Women in Kremenchuk Profit from Their Creative Talents
In recent years, many women in Kremenchuk have put forward ideas to start a business of their own in the creative industries. However, few of the women had the professional knowledge and skills essential to bringing such ideas to life. No organization in the city offered a viable employment opportunity for these enterprising women to work in the arts field. 2020 brought new opportunities for gifted natives of Kremenchuk when the ArtElf Creative Arts Studio opened in May. It was launched thanks to the efforts of the Centre for Innovation and Social and Business Initiatives, with the support of Kremenchuk City Hall and the “Partnership for Local Economic Development and Democratic Governance” (PLEDDG), an international technical assistance project largely funded by Global Affairs Canada.
“Kremenchuk often hosts festivals and fairs featuring all sorts of creative handmade goods. City residents—especially women—would often ask the craftswomen while admiring their handiwork: ‘Where can I learn to do that?’ The initiative to launch a creative studio essentially came as a response to pre-existing demand. We came up with an idea to establish a training centre that would bring together creative industry talents and those wishing to master specific forms of art. We wanted to have everything at the same location and make sure the training process was properly structured and organized. And we succeeded in this!”, says Oksana Kuzmenko, Project Director of “Creating Conditions for Private Enterprise Development by Establishing the ArtElf Creative Arts Studio in Kremenchuk.”
With the backing of PLEDDG, studio premises were rented and renovated, furniture and essential equipment were bought. In the summer, ArtElf successfully delivered the first 4 training courses focusing on floral art and decor, dry and wet felting, painting, and creating handmade dolls. The trainings were attended by 30 women. Mothers on maternity leave, mothers with three or more children, retired women, and women living with disabilities were among the trainees. Apart from creative classes, the women attended workshops on starting and managing a business. The training sessions were designed to help the women acquire a new occupation and monetize it successfully.
“We wanted to create all kinds of opportunities for women beyond simply learning to work with their hands. We made it our mission to convey to the trainees that handmade goods could be turned into a business. Not all the women took an interest in business training, as some did not wish to formally launch a business of their own. For those who fully participated, this proved to be a very enlightening experience. Coaches shared information about how to register as an independent trader, choosing the correct tax category, and they offered sales tips. The training also included a roundtable discussion titled: ‘Creativity in Management: Professional Confidence’, where an invited psychologist taught the trainees how to position themselves favourably when selling goods. When starting a business on their own, women can count on our support. For example, we provide legal and accounting assistance free of charge,” Oksana Kuzmenko added.
Studio trainees are already gradually trying on the role of business owners. This year two of them submitted their business ideas to a startup competition taking place in Kremenchuk as part of ‘Urban Business Fest’. The festival is sponsored by City Hall, the Kremenchuk Development Institute, and the PLEDDG Project, with the objective of supporting young entrepreneurs. Although the projects of the two ArtElf graduates did not end up winning, the women acquired invaluable experience and got a boost of motivation for the future development of their dream business.
“I make garments with artistic patterns. As a creative person, I am constantly looking for new sources of inspiration. That is why I went to the ArtElf studio looking for a creative boost. I completed wonderful courses in floral art and painting. While I was at it, I decided to come up with a business project of my own for the startup competition: a proposal to open a showroom for local designers who make all sorts of creative handmade goods, clothing, footwear, and accessories. I was pleasantly surprised by all the support I received from ArtElf studio representatives as I prepared for the competition. Even though I did not win, the experience I gained is, without question, very valuable for me, and I am certain that it will come in handy in the future. It would be difficult to estimate the value of all the useful insights I got from both creative classes and business development trainings,” says Ruslana Kedruk, an ArtElf trainee.
On the eve of the ‘Urban Business Fest’, a two-day private enterprise training was conducted for women in Kremenchuk under the auspices of PLEDDG. ArtElf studio trainees also attended the event to learn about ideas and tools for starting a business of their own, learned to make a business plan, and to design a unique brand
“The most relevant aspect of the training for me was information about the algorithm for opening a store with Etsy. Overall, it was very enlightening, and I gained many insights into the marketing industry. I have been making custom bead artwork for about 5 years now. In the spring I learned about the training courses at the ArtElf studio and decided to learn something new: the wet felting technique and the process of making textile dolls. Training at the studio is properly organized. The coaches worked with us at an advanced level, explaining everything clearly. Every trainee received high-quality materials. I was also pleasantly surprised by the modern equipment and the nice workshop interior.
I also submitted a business project of my own for the startup competition. My idea involves opening a beading workshop. My vision would be to create a meeting place for women, where they could spend a few hours of their leisure time productively, learn something new, and create a unique product with their own hands; such as a shirt decorated with beads. Even though I did not end up winning the competition, I have not abandoned the ambition to bring my project to life. Right now, I am being held back by the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 quarantine. Eventually, I want to develop the initiatives based on meetings in person and not online classes,” says Viktoria Herasymchuk, another ArtElf trainee.
In September, the ArtElf Studio conducted an exam of sorts for the participants of its training courses: each trainee presented her creation at the decor and handmade goods fair and delivered a master class for city residents on how to make the item. And, in October, the Studio staged an exhibition of watercolour paintings at the local art gallery. This was a joint project by two of the Studio’s instructors; one of which produces souvenir toys (the owner), and another who paints them. As such, the studio does not only teach creativity and help wannabe entrepreneurs start their own business, but also brings together local artists, hosts workshops, exhibitions, and fairs, and markets creative goods and services. The PLEDDG Project is therefore supporting an integrated set of systemic efforts aimed at promoting the ongoing development of creative industries and micro businesses in Kremenchuk.
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