Business Women’s Space is the first co-working center committed to supporting social innovations, women’s entrepreneurship and startup campaigns. Since it opened in Zaporizhia in 2019, it has had more than 700 visitors during its first 8 months. The co-working space was created by the NGO Center for Career Development “Professionals” under the auspices of the Partnership for Local Economic Development and Democratic Governance international technical assistance project (PLEDDG) through its SME Development Fund.
But the Business Women’s Space is more than just a co-working center. It also offers child care, extensive training and valuable networking to working women.
Iryna Boyko, the brains behind the center, says that the idea to create the co-working space was no accident and was in response to the needs of women who want a career while also raising their children.
As of January 2020, the co-working space had 5 permanent women members. Among them is a Zaporizhia native Eleonora Muzyka, who has been teaching English and Spanish to students for over 12 years now. Eleonora’s introduction to Business Women’s Space began with the “Women’s Business School” training program administered by the center.
The Women’s Business School consisted of 8 modules and covered key topics essential to novice entrepreneurs: putting together a business plan, the Canvas business model, marketing and financial plans, sales funnel, communications and teamwork, search for sources of funding for business at the startup or expansion stages. Fourteen residents successfully completed the course. Inna Boyko went on to say that after Women’s Business School, which was a foundation program, two more supplemental courses followed in the summer: “Online Marketing Tools for Business Development” and “Expansion of Opportunities with Digital Technologies”. In the fall, over the course of two months 10 women received consultations on how to do business as part of a mentoring program. Program participants have commented that the training not only enriched them with knowledge but also motivated them to make the first steps toward bringing their business ideas to life.
In the past, private online English lessons via Skype were Eleanora’s primary method of teaching. Her students live not just in Ukraine but also in European countries: Spain, Sweden, and Germany. She says that her introduction to Business Women’s Space prompted her to switch to the online teaching format. So in the summer she joined the co-working space as a member. Now she works there on a daily basis and gives 6-7 foreign language lessons per week on average. From time to time she additionally organized English discussion clubs and has plans to make them regular this year.
The majority of co-working space visitors are mothers who work as freelancers. Inna Boyko notes that during their training as part of the business programs the women would often bring their children, and the co-working space administrator watched over them in the children’s room whenever necessary. Outside of training, women come with their kids less often, but one way or another, children are constant and welcome guests at Women’s Business Space.
The co-working center is currently picking up the pace. In addition to facilitating access to business development services for Zaporizhia residents, it helps them form the essential competencies and accumulate knowledge instrumental to doing business on their own, as well as helping broaden the scale of entrepreneurship among women in the city. In addition to the training programs mentioned earlier, over the course of the year the co-working center hosted 55 various educational events, the most popular ones being “Women’s Project Management School”, “Startup from Scratch: Developing the Business Model”, “Communications and EQ: How to Develop Business Easily and with a Smile”, and others.
Establishment of centers committed to supporting women’s entrepreneurship similar to Business Women’s Space in Zaporizhia contributed to the emergence of communities of independent businesswomen, increases the share of small businesses in cities, promotes productive employment of the population, and facilitates the development of the infrastructure of services for business. All of this forms one of the priorities of PLEDDG that channels resources into inclusive economic development of cities.
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