Being your own boss

Senat Demiri is from the Roma community and lives in Shuto Orizari, one of the most economically deprived areas of Skopje. Reaching out to unemployed people from the more vulnerable social groups in the population has been a key aim of the Self-Employment Programme.

Senat had been without a regular formal job for ten years when he first heard of the programme in 2011. “The idea of being my own boss was a big attraction,” he explains, “So I decided to think of a small business that might work in my area and I came up with a carwash. There are other car-wash places in Shuto Orizari, of course, but I could see there was a demand for better quality. So I applied with a business plan that included buying cleaning equipment better than the competition.”

Senat’s proposal was accepted and he attended the workshop in 2011. “I learnt there’s a lot more to running a business than just the service,” says Senat, “The trainers showed me how to cover the costs of marketing and future investments in my plan.”

As with all of the candidates whose plans are approved by the Experts Evaluation Committee, Senat benefited from the input of specialized consultants to help him refine his plan and put it into action. “The consultants [from the Agency for the Promotion of Entrepreneurship] saw exactly what I was aiming for and helped me focus on ways to compete with the other car-washing services.”

Once a candidate’s idea has been approved by the trainers and coordinators of the Employment Centre and their business plan has been developed, an external evaluation committee of banking experts evaluates the plans. Business consultants are assigned to each candidate who successfully completes the course and has their business idea approved by the trainers.

Thirty-seven-year-old Senat is now the proud owner of his own car-wash service in an excellent location with equipment that gives him a crucial edge: “With the new machines I bought with the grant I can attract a lot more clients because my customers can tell the difference in service.”

Marjan Stojcev, head of the Agency for the Promotion of Entrepreneurship, one of UNDP’s main partners in the implementation of the Self-Employment Programme, explains the process: “The Agency started implementing the subsidized counselling voucher system in late 2005 and this system has continued to evolve ever since. The voucher system works in cooperation with other programmes and projects but most intensively with the Self-Employment Programme which shares the Agency’s priorities and goals. Each year we have an open call for admission consultants who will engage in the work of the counselling voucher system. In recent years the Agency has managed to create a National Catalogue of more than 300 consultants, some 180 of whom specialize in making business plans. Thanks to participation in the Self-Employment Programme, the number of these experts is increasing every year. Working with this Programme is especially rewarding because we are helping unemployed people who have decided to take their fate into their own hands and to experience the challenging but exciting world of entrepreneurship.”

Unemployment amongst the Roma population is currently estimated at 53%, compared to some 27% of the non-Roma population. Amongst Roma women the figure is even higher: 70% of Roma women are unemployed, compared to 35% of non-Roma women.

Many Roma, moreover, have suffered from long-term unemployment, with 70% of young unemployed Roma reporting that they have no work experience at all. The majority of employed Roma are in unskilled or semi-skilled jobs and many of these jobs are irregular, temporary and part-time.

The Self-Employment Programme is one of many ways in which the Government and UNDP are supporting efforts to address the problem of unemployment and irregular employment among the Roma. And Senat’s new Hadisa Mala car-wash in Shuto Orizari is just one of the substantial results achieved.