USAID Program YES-Georgia to Support Youth & Women Entrepreneurship

On January 31, USAID/Georgia publicly announced its ‘Supporting Youth and Women Entrepreneurship in Georgia’ (YES-Georgia) program at Fabrika in Tbilisi. At the event, USAID announced the expansion of its YES-Georgia program to support more women entrepreneurs in the country.

The program launch kicked off with an exhibition and sale of products and services produced by YES-Georgia beneficiaries, allowing them to present their products to a wider audience. The participants of the USAID program have said they have high expectations from this initiative, as in addition to supporting them financially, it helps them to increase public awareness about their products through participation in various exhibition-sales. It also gives them valuable knowledge and experience as to how to develop their business through various trainings and seminars.

As a part of the event, young women entrepreneurs, the YES-Georgia beneficiaries, had an opportunity to talk about their journey into entrepreneurship and the benefits they received within the framework of the USAID initiative, and to present their success stories to the attendees.

The official part of the ceremony started with an introduction by USAID/Georgia Mission Director Peter Wiebler followed by opening remarks from H.E. Bonnie Glick, USAID Deputy Administrator; Archil Talakvadze, Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia; Natia Turnava, Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia; and Archil Bakuradze, Chair of the Board of the Crystal Fund.

While addressing the audience, the Georgian and foreign officials emphasized the importance of the program in terms of the country's economic development, seeing YES-Georgia significantly encouraging and motivating local youth and female entrepreneurs, and contributing to their successful activities in the future.

The event was attended by international and local organizations, donors, government and business representatives, project beneficiaries, academia and youth and women entrepreneurs.

The program is implemented in Georgia by the Crystal Fund, with financial support from the American people through USAID and the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) initiative. Additional financial support is provided by JSC MFO Crystal. The program cooperates with the international organization Buzz Women and local consulting company Crystal Consulting LLC.

Archil Bakuradze, Chair of the Board of the Crystal Fund, told media that company representatives are glad and honored to be part of such an important project contributing to the country’s economic development.

“We are happy to announce the beginning of the new phase of the program today, which is aimed at encouraging youth and women entrepreneurship in Georgia, and which is supported by the US government. It is a very important initiative, as entrepreneurship development and employment are essential fields for our country, as is youth involvement in this process. The program components include not only entrepreneurship training and mentorship to promote personal and professional development, but also financial services tailored to women entrepreneurs’ needs. We plan to create a business environment allowing them maximum access to finances, which will allow us to move to the next level of entrepreneurship development in the country,” Bakuradze said.

H.E. Bonnie Glick, USAID Deputy Administrator, elaborated on the main goals and importance of the program, expressing satisfaction that the project, now launched in Georgia for the second time, has been successful and fruitful for its beneficiaries. She highlighted the success of the youngest local entrepreneur, Giorgi Shesahberidze, a 12-year-old teenager who owns the renowned homemade lollipop business ‘Dora’ and is among the beneficiaries of the YES-Georgia initiative.

“I am fortunate to be here for the second launch of YES-Georgia, a program designed to promote entrepreneurship,” Glick said. “It kicks off for the second time to support young people and youth entrepreneurship, and it also highlights women entrepreneurship. Over the next four years, YES-Georgia will support entrepreneurs with an $840,000 investment from USAID and the White House-led Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) initiative. Through the beginning of 2024, it will provide more than 2,500 women with business management training, access to legal and accounting services, and mentoring and networking opportunities.

“It is wonderful to see the outcomes of the first program YES-Georgia, training young entrepreneurs, as well as offering another level of funding for them. I was fortunate to receive a lollipop with the USAID logo on it from Giorgi Sheshaberidze, the youngest participant of today’s exhibition-sale of products and services of YES-Georgia beneficiaries, who himself is supporting others, as well as his family, with his own business.

“It is wonderful to see children’s programming, to see programming coming from the occupied regions of Georgia, all very important for encouraging entrepreneurship in the country. Yet another great thing with the next launch of the program is the focus on women entrepreneurs, which comes from the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative championed by Ivanka Trump, a senior adviser of President Trump, who cares very deeply about developing women entrepreneurs around the world. We look forward to seeing success from such women throughout Georgia, many of them starting new businesses, having already raised their children and deciding it is the right time for them to promote their own interests and business ideas,” Glick concluded.

The second part of the project presentation saw a panel session titled ‘Youth and Women Entrepreneurship – Way to Development, Challenges and Opportunities’, with the participation of a number of successful and highly experienced professionals in the field. Among them was Nino Zambakhidze, Head of the Georgian Farmer’s Association, who noted that the implementation of YES-Georgia will address the current challenges in terms of women entrepreneurship, such as access to education and finances, and encouraging their aspiration to start their own businesses.

“The Project envisages women’s economic empowerment and prosperity, which itself will allow citizens living in rural areas of Georgia to be more actively involved in entrepreneurship, various educational activities, trainings, and economic processes,” she said. “This project started with the support of Ivanka Trump, and is now being implemented in 22 countries. It is to be welcomed that Georgia is the first country where the initiative will be implemented by Crystal Fund”.

The Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development, Natia Turnava, also highlighted the importance of the program for Georgia’s economy and noted that it represents yet another obvious example of successful strategic partnership between the two countries.

“USAID assists Georgia in developing priority sectors. The US government has declared unprecedented support to Georgia, which has been confirmed by numerous acts. This program is yet another example of the successful partnership between the two countries. YES-Georgia will significantly contribute to development of new technologies in business and a knowledge-based economy. Most importantly, it will help us to increase the employment rate, create new jobs and will assist young and female entrepreneurs to implement their innovative ideas, which itself is of the utmost importance for the country’s economic growth,” she said.

“YES-Georgia envisages supporting young and female entrepreneurs in the process of launching new initiatives and business projects,” Parliament Speaker Archil Talakvadze told media representatives. “More than 2500 people will have an opportunity to benefit from it and receive the necessary knowledge about how to start and implement their ideas. This in turn will strengthen our economy and promote the active involvement of young entrepreneurs in economic processes. This is a very important collaboration both in terms of economy and politics between Georgia and the US, which once again confirms that we have unprecedented support from the US government”.

YES-Georgia supports economic growth and empowers Georgia’s youth and women by encouraging innovation, promoting entrepreneurship, and enhancing youth and women’s employability. The program provides emerging entrepreneurs and professionals with skills development, business training, mentoring, and access to finance. Supporting Youth and Women Entrepreneurship in Georgia is an extension of the previous USAID program Youth Entrepreneurial Skills for Advancing Employability and Income Generation in Georgia. Since 2016, YES-Georgia has supported more than 3,000 young entrepreneurs and professionals, the majority of whom are women.

The White House launched the W-GDP initiative in February 2019 to advance women’s economic empowerment worldwide. Through the initiative, the US government aims to reach 50 million women in the developing world by 2025. W-GDP is a whole-of-government effort, with USAID managing the W-GDP Fund, a $27 million program, to source and scale the most innovative and impactful programs being implemented by the US government. The W-GDP fund will mobilize partnerships to leverage more than $260 million from private sources, bilateral and multilateral donors, NGOs, universities, and foreign governments.

By Ana Dumbadze

03 February 2020 18:20