Startup Competition Brings Ideas to Life, Part I
This is part one in a four-part spotlight series on successes in the Delivering Regional Instruction Vital to Entrepreneurial Success (DRIVES) Program, funded by the United States Agency for International Development. The program’s goal is to improve access to high-quality business education for small- and medium-sized enterprises across Belarus. PYXERA Global implements DRIVES in cooperation with international and local partners including the Global Business Schools Network and IPM Business School in Minsk.
Evgenia Orlova is a budding entrepreneur in Minsk interested in promoting eco-friendly products and healthy lifestyles. Prior to starting her business she was well aware that her friends and family, eager to pursue healthier lifestyles, were having difficulty finding safe household products and organic, vegan, and cruelty-free foods due to lack of accessibility or proper labeling in local stores. With the encouragement of her friends, Evgenia founded EcoStore, an online eco-goods market that brings together suppliers and manufacturers of eco-friendly and vegan products all in one place.
Evgenia launched a website and found products to sell, yet she needed to develop her customer base and identify additional investors to keep the store running. Without foundational business knowledge, she was unsure of the steps to take to reach her target audience and grow her business.
That was when Evgenia entered the Best Start-Up Idea Competition to receive entrepreneurship education, mentorship, and build new networks. Participants were given access to online business courses and in-person master classes through IPM Business School. Additionally, startups were matched with mentors from IPM Business School alumni and regional business communities. Many participants confirmed that this was the first time they had had the opportunity to take a practical course in business planning and processes. Participants actively exchanged ideas and supported each other, and the competition galvanized local business leaders, who showed a real commitment to fostering new entrepreneurial talent.
Evgenia credits the growth of EcoStore over the last year to her participation in the competition. The mentoring and distance learning classes allowed her to critically assess her business plan and operational methods, enabling her to identify the gaps in her business and streamline the workflow. She improved EcoStore’s public visibility by launching a free eco-festival and is now seeing increased demand from customers. Evgenia has even received more support from investors, who are interested in her environmentally-friendly business model.
This story is made possible by the support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) as part of the Delivering Regional Instruction Vital to Entrepreneurial Success project implemented by PYXERA Global. The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of PYXERA Global and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.