You can too! How the EU supports women entrepreneurs in Ukraine

You can too! How the EU supports women entrepreneurs in Ukraine
1. I want to start my own business, but I’m not sure my idea would work. Who can advise me?
2. I already have a business, but my biggest challenge as a businesswoman is to get the money I need to take it to the next step: is there any EU support available for me?
3. I’m not sure I want to start a business, but I want to learn new skills to help me find a job: is there something for me from the EU?
4. Are there women like me, who started their own business or learned a new trade with EU help?
5. Are there women like me, who started their own business or learned a new trade with EU help?
6. Whom can I ask for help?

The European Union has always been very active in supporting the development of new businesses, particularly among women and particularly in the regions of Ukraine.

Since the start of the full-scale war against Ukraine, the European Commission’s Support Group for Ukraine together with the EU Delegation to Ukraine and EU projects working with Ukraine have reacted to the Russian aggression by rapidly repurposing their activities in the face of the humanitarian crisis and the massive displacement of populations, including additional support for women, displaced people, entrepreneurs and vulnerable groups.

So don’t think that you need to be in Kyiv, to have a higher education or an established business in order to access EU support. The EU supports a number of programmes and business support facilities that provide know how, practical help, and even funding to help you start your business.

Here are some examples:

As a part of the EU4Business initiative, a network of Business Support Centres has been set up across the regions of Ukraine, offering business advice services, trainings and workshops. Visit the network’s website for more information including a full list of business support centres and their contacts, as well as available opportunities.

The “Start.Business” learning platform targets both beginners who are interested in entrepreneurship but do not know where to start and those who already have their own business and are looking for practical advice on developing it. The platform offers interactive courses dedicated to different business areas such as the creative industry, for example, or hotel management, or fabric or ceramics production, and has recently added new courses for micro-enterprises displaced by war, where entrepreneurs can learn what is needed to create and scale up their businesses, how to minimise possible risks, develop e-commerce and many other practical aspects.

For women in Eastern Ukraine, the EU-funded Gender Culture Centre in Kharkiv has launched various resources for women including an SME Development Centre, where women can take part in training, get advice on starting or developing a business, have a mentor, and become a part of women’s business network – all for free. The centre provides services for all women, whether you want to start a business, or already have one and want to develop it.

Across the rest of the country, the Mayors for Economic Growth programme supports local authorities in developing economic growth and job creation, with additional funds for supporting the recovery of local economies and communities impacted by the war. In the liberated municipality of Trostianets, for example, a new business support centre is assisting businesses to become operational again, promoting entrepreneurship among the town’s residents – most of whom had never owned a business before.

Another EU-funded project offers free training for 1,000 women. The project on Building resilience of Ukrainian women IDPs and refugees and increasing female workforce in tech-driven industry aims to empower Ukrainian women with IDP and refugee status, offering training to facilitate their employment in creative and tech-driven industries. Click here to find out more and sign up.

The EU-funded Collaborate for Impact project aims to develop social entrepreneurship and social investment in the Eastern Partnership countries. In Ukraine, it partners with SILab Ukraine to support social entrepreneurs with hackathons, trainings, incubation and acceleration programmes, while providing investment funding, mentoring and technical support through the Ukrainian Social Venture Fund. Check out the SILab Ukraine website and Facebook page for news and opportunities. Visit the Collaborate for Impact website for success stories and podcasts from Ukraine.

Responding to the Russian military aggression against Ukraine, EU4Youth has launched a project aimed at addressing the war-related needs of Ukraine with support for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and youth entrepreneurs. The project offers career counselling and grants for business recovery, as well as retraining programmes for IDPs. The project is implemented by the SpivDiia Fund. Follow SpivDiia on Facebook ort he latest opportunities.

In addition, the EU4Youth programme is launching a series of projects aimed at enhancing youth employment and entrepreneurship, including mentoring, training programmes and apprenticeships. Under the previous wave of EU4Youth projects, nearly 300 job seekers received training to improve their career opportunities, of whom almost 85% were women, while 36 start-ups were launched with support from EU4Youth projects and 323 young people – mostly from disadvantaged communities – received funding to advance their entrepreneurial projects. Thousands of young people benefited from competence development activities to gain new skills, and over 500 received mentorships.

If you are looking to develop your business, advice and funding are available through the EU4Business initiative, which supports private sector development across Ukraine.

Specifically, the EBRD’s Women in Business programme offers loans, training and advisory services that are specifically tailored to women-led businesses. The programme works with local partner Bank Lviv and offers preferential terms for women entrepreneurs to finance new business ideas or expand an existing business. Visit their website or stop by your local branch for more information. You can also meet representatives of the banks in person at the EBRD’s Women in Business seminars.

Apart from providing loans, Women in Business offers training and subsidised advisory services that are specifically tailored to women-led businesses. The programme also offers a personalised online tool – the Business Lens – to assess your business and see what kind of support you can access.

Small business loans, ranging from micro-finance to major investment loans, are also available through a number of other EU4Business programmes, working through partner banks Bank LvivCreditwest BankProCredit BankCrédit AgricoleOschadbankOTP LeasingAgroprosperis BankKredoBankPiraeus BankUkreximbank and Ukrgasbank. Visit the EU4Business website for information about all the current financing available to small businesses in Ukraine.

The European Fund for South East Europe (EFSE) also provides a range of loans (average loan size €51,000) to micro (less than 10 employees) and small (less than 50 employees) businesses in sectors such as agriculture, industry, trade and services.

The EU4Business: SME competitiveness and internationalisation project also offers a whole range of grants for SMEs, such as the current competition for grants of to €15,000 for companies creating products and services with innovative components and/or expansion or export focus, which is open until 10 March 2024. Follow their Facebook page for regular grant and training opportunities.

Subsidised consultancy services are also available from the EBRD’s Advice for Small Businesses programme, in areas including strategy, marketing, operations, quality management, energy efficiency, financial management and more. The programme can connect SMEs to local consultants and international advisers who can help transform a huge range of businesses. The EBRD supports businesses from many industries, such as food and beverages, wholesale and retail distribution and construction and engineering; 79 per cent of the projects supported are outside Kyiv.

If you are looking for international experience, you can apply for a free business exchange under the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme. The initiative is open to anyone who plans to set up a business or has started one within the last three years, and matches new entrepreneurs with experienced entrepreneurs in another European country for a placement of up to six months. You will benefit from on-the-job training to develop your entrepreneurial skills, gaining knowledge and experience on managing a small business by working with the host entrepreneur. In October 2023, the European Commission launched an additional project aimed specifically at supporting new Ukrainian entrepreneurs. With a budget of €3 million, the project aims to recruit up to 430 new Ukrainian entrepreneurs and match them with host entrepreneurs across Europe. Click here to find out how to apply.

House of Europe supports professional and creative exchange between Ukrainians and their colleagues in EU countries and the UK, focusing on culture and the creative industrieseducationhealthsocial entrepreneurshipmedia, and youth. House of Europe brings together opportunities for Ukrainians under more than 20 separate programmes, including conferences, professional events, internships, and networking, as well as study tours, residencies, trainings, digital labs and other forms of support. It also hosts a knowledge library of video lectures on on project management, success stories, and the latest trends for culture and creative industries, education, social entrepreneurship, media, youth work, and health. Visit the House of Europe website for the full range of opportunities.

Ukrainian entrepreneurs also have access to the EU’s COSME programme, which includes grants for SME development and also funds the Enterprise Europe Network, which helps Ukrainian SMEs find business and technology partners across Europe and beyond. Find out the full range of EU support actions to integrate Ukraine into the single market and promote business cooperation.

EU4Youth has launched a project aimed at addressing the war-related needs of Ukraine with a focus on career guidance and re-training. The project’s career counselling service has already provided thousands of consultations, helping people along all the steps of employment – setting goals, developing a career plan, writing a CV, preparing for an interview with an employer. Hundreds of participants have succeeded in getting a job and building their careers thanks to the project. The project is implemented by the SpivDiia FundClick here for career support and follow SpivDiia on Facebook for the latest opportunities.

As well as offering business advice, the “Start.Business” learning platform offers interactive courses dedicated to different business areas such as the creative industry or hotel management, or fabric or ceramics production, and has recently added new courses for micro-enterprises displaced by war, where entrepreneurs can learn what is needed to create and scale up their businesses, how to minimise possible risks, develop e-commerce and many other practical aspects.

The EU Delegation to Ukraine holds a series of EU Career Days, where you can take part in panel discussions on professional development, listen to trainings on CV writing, public presentation and other soft skills, meet employees and HR specialists from leading Ukrainian and European companies, sign up for an internships or interviews at these companies, learn about opportunities to study abroad. Find out more and sign up for notifications about future events.

For young women under the age of 30, the EU offers exciting opportunities under its Erasmus + youth programmesYou can join the thousands of young Ukrainians who have already learned new skills and developed valuable experience by participating in youth projects or volunteering for work abroad under the European Solidarity Corps.

And if you are in higher education, Erasmus + offers student exchanges and post-graduate programmes in Europe. Find out more about all the opportunities and how to apply.

There are far more than you can imagine!

In 2022, 25,522 SMEs were supported through the EU4Business Initiative in Ukraine, generating an extra €1,724 million in income and 23,750 new jobs, growing their turnover by 18%, and increasing their exports by 5% as a result. Half of the business supported were women-owned!

For example:

Liliya Polyakova rebuilt her dance school in Kyiv, after being forced to leave her dream studio in her home city of Mariupol. A microgrant from the EU4Business programme helped her to rebuild her business from scratch.

A group of grandmothers from Ivano-Frankivsk set up a kindergarten with EU support to help children from displaced families, with a grant from the Ukrainian Social Venture Fund, which operates under the Collaborate for Impact programme.

Anna Derkach developed a social enterprise offering horses for therapy to help children with disabilities, and was able to expand her business with a grant from EU4Youth.

Tetiana Chernikova got the idea of producing portioned, ready-to-eat meals when full-scale war broke out. With an EU4Business grant, she launched a modern online store selling healthy dishes that can be stored from one to two years, even without a refrigerator.

Alona Popova, a 29-year-old entrepreneur, was working in marketing and product management, and hoped to start her own marketing agency, until she was forced to leave her home, occupied by the Russians. In July 2023, she started an Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs posting in Spain, spending three months working on the marketing at a Spanish language school, gaining valuable experience and a boost to her ambitions.

There are more than you can imagine!

In 2019, 289 women entrepreneurs in Ukraine received loans to a total value of more than €40 million under EU support programmes for SMEs, while 88 received grants worth €750,000. More than 350 benefitted from consultancy servicesTurnover among supported companies rose by almost €129 million, and 16,134 new jobs were created as a result of the support.

For example:

OlenaSvitlana and Yana all received training and small grants from EU4Youth to set up small businesses. All three had lost homes and jobs fleeing the conflict in Eastern Ukraine and have now learned new skills and set up livelihoods to rebuild their lives.

Larysa and Yuliya also fled the conflict leaving behind successful careers, but were able to start new business in Kyiv with training and grants from an EU-funded project supporting IDPs.

Yulia Alekseeva’s travel agency received Women in Business support to develop a new website. The EU grant covered half of the costs of the new website, helping the company grow by almost 30% annually since then. 

Anna Temchyshyn received a cheap loan of UAH 1 million for her farm from Bank Lviv under the German-Ukrainian Fund’s EU4Business loan programme for SMEs, helping the farm to replenish its working capital and purchase agricultural machinery.

And young ceramicist Yulia Makliuk did a two-and-a-half-month mentorship with a potter in Slovenia as part of the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme, gaining valuable experience and skills for her craft.

If you already have a business and are looking to develop it, check out the wide range of training and funding opportunities available under EU4Business in Ukraine. The website includes comprehensive details of loan and grant opportunities and business development services.

Find out if there is Business Support Centre near you, and what training and advisory services are available by visiting the network’s website for more information, including a full list of business support centres and their contacts.

For education opportunities, contact the national Erasmus + office in Ukraine, and for youth exchanges, check out the Erasmus+ Youth and European Solidarity Corps Info Centre in Ukraine.

Login to Facebook for the latest updates and opportunities from the EU Delegation to Ukraine, from UNDP in Ukraine and from the EU4Business: SME competitiveness and internationalisation project, and stay up to date by checking the latest opportunities on and on the EU NEIGHBOURS east website.

This site uses cookies to offer you a better browsing experience. Find out more
I refuse cookies
I accept cookies