In today’s fast-changing world that is increasingly dependent on technology and innovative ideas, many young people are in need of tailored context-specific trainings to improve their skills and develop their potential. In Pol-e-Dokhtar county in Lorestan province situated in western Iran, there are many aspiring innovative individuals who are seeking opportunities to either expand or set up their businesses most of whom are women.
In 2021, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) joined forces with its national partner, the Ministry of Cooperatives, Labour and Social Welfare to implement an initiative entitled “Together with Young Entrepreneurs”, generously funded by the European Union’s Directorate-General for International Partnerships (DG-INTPA). This initiative is part of an EU-UN joint programme " Responding to emerging needs and enhancing the resilience of the most vulnerable, especially children, youth, and women in Iran".
Through this joint effort, the beneficiaries were provided with the job and entrepreneurial skills; namely, training on business skills and project management such as content creation and digital literacy, brand creation, marketing and digital marketing, crisis management, business resilience, administrative affairs, accounting principles and financial analysis and environmentally friendly approaches based on circular economy.
These beneficiaries received mentoring support to develop and present innovative ideas focusing on agriculture and livestock, tourism and handicrafts, and information technology fields. Moreover, financial and other required support was provided to materialize the winning ideas.
Tahereh a female entrepreneur, is a carpet weaver and the owner of a carpet and rug weaving workshop. She is working with and economically empowers other women including largely those who are the heads of the household.
“Living in Pol-e Dokhtar county for some time now, I did not know other like-minded people with my area of expertise that can introduce me to local markets and other networks as a result of which I could grow my business and ideas while supporting other women. Participating in the training workshops has motivated me more than before and provided me with the opportunity to be recognized locally” says Tahereh.
After attending the workshops, 15 more weavers joined Tahereh’s business and are provided with a source of income. Moreover, benefitting from the workshop trainings on online marketing and sales, Tahereh is using digital tools and has expanded her business on social media outlets.
With the initial entrepreneurial idea of aviculture and organic poultry production, Shuka who is 20 years old, believes that this idea which has recently turned into a business, will provide the consumers with high-quality products and create local jobs since the process requires a network to identify and reach out to the potential vendors and to carry out other relevant tasks.
Sharing her experience from attending the training sessions, Shuka says: “During these sessions, I learned about the cruciality of teamwork, marketing and how effective they are for a project to last and yield results. Currently, I am working with four other people and my project has faced some challenges; however, I consider them all as trial and error. I have the intention of accessing both local and national markets and on a broader vision to export my products.”
Lorestan province and specifically Pol-e Dokhtar county is abound with fruit trees and some people make ends meet through selling their seasonally picked products. Maryam has turned processing of figs and other crops into a business of hers. Through enhancing her digital marketing skills by attending the sessions, she sold a number of her products online and this way she could bridge the digital gap.
“Our products were always purchased underpriced by the middleman but now due to the skills I have learned, I am looking for a way to promote my own brand and I am using the networks that I was linked to during these training courses” explains Maryam.
Maryam also mentions that as soon as the gas piping installation is completed in her area, she is expecting to hire more than 10 people to support her at different stages including production, marketing, and sales.
UNDP, through its long-lasting partnership with the EU, stands with young innovative entrepreneurs who need support to grow an idea into a business that can benefit themselves, their community, and the whole country in the end. UNDP is also looking forward to supporting its partners to scale up similar activities across the region and connect these groups to other projects that can promote their products on digital marketing platforms.