Ukraine’s female entrepreneurs remain optimistic 

Despite the daunting challenges posed by Russia’s aggression, female entrepreneurs in Ukraine are demonstrating an admirable level of resilience and adaptability. 

From financial gains and independence to challenging traditional views about business and aligning with personal values – female entrepreneurs in Ukraine have various reasons for starting a business. 

Although the ongoing war in Ukraine has posed challenges for many entrepreneurs, they remain optimistic about their prospects, and are demonstrating resilience and a willingness to adapt to the changing circumstances. 

To assist their ventures, government initiatives such as Diia.Business offer a robust framework of resources, guidance, and support for establishing and promoting businesses, as well as expanding internationally. By fortifying the resilience of Ukrainian entrepreneurs, these initiatives instill them with the confidence to stride forward, resolutely demonstrating their unwavering dedication to surmount challenges. 

In a recent survey Emerging Europe carried out in collaboration with She’s Next Empowered by Visa, female entrepreneurs in eleven countries in the emerging Europe region were asked for their motivation behind starting a business.  

For Ukrainian entrepreneurs, the main reasons were to earn more (42 per cent) or become self-employed (40.7 per cent). Financial gain was cited as the primary motivator by nearly half of the respondents while a smaller percentage (25 per cent) mentioned it as a long-held dream. Other factors like individual experiences, values, and opportunities also played a role in starting a business.  

In-depth-interviews with several entrepreneurs revealed additional reasons why female entrepreneurs choose to start a business. Among them, one reason is the abundance of opportunities for tech-related businesses. As one co-founder of a start-up puts it, “There was a big revival in tech, coworking and other trends in the country – I created my first business organising tech events.”  

“I chose the tech sphere because it is easier for a girl to be there – there is bias, of course, the biggest bias is that women can’t code. This has changed,” one co-founder of a start-up said.  

Aligning oneself with personal values is another motivation. Some entrepreneurs may find that the corporate world does not reflect their values, and they want to create something that aligns with their personal beliefs. One CEO of a start-up emphasized that: “Being part of something aligned with my values. Somehow the corporate world was not reflecting it.”  

Other entrepreneurs are motivated by their passion for what they do. One SME founder stated: “We wanted to make things with history, that don’t have particular time affiliation. It was not about money – it was all about the passion for what we did.”  

Achieving success 

Self-discipline was the most mentioned attribute when entrepreneurs were asked about their strengths, with 40.3 per cent of respondents selecting it as a critical quality. Hard work and motivation/initiative were also identified as key strengths, with 36.7 per cent and 35.7 per cent of respondents selecting them, respectively.  

In addition, creative thinking (28.7 per cent), persistence (26.3 per cent), willingness to take risks (23.7 per cent) and the desire for training (10.0 per cent) were also identified as attributes for success.  

Interviewees shared the personal strengths that they believe have helped them succeed. One CEO of a start-up mentioned the importance of resilience, stating: “Always be willing to push forward and keep going.” Similarly, a SME founder attributed success to passion, emphasizing that: “all it takes is just to make it with passion.” 

Other strengths named by female entrepreneurs include stress-resilience, being result-oriented, maintaining a positive mindset, and being open to new knowledge. Networking skills and a sense of responsibility were also identified as important qualities. As a start-up owner said: “It is all about relations that you build with the people around you.” 

All in all, success for (female) entrepreneurs in Ukraine requires a combination of different skills and attributes, with self-discipline, hard work, and motivation and initiative being among the most important.  

Planning for growth  

Despite the ongoing Russia’s war against Ukraine, female entrepreneurs remain optimistic about the growth of their businesses in the near future. When asked about their expectations, 55 per cent of respondents indicated that they expect growth, while 31 per cent expect to maintain their current state and 14 per cent anticipate a decline in the volume of operations and sales.  

Some entrepreneurs have even developed strategies for growth. “We are looking for cooperation with international companies, and there are plans for expansion on the European market,” a start-up owner said. Despite these plans being in place before the war, the conflict has significantly impacted their efforts to expand overseas. 

For those businesses who would like to expand the geography of sales the Made with Bravery marketplace has been created by EVO, with the support of Visa, the Banda agency and the information assistance of the Ministry of Digital Transformation. The mission of the marketplace is to let the whole world know about brave Ukrainian manufacturers, entrepreneurs and local brands. Anyone can get a part of this bravery just by buying high-quality products from the Ukrainian businesses, who as a result will become more popular around the world. All profits from the marketplace commission go to UNITED24 – the official fundraising platform of Ukraine. 

Another SME founder plans to focus on: “Team expansion, ERP system development, and advanced business planning.” 

However, some entrepreneurs recognise the difficulty of making projections in the current context. One business manager notes that: “Now it is very hard to make any projection regarding the future state of a business in Ukraine – the business functions of many of them were disrupted.”  

One major concern is the safety of people and the need to ensure economic and job security for employees. As one business executive puts it, “I need to make sure that my people are safe, produce, and are busy.” Another major issue is the instability caused by the conflict. “It is complicated to make long-term plans and proceed with operations given the current uncertainty,” a start-up CEO said.  

In addition, maintaining continuity of services and data protection is also mentioned by interviewees. One business executive notes: “A big operational challenge has been the continuity of our services and data protection-including of our clients. We are looking at power banks, generators, water tanks, food and other things that enable us to keep working.” 

The war has also created challenges for managing teams and acquiring new customers. As one business owner said: “Customers remain with us but teams are not stable – this is probably the biggest challenge. Other challenges are acquiring new customers.”  

Lastly, a start-up co-founder states that the war has shifted priorities. “People are not busy with innovation but with something else,” she adds, mentioning that people are now focusing on social responsibility and humanitarian work. 

Despite the daunting challenges posed by Russia’s aggression, female entrepreneurs in Ukraine are demonstrating an admirable level of resilience and adaptability. They remain optimistic and are determined to navigate through the difficulties. 

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