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Study tour to Lviv to learn about the initiatives to advance women's entrepreneurship


On October 1-2, 2014, representatives of 26 member cities of the Association of Ukrainian Cities from 9 regions – Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Vinnytsya, Volyn, Lviv, Rivne, Ternopil, Chernihiv and Odesa – visited Lviv to study the experience of Lviv City Council in advancing women's entrepreneurship.

The training and study tour program envisage a range of activities such as  a roundtable discussion "Women's entrepreneurship as the driving force behind economic growth and improvement of the quality of life in local communities"; site visit of "Levus" shoemaking company and meeting with its owner Lyuba Levus; visiting Startup Depot, an IT-specialised business incubator; roundtable meeting "Opportunities and Challenges on the Way to Women's Entrepreneurship" that was held within the framework of a trade fair "Lviv commodity manufacturer" and  included into the trade fair program.

The roundtable discussion on advancing women's entrepreneurship was opened by Andriy Sadovyi, Mayor of Lviv.

Lviv_gender_studytour_oct2014_2Victoria Dovzhyk, Deputy Director of Economic Policy Department of Lviv City Council, Head of Economic Development Division, spoke about the strategies, programs and measures implemented in Lviv to promote women's entrepreneurship. In addition, speaker focused attention on cooperation between the City Council and civil society organizations. She also laid emphasis on the contribution non-governmental institutions make to the intensification of women’s entrepreneurship.

Halyna Zayats, Deputy Head of Economic Development Division, reported on the results of "Women in Entrepreneurship" project implemented by the Department of Economic Policy jointly with "Centre for Civic Initiatives" Charity Foundation. In particular, it was pointed out that following a 3-stage training program 56 women become more competent and motivated towards carrying out business activities; 15 participants started their own businesses; an electronic mailbox was created for remote counselling of women; "Women in Entrepreneurship" regular column was added to the "Economy" section of Lviv City Council’s website.  

The issue of setting up institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women entrepreneurs was also brought into focus: a Committee on Gender Equality was set up under Coordination Council on the Development of Entrepreneurship and the gender component became part of the municipal Programme to Facilitate Development of Entrepreneurship in Lviv for 2011-2016, to ensure sustainability of the project results.

Lyubov Maksimovych, Director of Western-Ukrainian Centre "Women's Perspectives", informed of the numerous programs and activities implemented by the Centre to advance women’s entrepreneurs. She emphasised the advantages of applying intellectual, creative and personal capabilities of non-governmental sector representatives by local authorities. In addition she stressed the importance of public supervision to ensure efficient operations of local government authorities.

Participants of the roundtable agreed that meaningful cooperation between local authorities and civil society organizations can become a vehicle for development of women's entrepreneurship, and therefore for economic growth and improvement of the communities' quality of life.

The event participants were extremely impressed after visiting Startup Depot business incubator, where representatives of creative industries and freelancers are provided with working space, professional mentor assistance as well as funding for projects development.

Lviv_gender_studytour_oct2014_3According to Maksym Lysak, the Startup Depot Managing Director, thanks to vigour and efforts of many people and organizations, including Lviv City Council, City Development Institute, private businesses, financial support from MLED project, and in particular the efforts of its founders – a unique environment has been created where startup teams develop business projects and share their ideas and experiences.

The visit participants convinced themselves that the very space of Startup Depot encourages to new ideas: rooms are painted in different colours, one can write with chalk on the walls and draft future projects, there are meeting rooms, one large open space area, a kitchen and many distinctive and inspirational details.

Oleksandr Kobzarev, Director of the City Development Institute, an entity that integrated and launched the process of establishing the business incubator, spoke about the contribution made by expert and analytical environment to finding the new mechanisms to promote women's entrepreneurship; he reported on including the issues of gender equality into the policy and programs of the City development institute and the business incubator: compliance with parity representation within startup teams, IT trainers; taking into account opportunities and capacities of women in the course of developing innovations and high added value business projects, etc. It was pointed out that there were plans to create a business centre for women entrepreneurs, develop socially responsible business projects aimed at the needs of vulnerable groups of people.

Lviv_gender_studytour_oct2014_4While visiting LLC "Levus" Company, participants had a possibility to communicate with the employees of the shoemaking factory, its workers, stylists, marketing managers, and its owner, Lyuba Levus, who told them about her path to success, about opportunities and obstacles on the way of women's entrepreneurship.

In the course of the visit's second day, the representatives of local government authorities had a chance to get acquainted with Lviv manufactures, many of whom were women and ask them about opportunities and obstacles on the way to entrepreneurship development.

During the roundtable session "Opportunities and Challenges on the Way to Women's Entrepreneurship", held within the framework of a Trade Fair "Lviv commodity manufacturer", strategies and support tools for women's entrepreneurship were being discussed; special attention was given to the importance of special programs for women that would take into account special needs of women: flexible schedule, training duration, a possibility of distance training, positive examples, mentorship.

Julia Romaniv, member of the initiative group "Women in Entrepreneurship", who opened her own business after a training course, shared her personal views on lessons she took and on the future opportunities. She stressed out the importance of meeting successful entrepreneurs in the early stages of starting up a business and its further promotion.

Representatives of local government authorities – the participants of the study tour, convinced themselves in the need of introducing women's entrepreneurship support programs in the cities, since businesswomen significantly contribute to economic growth of cities and improve the living standards of citizens, which will in general improve Ukraine's image as a civilized democratic state.

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