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“The EU support helped us become bolder,” says Gedebey-based Rukhsara Mammadova. Having mastered financial literacy, Mammadova was able to go ahead and launch a second successful business. Financial literacy training and a grant under the EU4Business initiative helped Mammadova now own a confectionery, where national sweets are made along with a variety of cakes.

The road to a new business

Grain-growing is expanding by leaps and bounds in the Gedebey region of Azerbaijan. There are so many opportunities for this, with the climate being one of the key ones. Interest in grain-growing Gedebey, which is located in the western part of the country, is rising every year and the area has been very successful, as a result. With flour in abundance, opportunities for opening a baked goods business are, also.

Gedebey native Rukhsara Mammadova has been running a business for about 10 years. Initially, she opened a workshop to make bread products, which became the main source of her profits. Yet, she always dreamed of expanding her business. A few years ago, Lady Luck smiled at her. In 2018, member of the Azerbaijani Association for the Development of Women’s Entrepreneurship came to Gedebey for a meeting with local female entrepreneurs. Rukhsara Mammadova was among them and was subsequently chosen as to represent the association in this district. Through the AADWE, she was invited, along with other business owners, to participate in a project called “Accelerating the development of sustainable micro-entrepreneurship in rural regions of Azerbaijan,” which is being implemented by the Azerbaijan Micro-finance Association under the EU4Business umbrella. Its aim is to help men and women in certain districts set up their own businesses.

“This was my first experience with the European Union and I appreciate it greatly,” says Rukhsara Mammadova. “This project helps women entrepreneurs to move forward. It also helped all of us to become bolder. We women really need this kind of care and support.” Mammadova also hopes that such projects will continue, allowing many other women to realize their dreams.

Participation in this project has helped women entrepreneurs in different ways. They not only received financial assistance, but they also learned how to conduct business.

"What is very important is that this project helped us to increase financial literacy,” says Mammadova. “We also learned how to properly distribute finances, formulate key principles, and define a business development plan.”

Feasible targets

After participating in this project, Mammadova decided to open a confectionery, which began to operate on March 17, 2020. For this, she was given a grant of 5,000 manats or about €2,500. Many cakes produced here look like works of art and require a careful approach during the preparation. The confectionery also makes typical national sweets and takes individual orders.

For now, the enterprise mainly accepts orders of cakes, which are an integral part of birthday celebrations. The number of orders is counted daily and so the company makes about 6-7 cakes, and about 200 buns and gogals, the national pastry, every day.

Today, Mammadova’s confectionery has two employees. In the future, she intends to expand her business and is waiting for wedding parties to resume. Right now, they are still banned in Azerbaijan due to the pandemic. The company makes its most intricate, extraordinary cakes precisely for these celebrations.  Still, Mammadova is already planning to hire new staff this coming summer. Mammadova also hopes that even more women entrepreneurs will get a chance to develop small businesses in the regions.

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