A precious partnership - How two women entrepreneurs have pooled their talents to achieve a shared dream
Creating filigree jewellery requires a deep knowledge of tradition and a great deal of skill and patience, not to mention the aesthetic taste needed to achieve a pleasing combination of art and functionality.
These essential ingredients are all evident in abundance from the first moment you walk into the little jewellery shop recently opened in the centre of Skopje by Maja Doneva and Andriana Aleksovska—a shop full of their beautiful and unique creations.
Maja and Andrijana first met while they were training together as part of the country’s highly successful Self-Employment Programme—a major ongoing project implemented by the Government and UNDP that has already helped almost 7,500 beneficiaries to start up their own companies since it was launched in 2007.
- The Self-Employment Programme—implemented by the Government and UNDP that has already helped almost 7,500 beneficiaries to start up their own companies since it was launched in 2007.
Amongst other benefits for participants, the Programme provides candidates with training in business skills and supports them in the development of their business plans. Successful participants in the training workshops are further supported with expert advice on starting up their businesses and are eligible to apply for grants worth up to 3,000 Euros with which to purchase essential start-up equipment.
”We were chatting about our business ideas during the training and we soon found out we had a lot in common,” says Maja. “The more I heard about Ani’s plans the more I kept thinking about how we could make our ideas succeed together. I told her “You’re just the person I’ve been looking for!” and she said she felt the same and so we decided to make a joint business plan and here we are today!”
“We’ve learnt a lot from each other and we’re still helping each other develop,” says Andrijana. “It was a great piece of luck that we met and we’re both determined to make this work.”
By pooling their two grants together, Maja and Andrijana were able to buy all the machines and materials they needed to start up their jewellery-making business. With this equipment they are now busy creating a rich range of jewellery and decorations from filigree and other materials like thread and glass and ceramics, even using unusual materials such as aluminium and cardboard.
So far the business has been doing quite well and Maja and Andrijana say they are satisfied with the sales they’ve made. These are early days, however, and now that they have overcome most of the major problems associated with starting up a new venture their eyes are set on the future.
“We had no illusions this would be easy and it’s true we still face new challenges almost every day,” says Andrijana, “but we’ve always remained determined that we’re not going to give up. Working together has really helped in reassuring each other that way. What we’re focussing on at this stage is how to stand out on the market—identifying the next steps we need to take to succeed.”
Both agree that they now need to try as hard as possible to promote and to present themselves to as wide an audience as possible. In doing so they are applying some of the business lessons they learnt on the Self-Employment Programme, including the lesson that good PR can help them expand and overcome setbacks.
One of the key strategic steps they have already taken to help promote their products has been to participate actively in the country’s chambers and associations of artisans. “We’re absolutely sure this is the right way to go,” says Maja, “These associations can open a lot of doors and help get your product sold not just here but in markets abroad.”
Maja and Andrijana are working patiently and persistently to achieve their shared goals. They believe that good quality will always attract loyal buyers and that successful artistic expression will always maintain its value. To help grow their business, however, they say there is a need for higher quality and more strategic unions and associations of all artisans—associations that can develop dignified presentations of traditional jewellery-making to the wider public.