Small businesses: More incentive programs and networking opportunities needed

Category: Blog
Organizations: NGO Mundesia

According to the latest available statistics, two-thirds of the population in Kosovo are of working age. The economic sectors with the highest employment rates are trade and production. The most pronounced unemployment rate is among the 15-24 age group. Additionally, unemployment is more pronounced among women.

On the other hand, in the third quarter of 2021, 2,479 companies were registered. Young people and men and women, regardless of age, decide to start a micro business. To some extent, this decision contributes to the fact that less investment is needed in terms of raw materials and equipment and more effort, which is the one thing those starting their entrepreneurial path do not lack. In the meantime, an additional hurdle occurred. The Covid-19 pandemic and the nearly two-year-long state of emergency had a significant impact on the economy.

How are micro-business owners in Kosovo coping with the current situation? Do those in the north face the same challenges as the ones in the south of Kosovo? Do they cooperate?

Besfort Kosova (Mikona Soap) from South Mitrovica produces soaps based on natural ingredients and high-quality oils, such as extra virgin olive and coconut oil. These oils are used in the treatment of many skin diseases.

How much effort Besfort invests once can notice by the color, shape, and smells of soap. The soap packaging gives a special charm to these already unique handicrafts.

"They have proven successful in fighting psoriasis, eczema, acne, lichen, dandruff, and blemishes. Our soaps made of turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, and rosemary are mainly used against these diseases. Moreover, soaps are environmentally friendly and dissolve without leaving chemical residues. The job with hand-made soaps can be challenging because everything has to be done by hand, and it takes time for the soap to heal naturally," explains our interlocutor.

Tens of kilometers away, Aleksandar Stajić from Gornje Kusce owns a shop producing various wooden objects. From a wooden laptop – a toy for the youngest to decorative items such as wooden houses, napkin rings, models, key chains, etc.

"I make scale models, mini room fountains, laminated icons. And from last year, in addition to purchasing CNC lasers for wood, I also started making decorative items, "adds Stajić.

The civil sector has also recognized the importance of incentives for micro-businesses. The Mundesia organization from South Mitrovica pays special attention to the economic empowerment of women. They support women working in agriculture, handicrafts, cake production, pickled vegetables, tailoring, etc.

"The situation with the pandemic has affected every field, and especially businesses of this kind, because people are more interested in other products necessary for life, such as food, for example. So, not many people are interested in buying handicrafts, "says Hasime Tahiri-Hasani.

"Business owners were severely affected by the pandemic because the business was disrupted several times, and sales were endangered. "Local small businesses need more incentive programs from the government and more subsidies and tax breaks," explains Besfort Kosova.

As one of the challenges he faces, Stajić states the procurement of materials and the lack of awareness about the value of manual work.

"Our people do not know how to appreciate manual work, and that is why I bought a CNC laser, which makes my job much easier and faster, and I sell my goods mostly in Serbia, via the Internet," he added.

What is certain, regardless of obstacles, is that economic empowerment is essential not only as, for example, a preventive measure to prevent violence against women but also as an incentive for better economic progress for society as a whole, regardless of the community citizens are coming. It is especially evident now that the pandemic and rising prices are further jeopardizing economic well-being.

But networking and collaboration are an added value and an opportunity for small businesses.

"We have cooperation with partners from the north, and I can say that this cooperation is very good," says Hasime Tahiri-Hasani from Mundesia.

Besfort Kosova also emphasizes the importance of connecting communities and providing an everyday basis for exchanging goods and places for networking.

"Why not create a permanent multiethnic market for local products that would create a positive economic impact on communities and help economic activity to strengthen and thus reduce import dependence and create greater wealth for the local population," says Besfort Kosova.

"Moreover, local businesses need more collaboration opportunities to expand their production and improve by increasing the quality of their products. Local business owners need more networking opportunities which will lead to new trade opportunities. Finally, product placement and insurance markets for local products are the most important," he concludes.