Female entrepreneurs driving dynamic new firms

Women on the island of Cyprus are being given a helping hand to set up their businesses, thanks to a two-year project. The main goal is to develop, support and encourage entrepreneurship by women between the ages of 18 and 55.

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Female-owned and run businesses are already springing up across the country, with half of them concentrated in the capital Nicosia and its suburbs. Specific targets include the manufacturing sector, e-commerce, services and tourism.

Challenges become opportunities

As in other EU countries, Cypriot women eager to start and grow their own business face challenges. These include discrimination against women, scarce personal capital, a higher need for external funding, and a lack of knowledge about available options.

More than a decade ago, some 350 business-minded women in Cyprus got together to tackle these challenges. They founded the Women’s Cooperative Bank, a non-profit lending institution focused on women’s entrepreneurial activity. The Cypriot government supports this bank and co-finances the new EU Women Entrepreneurship project, through the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism.

The project is open to women who are employed already or have been unemployed for at least a year before applying for the subsidy/grant. Successful applicants receive 50% of the cost of equipment, training, promotion, other running capital and full coverage of entrepreneurship training costs. The maximum grant available is €70 000 for the manufacturing sector and €50 000 for the other sectors.

Goal: 350 new jobs

The project is assisting women who wish to establish an enterprise in a wide range of economic areas. The emphasis is on developing new technologies, the use of innovative methods of production and promotion of products and services, the growth of business skills in the environment sector, and generally the promotion of modern entrepreneurial activities aimed at creating dynamic and competitive enterprises.

Most of the women enrolled in the project have already started a business, among them graphic and IT services, clinical laboratories, medical clinics, and consultancies. Other new businesses include bakeries, nurseries, beauty and hairdressing salons, plus cafes and taverns in rural areas. This has resulted in some 225 new jobs, around 100 of which have gone to women with at least degree-level qualifications. The goals are to offer high-quality and affordably priced services to the public, combined with new and innovative ideas and the potential for further jobs.

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