One stitch at a time: Helping entrepreneurs prosper in Moldova
Of the 4 million people who call Moldova home, up to a quarter go abroad in search of work. One of the poorest countries in Europe, Moldova suffers from a dearth of good jobs and high rates of poverty. But despite the long odds, some Moldovans are managing to stay put, building businesses that turn a healthy profit. Lidia Bîrsanu, a People in Need beneficiary from Sângerei, is among them.
Lidia makes and sells traditional embroidery, a business she describes as her “dream job.” From the first moment you enter Lidia’s studio, you can tell that passion is woven into every stitch. The wardrobes and shelves are full of colourful, intricately-embroidered fabrics, dresses and blouses, while the entire room buzzes like a beehive. Lidia is proud of what she has accomplished.
Success, however, did not come easily.
Lidia’s first experience as an entrepreneur was in 2008, when she started selling children’s clothing at a local market. But sales were poor, and not long after she began that job, her health declined, forcing her to explore new areas of income generation. First, she tried her hand at accounting, then real estate. Finally, in January 2015, after attending some sewing courses, she launched a small embroidery business, setting up shop at a business incubator in Sângerei.
Even though her husband was sceptical of her plans, the young entrepreneur did not give up and participated in a project addressed to local businesses, which helped her finance the purchase of a sewing machine, an ironing board and an iron, a table and several closets for her finished products. This was enough to get her business off the ground.
At first, her studio focused on garment repairs. But when her cousin, a dance teacher, asked her if she would try sewing national costumes with traditional embroidery, Lidia quickly embraced the idea. She bought an embroidery machine from Ukraine to process the order – a collection of costumes for dancers from a show called “Roses,” which was being performed in a nearby village. In no time, other ensembles from the area started placing their own orders, and with them, Lidia had found her niche.
The discovery of a viable business lifted Lidia’s spirits, but it also brought new, unexpected challenges. For instance, within a year she had so many new orders that she was forced to turn down projects because the capacity of her embroidery machine could not handle the workload. She needed a solution to keep clients happy. People in Need Moldova offered one.
With a grant from the project “New impulse to business development in northern region of Moldova”, which is financed by the Czech Development Agency and implemented by PIN in partnership with the Regional Development Agency North and NGO “Pro Cooperare Regională”, Lidia was able to purchase a modern machine. This turn helped her take on bigger jobs and complete them in less time. It has even prompted her to dream of opening her own factory one day, where she could employ many of her compatriots.
Lidia says she would never have been able to grow her business without this financial support. “Grants are really helpful, especially when you start a business,” she says. “It’s much harder and riskier with credits from banks.”
She adds with a smile: “I am really glad to see the client happy and pleased with the garment I have sewn; this is the greatest happiness! It’s not about the money or the salary; it’s the fact that the client likes what I have created for them. This means that my work is not done in vain.”