Eighteen years ago Valentina lost her leg in the conflict, now she is creating Kosovo made “Haute Couture”
Valentina Elshani was born in a small village Krusha e Madhe where she was raised with her sister and two brothers. She attended the primary and secondary school in the village which is now known mostly due to the massacre of men in the village during the war in Kosovo.
The conflict influenced significantly also the life of Valentina, she lost one leg because of the grenade. Since then Valentina is living with the prosthesis, but nothing can limit her dreams and to be a famous fashion designer was always one of them. She started alone with nothing but her talent four years ago.
The beginnings were hard but one day she spotted the opportunity of financial support on social media. She applied and transformed her idea into a business plan. Finally her plan was among the 13 selected ones who got the support from joint People in Need, Handikos and Kosovo Association of the Blind project funded by European Union and Czech Development Agency focused on employment of people with disabilities.
I bought new equipment and clients are more satisfied
Valentina received the grant of 5,300 EUR to expand and register her business in the historic city of Prizren. “I believe it will be a good incentive for my business,” she replied once the cash grant for her starting business was announced.
As confident and hard-working person Valentina immediately bought the equipment she needed for a long time. “Now I use newer and more advanced machineries which are professional and have facilitated my job,” Valentina says while sewing on her new sewing-machine. “My job is more efficient, easier and less time consuming now and of course the clients are more satisfied with my work,” she adds.
The success came quite fast. Valentina managed to open the store, where she designs all kinds of dresses. Her revenues increased by 50% last year and it will be 100% this year. She was able to employ her sister and now she has also an apprentice.
Dresses for singers and 14,000 fans
Especially wedding dresses and the “Haute Couture” collection are very popular among customers. Her fashion is often worn by famous singers in Kosovo. Over 14,000 people likes her profile on Facebook and more than 1,800 people are following her models on Instagram.
“I am not in the business for years so the grant helped me very much to move forward,” says Valentina and cuts fabric for new model. She spends more time at work now but she is able to financially support her family and has still a lot of ideas to develop the business. Now she is planning bigger premises, to turn apprentice into regular employee and last but not least to introduce new products.
Besides taking care of her business Valentina always promotes employment of people with disabilities in Kosovo. And what about the next career step? “I want to sit in the first row of fashion show where my dresses will be displayed,” dreams Valentina. But one dream already came true. She is going to marry Mahmut, another person with disability who opened a kiosk thanks to the EU grant.
The EU funded project offered the support to people with disabilities in their transition from the social scheme to the job market. 13 people with disabilities received the opportunity to start new or extend existing business based on business plans competition and evaluation. "Before that the participants received trainings and consultations on how to compile and improve business plans and manage the business. Together with them we have made a market analysis," explains PIN project manager Betim Zllanoga.
Eight labour counsellors were trained to connect the people with disabilities to work opportunities in private companies and thus support their employment. Altogether 138 people with disabilities have benefited from the programme, 33 of them have been employed and next 150 have been trained about the increase of capacity at the working place.