Starting a business after the age of 60

Date: Thursday, October 15, 2020

Meleika Alieva and  Solmaz Hasanova presenting their products. Photo: UNDP Azerbaijan
Maleika Alieva and Solmaz Hasanova presenting their products. Photo: UNDP Azerbaijan

Maleika Alieva and Solmaz Hasanova worked side by side for 40 years. At one of the secondary schools in the city of Sabirabad in Azerbaijan, Maleika and Solmaz taught Russian and Azerbaijani languages and literature, respectively. In 2017, both women, who are the same age, became pensioners. Life without school turned out to be equally difficult for both of them; to this day, they have painful memories of this period in their lives. “Separation from the students was very difficult. I thought everything came to an end. I lost all my motivation and my joy for life,” notes Solmaz.

Despite all odds, the former colleagues kept in touch with each other. One day, Maleika told Solmaz about the Women’s Resource Centre (WRC) in Sabirabad. “I learned about the Centre from other teachers and went to see it myself,” recalls Maleika. “There, I was instantly offered the opportunity to run a short course. I taught Russian language to five women and was very happy that I could somehow help them learn something new. I regained my joy for life and all my motivation.” Soon after, Maleika was offered the chance to participate in various educational initiatives and trainings. She immediately thought of Solmaz, informed her about this opportunity and brought her to the WRC as well. The former colleagues, at the age of 67, began a completely new stage in their lives.

The Sabirabad WRC, together with the WRCs in Baku Khazar and Qusar, represents a space that supports the development of women’s entrepreneurship and their self-employment and facilitates the process of enhancing women’s opportunities and increasing their income. All three centers operate within the scope of the UN Women regional project “Women’s Economic Empowerment in the South Caucasus” funded by the Governments of Switzerland, Austria and the Slovakia. One of the most important aims of the resource centers is to provide various trainings and professional masterclasses to women, particularly low-income and socially excluded women, and offer them support to start a business. Maleika and Solmaz participated in an initiative that offered them various trainings on business development and sustainability, finances, risk management, taxes, packaging and branding. Last year, they were among the 67 women who participated in the initiative.

“Having attended the training on how to start a business, I thought I should give myself a chance too,” recalls Maleika. “Why not, after all? I told Solmaz about my decision. I am a good cook. My salads, pickles and juices are everyone’s favourite. Solmaz too is an outstanding cook, and that was why we decided to start a business in that direction. We were both worried because we were to make this big leap at the age of 67, but that did not stop us from participating in a grant competition.”

At the end of the competition, it turned out that it was precisely the duo’s business idea that was deemed to be one of the winners. To start their business, the project granted Maleika and Solmaz all the necessary equipment too. They dedicated a small building in Solmaz’s yard to their project idea, renovated it and started producing pickles, jams and juices. Their brand was named “Grandmas”, and its logo was designed with the help of the WRC. They decided to only use ecologically clean products in their production.

“I want to tell other women that it is never too late to start a business,” Maleika stresses. “My neighbour Roza participated in the same competition and won. She too is a pensioner, and I hope that she will be able to successfully pursue her business in floristry.”

The women want to certify their products in order to be able to sell them at supermarkets in Azerbaijan as well as abroad.