New Start, New Start-Up
There are all sorts of ways of being stuck in a rut. Whether it’s a job that’s hit a dead-end, a marriage that’s gone sour, or a social life that’s no longer rewarding, the easiest thing in the world is to do nothing and hope for the best. It takes extraordinary determination to find a way out of the trap.
As a graduate of psychology, Biljana Vidanovic knew all the signs that her relationship was on the rocks: “Our marriage had become full of aggression, humiliation and judging. My husband was becoming a violent bully.” But taking the decision to leave was tough: “I knew I should leave, but we have two young children and my job wasn’t paying well. I was scared of what would happen if I tried to make it alone.”
As far as her work was concerned, Biljana didn’t need a psychology degree to see her career wasn’t going the way she’d hoped. “Finding a job in my field in Bitola was never really on the cards. I took pretty much any job I could find – for example selling cosmetics and insurance. But family came first, so I kept putting off my real dream of working as a psychologist.”
But as her husband’s bullying grew worse, and as her career opportunities seemed to dwindle, Biljana began to think the unthinkable. At 38 years old, with two children, she resolved once and for all that she would no longer accept her ‘fate’: “I decided I wanted to move on. I no longer saw myself as part of that marriage. It was over. Now I wanted a new life for me and my children.”
With support from her family, Biljana was soon able to take the first step and break out of her destructive marriage. “Making that decision and knowing it was the right thing to do made me stronger,” she says, “But at the same time I had to somehow find a way to turn my career around. I’ve always seen work as crucial for independence, for developing a sense of freedom and self-confidence. I could never stay at home and do nothing.”
Finding no openings for jobs related to her training in psychology, Biljana took another bold decision: if she couldn’t find an opportunity then she would create an opportunity herself by starting out on her own. “I’d thought about having my own practice before,” she says, “but the bureaucratic procedures seemed too daunting and I had no capital to invest, so it stayed just a pipe-dream. The difference now was that I promised myself not to give up.”
It was then that Biljana found out about the Self-Employment Programme – a UNDP, Ministry of Labor and Social Policy and National Employment Agency initiative that has helped support over 10,000 new startups since it began in 2007.
“It’s a very well-designed programme, with great mentors who help you at every step along the way. I learnt a lot and – maybe most important of all – I came out of the 2-day workshop feeling confident I could make my business plan work. Not only that but the programme also gave me a grant that helped me to equip my own office.”
Today Biljana is busy forging ahead with her new life and work, building up a list of clients for her counselling company ‘Bozilak’ – or ‘Rainbow’.
“There’s a growing need for counselling in this society and a lot of interest,” she says, “So this is only the beginning! Soon I plan to expand the services on offer. The business advice I got on the Programme and the feedback I’ve had from clients has given me the confidence to think bigger.”
Biljana is one of 3,500 women who have benefited from the Self-Employment Programme. Her success is an inspiration for all those who dream of starting again but fear they don’t have what it takes.
"For all the women out there in difficult situation that seems hopeless, I tell them there’s always a way out. It only takes a firm decision and desire! And if you do succeed in starting out by yourself, I can testify that the rewards of doing a job you really love are greater than I could have imagined!”