In 2019, the CUTIS project presented a gender-based analysis report on the export challenges of Ukrainian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The main objective of the study was to identify gender-based challenges of women-owned or -led enterprises in exporting and provide recommendations on reducing these barriers.
The report confirmed that traditional gender stereotypes hinder women’s advancement in business. The survey participants indicated that permanent access to mentoring and professional development is an important element of success in building their own business.
This is how the idea of CUTIS introducing a SHEforSHE Mentorship Program came about with the aim to support development of women’s businesses in Ukraine and promote their products in foreign markets, primarily, in Canada.
Two mentors, who already have successful experience in promoting products in foreign markets, were selected. They are Maria Terekhova (Kyiv, New Fashion Zone platform) and Ruslana Rymarska (Lviv, Smakuli cookies), participants of our U CAN Export Support Program for Ukrainian SMEs.
In partnership with the Regional Chambers of Commerce, two teams of participants were formed. The following factors were taken into account during the selection: business development dynamics, availability of an interesting product (or prospects for its creation), export potential, and most importantly, readiness for change and implementation of ideas developed during their participation in the program.
The first team headed by Maria Terekhova as mentor included the following mentees: Olesya Tymoshyk (Chernihiv, children’s clothing TM “TimTex”), Kateryna Volkova (Slavutych, TM SHUBA (home and baby textiles) and TM SASHA (children’s dresses) and Yevhenia Lukash (Kherson, EvgaKids children’s clothing Internet store).
The second team consisting of mentees Halyna Ishchak (Ivano-Frankivsk, private entrepreneur, cakes and biscuits) and Iryna Fishchuk (Ivano-Frankivsk, private entrepreneur, confectionery) is headed by Ruslana Rymarska.
As Kateryna Volkova shared, the mentor visited the enterprise in Slavutych as part of the cooperation. During the meeting, the main challenges facing the company and complexity of entering new markets were discussed and a plan for further cooperation was developed. Every week, the mentor and the mentee discuss implementation of the developed plan of changes via Skype.
“There were a lot of issues that I have been trying to solve over the years. I found some of the answers to these questions myself, and of some with the help of Maria Terekhova, my mentor. It became clear to me that in order to work effectively in foreign markets, the company needs an export specialist. Finding one requires additional time and financial resources. Then the idea came up: why wouldn’t I master a new profession myself? This is exactly what I am focusing on now”, – Kateryna shares her experience.
According to Olesya Tymoshyk (TM “TimiTex”), while working with her mentor, she was able to modernize the design of clothes for the nursling to find a new client (B2B) and a new supplier of fabrics that she is currently negotiating with.
“When you have been working for a long time, you get used to the technological process, your models, and you do not always understand the need for change. It is difficult to stop, figuratively speaking, step aside and watch the company without sentiment. This is where you need external experts with new, different, broader experience and knowledge, who immediately see what needs to be changed, improved, removed or added. Maria Terekhova is an expert with whom I was fortunate to work in one team. Her excellent experience, contacts and resources enhance our business and drive us to grow”, – says Olesya.
We wish our mentors and mentees further success in the development of Ukrainian women’s businesses. We will keep you informed of further achievements of these dynamic women entrepreneurs!