Together We are Strong: Female Entrepreneurs Share their Formulas for Success

Starting with nothing and ending up as a successful company. Such stories happen in Hollywood films, you may think…but they also happen in Adjara, Georgia. At the first Women’s Business Forum in Batumi, held on January 31, businesswomen from around the region met to describe how they had achieved their “Hollywood” dream.

The Association of Businesswomen of Adjara (ABWA) of the Adjara Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), in partnership with the Women’s Rooms municipal service, organized the first Women’s Business Forum to increase awareness of businesswomen and to empower others to establish their own companies.

Around 120 women and 20 men participated in the forum, no easy feat seeing as many roads in the region were shut due to heavy snowfall. Some women we spoke to had even travelled to the forum on foot.

The Chairman of the Adjara Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Tamaz Shavadze, opened the event with these encouraging words: “I hope this forum will be just a beginning, and that it will now take place annually.”

Among the participants there was no impression that the women of Adjara feel in any way disadvantaged. Even if the average income of a women in Georgia is just 618 GEL a month (while the average income of men is 980 GEL), the women are seemingly motivated to work harder. There was a distinct spirit of beginning, not only for the Women’s Business Forum, but for female entrepreneurship in general.

Makhvala Kvirikadze, Head of the Association of Businesswomen of Adjara, told her personal story in hopes of encouraging younger participants.

“In 1993, I built a greenhouse to grow flowers and started to sell my products in various locations. Now I sell flower seeds.”

Her recommendation for younger entrepreneurs: “It’s important to believe in yourself and to start with a small business. You can do business on your own!”

Other stories were also shared by other successful local businesswomen, giving listeners insights into the challenges they had faced and the experience they had gained:

From Adjara to New York

The Sulguni of Nanuli Kakhadze’s company Tsezari Cheese Factory Ltd is sold all over Georgia and has even made its way to New York. It all started with a cheese company in Tsalka which, following a certain amount of success, expanded to Adjara, where they purchased better equipment and trained the staff. What started as a small family business developed into one of the leading cheese factories in the Adjara region. Together with the company in Tsalka, they now produce 9 tons of cheese every week.

Without healthy animals, no dairy farming

For rural farmers, it is crucial to have healthy animals and to have access to drugs and veterinary services. To support such farmers, veterinarian Nana Balanchivadze opened her first vet pharmacy in 2000. The infrastructure was very basic but now she can be proud of a well-equipped pharmacy and the consultancy services she offers other veterinarians. “The key to success is the love of the profession, experience, knowledge and skills to manage a business,” Balanchivadze says.

An obsession for cooking leads to a successful guesthouse

Inspired by birdwatching tourists and her own cooking skills, Nargiz Dumbadze was motivated to open a guest house. First, she studied to increase her knowledge about business-management and how to attract clients to her guesthouse. Now, even her children are involved in her successful business- working as trained guides to take tourists through the region. Like the previous speakers at the forum, she insists that there are no bad ideas and that women must believe in themselves. She also recommends getting consultation before starting.

Landscape paintings sold in Korea and Australia

Roena Khozrevanidze was born into a family of painters. She started her business with the paintings of her husband and son. They now not only sell the paintings in Korea, Germany and Australia; they also conduct workshops in their Art Studio. But Khozrevanidze has more ideas- she wants to open a guesthouse and offer master classes in painting. “I see big potential in tourism in this area,” she says enthusiastically.

All these success-stories have one thing in common: they would not be feasible without the support of both the government and NGOs, as all the women present had received financial and/or technical support for their projects.

Tea Sharashidze introduced the idea of Women’s Rooms. Women’s Rooms are open spaces in municipal buildings where prospective businesswomen can find support in writing business plans and other useful services. In all the success-stories mentioned earlier, the support of the Women’s Room was an essential ingredient.

Business women in Adjara can apply for governmental support from the Agriculture Projects Management Agency, The Agency of Entrepreneurship Development, or The Ministry of Finance and Economy of Adjara.

A number of companies attended the Women’s Business Forum to show off the support they can offer entrepreneurs- be it through financing or training services.

The Farmers of the Future Association, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Bank of Georgia, the Institute of Democracy and Arts Group are investors from the private sector that provide support for equitable Business Development. They also introduced their offers at the forum.

To round off the inspiring day, one businesswomen from each of the five municipalities in Adjara was awarded a prize for her work.

Natia Surmanidze from the organizing committee was more than happy with the first Women’s Business Forum: “The forum exceeded my expectations and we will be sure to organize the second edition next year,” she told GEORGIA TODAY.

The forum was held with the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), and Mercy Corps’ Alliances Lesser Caucasus Program.

Manuela Kosch

06 February 2017 18:22