowing her to double the volume of her production and create new jobs.

Alexandra Mihalas, who works in the cultural services sector, was hosted by a Dutch partner under the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme – an eye-opening experience that shed light on the practical aspects of the art business and allowed her to gain a broad understanding of the art industry.

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.

Whom can I ask for help?

If you already have a business and are looking to develop it, check out the training and funding opportunities available under EU4Business in Moldova. The website includes comprehensive details of loan and grant opportunities and business development services. Also make sure you follow the EBRD in Moldova Facebook page for all their latest opportunities.

Follow the website for details and links to actions and opportunities across the full range of EU-funded projects, in particular its dedicated opportunities section.

The websites of the EU4Moldova: Focal Regions (Cahul and Ungheni) and the Startup City Cahul programmes also have comprehensive and updated information on funding, training, skills and other opportunities.

Follow the ODA website and Facebook for a range of business opportunities and grants, as well as the website and Facebook of the East Europe Foundation.

For education opportunities, contact the national Erasmus + office in Moldova and for youth opportunities follow Erasmus + youth programmes on Facebook.

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