Located on one of the busiest streets of downtown Dnipropetrovsk, Eastern Ukraine, Liviza’s café is neighbouring with a few others, but that does not frighten her at all, since her menu is unique to the city and represents Crimean Tatar cuisine. “This is my niche and I feel comfortable here,” says Liviza, implying public catering as a highly competitive market.
The café was started three months ago, as Liviza and her husband Fahri participated in the micro-enterprise development project for internally displaced persons (IDPs) implemented by IOM Ukraine and funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The project which aims to create self-employment and income generating opportunities for IDPs in displacement areas, allowing for their economic self-sustainability as well as psychological rehabilitation as they seek new meaning through self-realization.
Liviza and Fahri and their four sons (three, nine, 13 and 16 years old) left Crimea in the spring of 2014 and moved to Dnipropetrovsk to start everything from scratch.
For a year Liviza’s family was surviving on social benefits as her husband Fahri was not able to find a job. “To apply for the programme and compete for the grant was our last hope. We started our business in June and July was the last month of social benefits we were entitled for. We were on the brink of having nothing,” Fahri recalls.
In Crimea, Fahri has been the only bread winner in the family working as qualified AC/refrigeration repair technician while Liviza was looking after the kids. “Initially I was thinking of starting up a business related to my profession and in the last minute Liviza and I decided to go for a café. I should say that we hit a jackpot.”
In fact, the decision making process was not that easy as it may seem. “As part of the programme we had to write and present a business plan to the selection committee. It took us a lot of time and efforts to do market research and analysis, to compare all pros and cons before making final decision in favour of the café,” Fahri explains.
Liviza’s and Fahri’s business idea was supported on a competitive basis. The micro-grant of USD 2,500 was used to purchase and install necessary equipment in the café – furniture and cooking equipment.
Running a café was inevitably accompanied by significant changes in the daily routine of Liviza and Fahri. It is now Fahri who looks after the kids, takes them to kindergarten and school, and supervises their homework, while Liviza runs the café.
Fahri is also responsible for the purchase and delivery of all ingredients to the café as well as technical maintenance of the equipment. “After 16 years, we have switched our roles and it seems to be working out well for us,” Liviza jokes.
“I wake up at 6 a.m. to make all necessary preparations for the day – knead dough, grind meat, chop veggies. I have a few hours before the rush hour begins at 10 a.m. which goes until 4 p.m.,” she explains.
The café became popular and well attended place from the very first day. “I could overlook from the counter how visitors took pictures of what they ordered and immediately posted them on Facebook. That’s the highest appreciation of what you do, that’s how you enter the market these days,” Liviza says jokingly.
For Liviza it is more than just a business as she believes she represents culture and traditions of Crimean Tatars, an indigenous Muslim minority of Crimea. “This café is a piece of Crimea which I have brought with me and want to share with the citizens of Dnipropetrovsk,” says Liviza.
The successes of the business project allowed Liviza to hire assistant chef from the second month after the start up. “At the business training we were trained to run a socially responsible business. Therefore when I saw my profit grow and the workload increase, I immediately offered a job to an IDP from Crimea, a single mother of three.”
Liviza and Fahri feel proud of themselves and confident in tomorrow’s day as they do not have to count down days to the next payment of social benefits.
Since December 2014, 178 IDPs were supported in the framework of the IOM micro-enterprise development project, funded by the Norwegian MFA. Business startups are represented in different business spheres as production, services, agriculture and retail.