Women entrepreneurs are always an example and inspiration just like Meergul Karakozieva. Last year she has opened her own guest house while taking part in one of the UNDP projects. Her success is determined by her dedication to her work and real interest in it, as well as the desire for constant self-development. Meergul is fluent in Kyrgyz, Russian, English and sign language. She says that for her business is not only a way to make money but is the job of her whole life.
Meergul’s guest house - "Konok Center" - is located in the centre of Osh city and has all the amenities of a modern hotel. It offers a bar, a garden and free Wi-Fi in all areas, a 24-hour front desk, room service and even currency exchange services.
"All rooms at our guest house have a seating area. Every morning we serve a continental breakfast for our guests. We try to make our guests' stay as comfortable as possible. Even the curtains are chosen with a special quality and density, which do not let the light in during the daytime if a guest wants to relax after their travels. You can order rooms online through search sites, as well as by phone. All the training I received while participating in the UNDP project, helped me not only to manage and organize the daily routine of the guest house but also to manage information about it online. I think we are becoming more known because of this training and as tourists, mainly foreigners, usually prefer to book hotels online," - says Meergul.
According to this young businesswoman, she did not become an entrepreneur from a privileged life. Meergul lost her hearing when she was 12. It is not so easy for a disabled person to find a job in our country, even if he or she is educated. However, it did not break her. A few years ago, Meergul tried to start her own business with a small grocery shop. However, things did not go well. The earnings from selling groceries did not produce much profit. In fact, it was not even enough to maintain the business.
"After a while, I realized that I needed to test myself in another field and I began thinking about opening my own guest house. I had no specific experience in the hotel business, but I had a dream to establish a small house filled with hospitality and kindness. At first, it was not easy, of course, but I pulled myself together and told myself that I can’t give up halfway through my goal. I started looking for various financial and educational resources. That's how I found out about the UNDP project and things got spinning," – says Meergul.
Meergul became one of the 18 participants whose small business initiatives were supported by the UNDP project and approved by its selection committee for investments of up to 70,000 KGS. For the selected participants, two-day training on business development was held at the beginning of this year in Bishkek and Osh. The provided training was led by Daniyar Amanaliev, the co-founder of the business accelerator “John-Galt” and a group of “Ololo” companies. The project is based on the revolving fund principle in which income received from investing in business activities are used for reinvestment in new projects.
"For several months, each of us was assigned a mentor, who provided us guidance and support as part of the project activity. We have learned a lot from our mentor, starting from the basics of doing business to its promotion. I even chose the name for my guest house together with my mentor. We tried hard to make it sound good, and at the same time, easy to remember even by those who do not speak Kyrgyz," – she laughs.
Meergul also receives the services of an EBRD consultant within the framework of the Women in Business program. Currently, she is working on the concept of an art hotel, which is being developed together with Baktygul Midinova, one of the leading art experts in Bishkek. The guest house is going to be the first unique art hotel in Osh.
Listening to Meergul, you can understand that she now has many goals. According to her, success never just arrives. One should try hard and start with small, but confident steps. One might say that she was very lucky, yet life gives a chance only to those who can appreciate it and believe in their strength. Meergul inspires with her positive attitude.
"I am grateful that today my guest house is in demand and loved. For me, this is more than just business – it is my job and my diligence. I believe that there will be no shortage of guests and tourists. And I am even thinking about expanding and opening new, related types of businesses that could present Kyrgyzstan and Osh in an even more pleasant light. I want in to be the case that when a guest comes to our city, they would want to stay longer. This is how I hope I make a small contribution to the development of our country," she says.
Expanding the economic opportunities of young people, particularly among vulnerable groups, is a priority for UNDP. The financing of Meergul’s Guest House is one of many social-economic initiatives that are implemented within the framework of the UNDP project "Strengthening Community Resilience and Regional Cooperation to Prevent Violent Extremism in Central Asia" and supported by the financial support of the Government of Japan and expert support of the “John Galt” business accelerator. More detailed information about the guest house, services and the possibility of booking can be found here.