Turning a hobby into business: how Vusala Akhmadova from Tovuz helps women and children develop

Azerbaijan
Turning a hobby into business: how Vusala Akhmadova from Tovuz helps women and children develop

English teacher Vusala Akhmadova, a resident of Tovuz in western Azerbaijan, opened the Edu Prime education academy in her hometown. This private educational institution prepares children for primary school and develops them intellectually and physically. In doing so, Vusala managed, not only to make a significant contribution to the development of education in rural areas, but also to become a successful entrepreneur.

‘I learnt English on my own – with a dictionary’

It all started with her childhood fascination with English: “I fell in love with English when I was in 5th grade. That was in 1993. I was intrinsically motivated to learn it. In those days we had neither special conditions nor teachers, so I had to do self-learning with the help of a dictionary. That’s how I learnt English, and later I started teaching it.”

Vusala came up with the idea to open her own courses during a training session on ‘The Art of Building a Business’, organised by entrepreneur Elvin Dadashsoy, founder of the Dadashsoy Business School. She really wanted to benefit the villagers in the field of education – this was her main motivation.

“Of course, there were financial difficulties in the beginning. But over time we overcame them,” says Akhmadova.

How an idea becomes a business

Vusala received support through the EU4Business programme, funded by the European Union. As part of a project supporting business development in rural areas, Vusala took part in training on self-assessment and improving self-esteem, gaining useful information for business planning and other important issues.

“I started almost everything from scratch, so I had a lot of difficulties, both financially and in terms of skills,” she explained, adding that the training had been critical in developing the skills and self-confidence she needed for her business.

Now her institution has really taken off: “Our courses have been operating since 2018. Here, in addition to English, there are also lessons in German and Russian, computer and medical courses, pre-school training, and a kindergarten. At the moment, 120 students are studying at our academy, and English is one of the most demanded areas,” says Vusala Akhmadova.

Every small contribution to women’s economic freedom is a great success

Vusala employs 12 people, all of whom are women. She says this is very important in terms of supporting women on their career paths, and she notes there is an acute shortage of qualified staff for permanent work, and that she finds it difficult to find teachers.

“Our courses are very important for Azerbaijan and especially for the region. Parents are happy to enrol their children with us, choosing several subjects at once. It is convenient for them that their children can study all subjects in one building. Another advantage is that the groups have a maximum of six students,” says Vusala. She adds that the lessons are interactive, which helps to keep the children’s attention and interest.

Asked whether she has faced gender issues and discrimination in her entrepreneurial journey, she admits that she has been through a lot. That is why she is now actively raising awareness on this topic and trying to change society’s attitudes towards gender issues.

“We still regularly encounter gender discrimination. For example, often husbands do not allow their wives to attend activities aimed at women’s development,” says Vusala. “At the same time, it is very encouraging that, along with education, we can give women certain skills. If we can make even a small contribution to the economic freedom of the women enrolled in our courses, it’s already a great success.”

Vusala Akhmadova received support under the EU4Business programme, which supports the economic growth of small and medium-sized enterprises in five countries of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) – Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. EU4Business seeks to improve socio-economic conditions in the EaP region by opening more job opportunities and income growth in the private sector. You can find out more about training and funding opportunities for women under EU4Business and other EU-supported programmes in Azerbaijan here.

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