Young women entrepreneurs from Moldova support the local market with healthy lifestyle-promoting businesses

Two young women entrepreneurs from the Republic of Moldova, Nadejda Hadjivu and Victoria Sobol, managed to start their businesses, promoting local, healthy products, during the COVID-19 pandemic. With support from the Organization for the Development of Small and Medium Enterprises Sector (ODIMM) in Moldova, UN Women and the Government of Japan, they have been able to sustain and expand their businesses.

Nadejda Hadjivu, founder of ‘Moft Dulce’, with the peanut butter and healthy chocolate she produces. Photo: UN Women/Aurel Obreja

Women entrepreneurs are increasingly succeeding in overcoming outdated gender stereotypes that have for many years constituted obstacles. Two such women, Nadejda Hadjivu and Victoria Sobol, started their own businesses in the Republic of Moldova amid the pandemic in 2020, using local products and promoting a healthy lifestyle.

“When I came back to Moldova, I noticed that we don’t have a large product assortment,” says Hadjivu, the 24-year-old founder of Moft Dulce who had previously lived in the United States. “There are too many low-quality food products like peanut butters containing palm oil, different additives, and sugar. So, I started producing healthy snacks. I use healthy ingredients, such as stevia and coconut sugar – products recommended even to children,” she adds.

Hadjivu produces peanut butter and healthy chocolate, which does not contain beet sugar, gluten, or milk. She uses local products, especially hazelnuts.

“I used to buy hazelnuts from a woman who has eco-friendly sweet peanuts. I import some cashew nuts and peanuts but source most products locally,” says Hadjivu.

Besides sourcing raw materials, she wears many other hats in her company. “I am the production manager, head of office and accountant. As the workload increases, a young food technologist helps me. We used to produce 50-70 kilograms of peanut butter per hour, but the new mill, which was bought along with other equipment using a grant from the Organization for the Development of Small and Medium Enterprises Sector (ODIMM) in Moldova and UN Women, can produce up to one ton”, she says.

The young entrepreneur says that in her early days she made a lot of mistakes, as she didn’t yet know about business administration. Moreover, she had to put in a lot of effort to be taken seriously. “I think 80 per cent of my actions were wrong. I started working without necessary knowledge and I learned from my mistakes. I have burned over 100 kilograms of nuts while testing,” says Hadjivu.

“Many people don’t take you seriously as a young business owner. I had to be very persistent and follow my dreams. Initially, many people said that it would be impossible, that I would close my business, but it’s been a year.” Hadjivu is now planning to expand to the Romanian market.

Similar to Hadjivu, 25-year-old Victoria Sobol runs a family beekeeping business in Bravicea village, Calaras District, to promote a healthy lifestyle and contribute to the mental well-being of visitors. She had to close it temporarily as the pandemic escalated and a lockdown was imposed, but is now back in business.

Victoria Sobol, manager of Stupina Codrilor, with her bees and bee hives . Photo: UN Women/Aurel Obreja

“My husband and I decided to start our business Stupina Codrilor with the aim of providing a resting place for people interested in bees’ activities and lives,” says Sobol. “We wanted them to have excursions outdoors, to taste agricultural products, to learn about their benefits, and to undertake buzzing therapy tested by a few entrepreneurs from the Republic of Moldova.”

Sobol says the buzzing therapy innovation promoted by their business has a beneficial impact on mental wellbeing, and Stupina Codrilor is doing well.

“Besides buzzing therapy, we offer accommodation to visitors and excursions to apiaries with protective equipment. We explore the hives together, and if there is some honey, we extract it together,” she says. “We also have little houses for apitherapy. These are spaces for two people to lay down on a bee bed to relax and release all worries, letting the vibrations created by bee buzzing to work on their health and nervous systems during these stressful times.”

Victoria Sobol stands with her beehives . Photo: UN Women/Aurel Obreja

“People often ask me how difficult is it to work in an apiary as a woman,” says Sobol. “I continue to prove every day that a woman can be a beekeeper. We hope to employ more people in the future and expand our business. My husband and I share our responsibilities equally. We don’t get bored,” she says.

Hadjivu and Sobol are beneficiaries of the UN Women’s regional project Responding to the urgent needs of women and girls in marginalized and vulnerable situation exacerbated by COVID-19 in Europe and Central Asia (June 2020 to May 2021), implemented by ODIMM, with financial support from the Government of Japan.

According to research conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics from the Republic of Moldova in 2018 – supported by UN Women Moldova, UNDP Moldova and Sweden – the potential of women entrepreneurs is not harnessed, especially in fields involving technological innovations which could improve all aspects of societal development.

Through the UN Women-ODIMM project, 40 young womenfrom underrepresented groups, received financial support to top-up their own contributions to start/expand their businesses. They also benefitted from individual and group mentorship on entrepreneurial knowledge and skills. Additionally, over 600 women entrepreneurs and budding business women participated in seven modules of business education training.

Originally published on UN Women Europe and Central Asia