UN Migration Agency, launched an online business exchange platform in Kyiv to foster networking and cooperation among self-employed persons and owners of small businesses. The platform, funded by the Government of the United Kingdom and run by a partner NGO, contains a directory of established entrepreneurs from all the regions of Ukraine, educational materials, as well as business-related news and opportunities.
IOM started its economic empowerment programme in Ukraine to help reintegrate victims of trafficking over ten years ago. In 2014, with the outbreak of the conflict in the East of the country, the programme was expanded to respond to the needs of conflict-affected people.
“IOM has supported over 6,500 people, including trafficking survivors and internally displaced persons (IDPs), with grants for self-employment, micro-enterprise and vocational trainings,” said Thomas Lothar Weiss, IOM Ukraine Chief of Mission. “We wanted to further support our beneficiaries in their business activities and so we created a space where they could connect, communicate and unite with other entrepreneurs to develop, grow and expand their businesses,” he added.
With its economic empowerment programme and the newly established Business Exchange Platform, IOM aims to support more people like Oleksandr. He arrived in the city of Vinnytsia in winter 2015 with only two bags after having been forced to leave his native Luhansk. With money borrowed from his family, he bought a compressor and two staplers to start a furniture upholstery business in a garage. Later he took part in an IOM-supported business training, successfully defended his business plan and received equipment enabling him to expand his business and hire employees.
Oleksandr eventually opened a furniture production company, and despite being busy with his business, regularly volunteered at IOM’s local partner NGO. At one of the events, he met Viktor, an IDP from Donetsk Region and another IOM-supported beneficiary, who had an eco-wood furniture business near Vinnytsia. The men decided to join forces and create aesthetically pleasing high-quality furniture.
“Co-sharing equipment is a great opportunity for any business, but for IDPs who often lack resources in a new community it is especially relevant,” said Oleksandr. “And of course, learning from each other and new ideas born in partnership are often even more important than funds,” he added.