Don’t keep thinking about - just do it!

An entrepreneur who’s not letting anything get in her way

Photo: @UNDPMK

HiFit is quickly becoming the place to be for female fitness fanatics in Tetovo - a new and well-equipped gym with the unique selling-point of being the city’s first women-only fitness centre.

The gym is the proud creation of Lumturuje Durmishi, or ‘Lumi’ as she is known to the members - a 42-year old ex-ballerina and PE teacher who now runs classes in Pilates, yoga and weight-training.

“I’ve been mad about sport and fitness since I was a young girl,” says Lumi. “I trained in all sorts of sports during and after university. I even planned on being a professional in karate and kayaking, but life had other things in store. And though I’m not bitter about it, I found myself unemployed a few years ago and was feeling a bit adrift.”

Like many towns and cities throughout the country, unemployment is high in Tetovo and good job opportunities are rare, even for graduates with work experience like Lumi.

“I didn’t want to do any old job,” explains Lumi. “I knew I wanted to run my own business and I knew I wanted it to be connected with fitness. The problem was how to go about it. It’s not so easy to convince people here to fund you when you’re a hijab-wearing woman with an idea for setting up a gym!”

It is just over two years now since Lumi first heard about the Self-Employment Programme. “The Employment Agency told me about the opportunity and I didn’t need to think about it long before I applied. I must admit I thought the programme sounded too good to be true at first, but once I was on the course with other people taking the same risk and learning real-life business skills I started truly believing I could do this - I could become an entrepreneur.”

Having successfully completed the training workshops and perfected her businesplan, with the help of the programme’s experts and mentors, Lumi applied for a grant to rent and equip her new gym - a 60m2 location in the centre of Tetovo.

Every day now at HiFit there are more than twenty women exercising and practising Pilates and yoga. The success of her first business venture has been a huge boost for Lumi, who now plans on moving to bigger premises. “I try to keep up with all the global trends in fitness,” she explains, “and I want to make all these new kinds of training available to my clients. I guess I’ve got that entrepreneurial spirit they talk about - a belief I can make things happen if I try hard enough.”

One of the key aims that UNDP has promoted in 11 years of running the Self-Employment Programme is to provide opportunities for people who typically face obstacles in setting up successful businesses.

As a Muslim woman with a lifelong passion for sport, Lumi has seen her fair share of prejudice but says she has never let it get in her way. “I try to live according to my own system of values both in life and at work,” she says. “Maybe at the beginning it was strange for a woman with a hijab to have her own business and even to be professionally active in sports, but that’s changing. The programme is part of that change - and so am I. All that should matter in business is the quality of what you can offer.”

Lumi’s message to unemployed people thinking about joining the Self-Employment Programme is to “Stop thinking about it, stop worrying about what others might think - and just do it!” 

Highlights:

  • The Self-Employment Programme is designed by UNDP, the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy and the National Employment Agency to assist long-term unemployed people in starting their own private businesses, offering training, mentoring, coaching and small start-up grants.
  • Since 2007, nearly 10,000 new businesses have been created, 35% of them run by women entrepreneurs and 31% by young people.
  • A remarkable 70% of the companies created through the programme have remained active beyond the initial five years, and many have expanded, employing new staff.
  • In 2017, the Self-Employment Programme accounted for 14.7% of all new private-sector firms registered in the country.

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