Business mentoring programme: A starting point for the success of women and girls
Date: Monday, September 16, 2019
Dzama Gorge is located in eastern Georgia’s Shida Kartli region. Despite its many historical and cultural sites, picturesque landscape and tourism potential, the gorge is largely unknown to travellers.
This was the reality that 24-year-old Nia Khachapuridze wanted to change. From her village of Gverdzineti in Dzama Gorge, she dreamed of opening a hotel in her own house and attracting tourists to the wonders of the region.
Nia earned her bachelor’s degree in international relations from International Black Sea University and continued her studies through their master’s programme. While she worked as a junior researcher fellow, she continued to dream of returning to her village and starting up a hospitality business. She even tried to establish her business while she was a student, but it became quite difficult for her to attract visitors. Then, Nia learned online that there was a business mentoring programme provided by UN Women and decided to apply. As a successful applicant, she started to turn her long-held idea into reality.
Through the mentoring programme, Nia was matched with Lasha Bakhutashvili, an entrepreneur with expertise in e-commerce and tourism business development. With her mentor’s assistance, Nia started to work on the concept of a hotel. To start with, they selected the name Bokneti for the hotel, as Nia’s house was located on the slope of the eponymous mountain. From there, they created the brand, set up social media pages and registered as a new hotel on popular tourist platforms. “Initially everything seemed hard to me, but things got easier with my mentor’s support,” Nia recalls. “The mentoring programme was concrete, results-oriented and interactive. We have helped out one another, all of the start-up participants and mentors.”
Nia was part of the pilot cohort of 20 women who, in November 2018, joined the business mentoring programme implemented by UN Women in partnership with the Creative Development Center. Within the framework of the programme, each of the women was matched with a trained mentor with relevant personal experience in entrepreneurship and business development. During the six-month programme, the participants received regular one-to-one guidance and support from their mentors and developed their own business pursuits based on the acquired knowledge.
Nia returned to her village and started to take the first steps towards realizing her dream, noting: “It was a very big challenge, especially in my village, where people are afraid of new things and have doubts, concerns and no confidence in a young girl running her own business. However, my mentor helped me set the right goals. I became self-confident, prepared an action plan and pursued it. Now I know what to do and in what order.”
This summer was the first tourist season for Nia. In the very near future, she plans to arrange a fair showcasing products produced by the local population. Recently, Nia founded a cooperative with local farmers, and now she is waiting for the construction of a new dairy enterprise, where she will produce organic dairy products.
The business mentoring programme was implemented within the framework of the project “A Joint Action for Women’s Economic Empowerment in Georgia”, with generous funding from the Government of Norway. Although the project concluded in July 2019, the relationships between the mentors and the participants have not ended. Nia says that they are like one big family and constantly support one another, which is a special source of motivation for each of them.