“I Can Рave a Profitable Business in Any City in Ukraine”: The Story of Kateryna Kovalenko

Despite the war, Ukrainians continue to work, plan, and dream. Both women and men take care of themselves, and this lust for life keeps small businesses and enterprises running. The experience of Kateryna Kovalenko, one of the grant competition winners, showed that it is true.

Kateryna lived in the Volnovakha district of Donetska oblast and following the full-scale invasion, she moved to Lutsk with her husband, children, and elderly father. At first, she found it difficult to adapt to the new circumstances, but later she felt ready to move on with her life. At the end of the summer of 2022, Kateryna went on one of the kayaking trips organized by the NGO “Development of Volyn” with the support of the Ukrainian Women’s Fund. It was from the NGO representatives that Kateryna later learned about the project “Economic Opportunities for Women Affected by Conflict,” which was implemented with the support of UN Women and the UN Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund. As part of this initiative, training sessions were to be held at the Women’s Business Support Center. Kateryna had long been dreaming of providing professional manicure and podiatry services, so she decided it was time to go for it and seized the opportunity.

“The war took away my job, and when I moved, I thought it was time to start from scratch, do what I love, and instead of doing it just as a hobby, turn it into my life’s work,” Kateryna recalls.

During her studies under the program, Kateryna was inspired by the lecturers, other participants, their ideas, and communication. She said, “It really helped me to feel life.” The training gave Kateryna the strength and confidence to move on, and not waiting for the grant, she started an internship at a beauty salon. She passed her exams, registered as an individual entrepreneur, and started working at a salon called “Crystal.”

After receiving grant support, Kateryna purchased high-quality manicure and pedicure equipment and was able to effectively combine her own equipment with her work in the salon. They agreed with the salon’s owner that Kateryna would rent a workplace in the salon, and the salon would rent the new equipment from Kateryna. Such cooperation is beneficial for everyone, as it boosts the salon’s capacity and also helps Kateryna advance in her career. The salon’s administrators make appointments for Kateryna’s manicures, handle PR and advertise the services on social media.

“Having the new equipment has inspired me, I feel safe and work has become easier. When my business plan was approved, I believed in myself and I felt that I was worth something,” Kateryna shared. “The studio where I rent a workplace has taken care of all the advertising. They advertise, and I get clients.

As for the clients, Kateryna had her doubts at the beginning of her work, as she did not understand whether people would want to spend money on nail care during the war. However, the experience of the salon’s owner showed that people still want to take care of their bodies. Besides, many women and men from the temporarily occupied territories and the war zone have moved to Lutsk, and this increases the potential client base. This is exactly what happened, Kateryna found her clients, and some of them are becoming regular. Together with other colleagues from the salon, Kateryna follows a plan of appointments for a month to make the desired profit and successfully implements her business plan.

So far, Kateryna does not plan to open her own salon because she doesn’t yet know where to build her future. On the one hand, life is in full swing in Lutsk, and on the other hand, she hopes to return to her hometown after its de-occupation. At this stage, she plans to invest time and effort in developing her skills, then possibly teach, and later think about opening a salon. With her equipment, she is an independent professional with a growing client base, and she will be able to have a steadily profitable business in any city in Ukraine.