Photo: Igor Schimbător/UNDP Moldova

How it feels like pursuing a childhood dream can only be understood by the ones who experienced it. This is the case of Victoria Cucos, who turned her passion for designing and sewing clothes for dolls into something more. Victoria studied to become a fashion designer and started working in a small workshop, and now she owns a company. When she felt the lack of professional growth at her first job, she decided it was time to start her own business. She remained in the textile manufacturing industry. Although this sector is at the core of the manufacturing industry on both banks of the Nistru river and the competition is great, Victoria, having experience in clothing design, has nevertheless found a business niche.

"I have established my own work system, which differs from other workshops, namely the design of clothes. Our masters and specialists know how to do it, which leaves us room for maneuver," notes Victoria.

Slowly and surely the role of entrepreneur takes shape

She moved on from just being a designer to becoming an entrepreneur. And because she had no experience in running a company, in 2021 she participated in business mentoring courses - "BusinessUP" pilot project carried out with the EU financial support, provided in the framework of the "Confidence Building Measures" Programme, implemented by UNDP Moldova.

Thus, in 2021, Victoria benefited from mentoring from Inna Polisciuk, a business consultant from the left bank, a member of the Moldova Business Consultants Association.

"To run and grow a business, you have to grow personally. In the framework of the mentoring program, I benefited from consultations and I was guided by specialists who have experience in the field. It's great to have such support, because you are advised properly and on time, so you avoid making mistakes," says Victoria.

Although previously she had the possibility to go abroad for work purposes, Victoria chose to invest at home and to offer jobs, also for inexperienced people. Initially she started her business only in her hometown - Tighina (Bender), and in 2019 she commuted Tighina - Chisinau, where she opened her second workshop.

"It was a bit difficult at the beginning, because there were different teams, different customers. We gradually adapted and by making joint efforts we managed to strengthen both teams. Now I don't feel any difference, even if one team is on the left bank and the other is on the right bank of the Nistru".

In both workshops, Victoria has 16 employees and most of them are women, as this is specific to the textile sector. Both teams are growing and developing. In both Chisinau and in Tighina (Bender), Victoria is looking for talented and dedicated people. Even now she is in the process of expanding both teams.

"I learned a lot from Victoria, she has experience and she knows all the processes very well and, once she has a lot of experience, she shares it," says Alexandra Goleac, one of the employees in the workshop in Tighina (Bender).

With investments in quality, tomorrow's success starts today

In her nearly 20 years in the textile business, Victoria has come to understand that she has to deliver quality, and a personal signature to her products. So, this taught her to pass on all her knowledge about the workshop processes to all employees. She does not see herself in other fields. If she were to start over, she would open a workshop as well.

Even the pandemic did not affect her business too much, because she adapted quite quickly to the remote work mode.

"We can design clothes remotely. It was a time when I worked more time with designers in Moscow, I developed patterns, models and even a few collections per year. Based on this collaboration, I have also gained experience in working remotely.”

Mentoring in business is like a shield

As Victoria works in a creative field, all these years she has always been looking for growth and learning opportunities. Thus, in 2021, Victoria attended BusinessUP courses.

"After the training courses, you naturally start to act differently, you know the law, you know how to work correctly with people, to engage with customers, with staff, to keep some accounting records and gradually to acquire knowledge. Such mentoring is absolutely necessary," mentions Victoria.

For now, the workshop services are only available to residents on both banks of the Nistru river, but Victoria wants to expand her orders area to both the West and the East.

"We work on the local market, but we have plans, we do it step by step, which means that nothing happens chaotically. We are developing the company here so that later we can receive orders from Romania or even from Europe.”

The "BusinessUp" project, implemented by ACA in partnership with ABC Dniestr Enterprise, is carried out within the European Union Programme "Confidence-Building Measures", implemented by UNDP Moldova. The aim of the project is to provide support to vulnerable SMEs on both banks of the Nistru river, so as to maintain optimal productivity in the context of the crisis caused by COVID-19.

During 2021, 43 micro and small businesses on both banks of the Nistru river received advice. Ten mentors provided specialized advice to entrepreneurs from 47 companies (22 – on the left bank, 25 – on the right bank) with about 500 employees.

The EU "Confidence-Building Measures" Programme implemented by UNDP Moldova contributes to increasing cooperation between the people on both banks of the Nistru river by involving in joint projects representatives of civil society, media, and the business community.

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