Supporting youth to become entrepreneurs: Migi’s Food Boutique

Migi at her food boutique

If you ever go to Tirana, do visit Migi’s Food Boutique. It offers a unique food experience. She has put her heart and mind into this business. It was not easy to get there. With commitment, right guidance, coaching and hard work she succeeded.  Here is her story:
“I have a Bachelor’s degree in Finance and Banking from the University of Tirana. Like many of my friends, I was in search for a job for more than a year. Many job interviews, did not translate into anything concrete. One day I saw an announcement on UNDP Facebook calling on interested young people  to submit  their business ideas  and join the Self-Employment Programme. I considered this a brilliant opportunity.”.

In March 2016, UNDP launched the Self-employment Programme targeting youth between 18 –30, who were interested in bringing to life  their business ideas.
440 young people from across the country applied to join.Proposals ranged from provision of basic services to more innovative technology oriented solutions such as on-demand battery charging stations for bars and restaurants or setting up a small-scale fish farm using aquaponics technology- to mention just a few.
75 young people were selected to follow the training which included motivational, theoretical and practical elements of setting up and running a company.
“It was a very effective hands on training. We were introduced to practical tools how to set up a bussiness. Successful entrepreneurs showed us their way to success. For the first time in my life I was clear of my goals and the needed steps and work to get there. During the mentorship phase, I was able to fine-tune my business canvas model and received individualized legal and financial advisory support. Soon I came o realize that starting my own business was not only a dream. It was becoming real”.
Megi and 36 other young people made it to the finish line of the Programme. The majority of the business ideas are in the fields of  Information and Communication Technology, tourism, agro-processing, apparel, handcrafts and other services-all responding to market needs and with the strong potential of creating new jobs in the future.
“My idea of setting up a special “Food Boutique”, containing local food and home-made/artisan products turned out to be successful. In a world filled with packaged and processed food, I was confident people would choose my products. What makes them special is the fact that they are prepared with high quality ingredients, coming directly from local farmers. One of our high demand products is my mother’s home-made pasta, “jufka”-a traditional Albanian food”-says Megi.
Megi’s business is only four  months old but it is showing clear sings of success. Customers do return and new ones visit. 

Youth in Albania face significant challenges to enter the labour market compared to the rest of the population. Youth unemployment stands at 27.4%, nearly double compared to the overall unemployment rate in the country. Educated, young Albanians lack neither confidence nor talent, yet they have trouble taking the plunge into self-employment. Possibly a ruminant of the past, there is a tendency to seek employment in the public sector. 

During the 25 years of gradual transition to an open market economy, few models of entrepreneurs speak to young people. Prior unfair competition, unclear market rules and regulatory frameworks have all led to a business climate that has inhibited young people from considering setting up their enterprises. This context has not been aided by an education system that focuses on theoretical rather than practical know-how and where entrepreneurial learning is deficient.

FACTS

  • 440 young people from across the country applied to join.
  • 75 young people were selected to follow the training.
  • 37 young people made it to the finish line of the Programme.
  • Youth unemployment in Albania stands at 27.4%,


Although in recent years, the business climate has been improving and the private sector is gradually reaching a higher level of maturity and an eco-system in support of entrepreneurship has emerged, big challenges lie ahead.
UNDP Albania has supported young disadvantaged women and men to gain access to the labour market. With funding from the Swiss Government, UNDP is working with the  Government of Albania  to build a labour-market focused skills development system that is suited to enhance the employment and entrepreneurship aspects of the unemployed in urban and rural areas.
For Megi and her peers, this is only the beginning. They are the living examples of a new generation of entrepreneurs in Albania.