Women and Young Entrepreneurs as Cornerstones of Sustainable Development in the Regions of Armenia
November 29, 2022
Despite many challenges Armenia has faced in recent years, young entrepreneurs, especially women, continue to actively work and dedicate their efforts towards developing their communities.
Anahit (name has been changed), a farmer and a novice entrepreneur from one of the regions in Armenia, has been engaged in livestock farming for more than 30 years. In recent years, she managed to expand her activities and, together with her family, started meat and dairy production. However, Anahit was quick to realize that a simple increase in production was not just enough: to become more competitive in the local market and to engage more customers, the family business needed branding, a concrete business strategy, a product development plan and tools to attract new customers. Besides that, since Anahit also aims to become the leading diary producer in the region, she needs to develop a clear business strategy and gain business growth management skills to achieve her goals.
Another novice entrepreneur from Jermuk, Artur (name has been changed), also has a start-up business. With his family, Artur produces honey and unique rosehip and pinecone jams and is ambitious to become the largest producer of these products in Armenia. He also plans to export his products and attract foreign customers. Despite its small size, Artur's start-up business, founded in 2021, has already become competitive in the local market and has helped the family to acquire a production site, establish valuable business connections outside the region and increase sales volumes. However, as Artur points out, he needs specific business development and management skills, such as product and market compatibility and social media strategy, to become more competitive in the market and promote his products outside the borders of Armenia.
Anahit and Artur are among hundreds of novice entrepreneurs in Armenia who work hard to generate a stable income, contribute to their regions' economic dynamics, create new jobs, and have their input in the development of the local market.
Acknowledging the vast potential of novice entrepreneurs in Armenia, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Armenia, with the co-financing of the Government of Armenia and the Russian Federation, launched two innovative entrepreneurship development projects in Vayots Dzor, Kotayk, Syunik, and Gegharkunik regions. The Accelerator program targets entrepreneurs with already operating businesses, while the Pre-accelerator program targets novice entrepreneurs and their idea-stage businesses.
Applications for projects are now closed, and currently more than 300 promising entrepreneurs have an opportunity to participate in training programs and develop their businesses and potential business ideas. The entrepreneurs present a variety of fields: from agriculture, tourism, food production and food processing, education, winemaking, recycling, textile production to many more. It is essential to highlight that the economic empowerment of women and the expansion of activities of women entrepreneurs is at the core of these programs aiming to strengthen the capacity of women entrepreneurs, especially in the regions of Armenia.
In Armenia, women's labor force participation is lower than that of men: just over half (51.4%) of women of working age participate in the labor force, compared with 70.6% of men. Besides that, because of the gender and occupational stereotypes in the country, women's choices are limited, and more than 60% of women work only in three sectors: agriculture, education, and healthcare.
In parallel to the abovementioned issues, women entrepreneurs are disproportionately represented in Armenia. Around 17,000 formally registered women-led or owned enterprises constitute only about 33% of total registered enterprises. Women-led or owned enterprises also are less dynamic and, on average, have far fewer total full-time employees (3,3 persons) than man-led or owned enterprises (15,5 persons). To this day, gender inequalities and occupational stereotypes entrenched in Armenian society continue to create obstacles for women entrepreneurs, significantly limiting their entrepreneurial potential. These challenges require innovative solutions and support mechanisms to boost women's entrepreneurial potential and economic empowerment in Armenia.
The Pre-Accelerator program is one of the innovative solutions to the abovementioned issues. One of the peculiarities of the program is that it is open to any potential business at the idea stage. During the training, participants will have an opportunity to test their business idea, understand whether it is competitive in the market, conduct interviews with potential customers and understand their requirements, and see whether their business idea proposes solutions. The program also has mandatory training on digital marketing tools, which will support the participants to ensure high productivity for their potential or start-up businesses.
The Accelerator program aims to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), especially those led by women entrepreneurs, and help the participants build essential skill sets for developing their businesses. During the first stage of training, the participants will work on their exciting business plans, edit them upon need, receive mentorship, and independently prepare and present a 100-day action plan based on that. During the second stage, the participants will gain theoretical and practical knowledge related to business growth, understand how product-market fit or product-channel fit processes works, and use their knowledge to transform and develop their businesses.
Both programs were designed based on an in-depth study of the needs of SMEs in Armenia. UNDP also plans to implement short and long-term results monitoring within the programs' framework. In the coming years, acknowledging the potential of women and young entrepreneurs in Armenia, UNDP aims to support hundreds of citizens and assist them in creating SMEs with innovative solutions that will contribute to communities' sustainable development.