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Flowers in Kyrgyzstan: a beautiful business

Mahabat Botasheva is the enthusiastic leader of a group of five women in the village of Blagoveshenka in Jalal-Abad province, Kyrgyzstan. Last year, the women started a business in potted flowers. This is the story of how it took root, and how it’s growing.

© Marat Rahmanov / Community Development Alliance Kyrgyzstan
07/03/2016

For many years, Mahabat Botasheva dreamed of starting a business in growing and selling potted flowers. But because she lacked the initial capital and business skills, every time she tried to realize her dream she failed. Then, in August of 2015, she joined a self-help group called Dostuk. And that’s when a seed began to sprout.

Together with her groupmates, Mahabat attended training sessions on working in a group, managing savings, and recordkeeping.

As is typical of the multi-ethnic makeup of Blagoveshenka, the women in the group were of varying ethnic backgrounds – Kyrgyz, Uzbek, and Russian – but they all faced similar challenges in their day-to-day lives, especially when it came to feeding and supporting their families. So when Mahabat suggested they put their newly-acquired training to practical use by starting a joint venture in potted flowers, they all supported the idea of what they called a “beautiful business.”

Perseverance

Little by little, the group started saving up money. They bought a magazine called “The World of Flowers” and studied it carefully to learn about trends, popular varieties, and the specifics of growing methods and technologies. But even after months of saving, they found that they did not have nearly enough capital with which to start the business and purchase all the necessary inputs, such as pots, seedlings, fertilizers, and working tools. Still, they persevered.

In October and November of 2015, the group attended training sessions provided by the joint programme on Accelerating Progress towards the Economic Empowerment of Rural Women (RWEE). Through these training sessions, they developed their business and financial plans and identified potential buyers and marketing channels.

Their business plan was selected as the most viable, profitable and beneficial for the economic empowerment of group members in their municipality, and they were granted a loan of 60 000 Kyrgyz soms (about US$800) as starting capital. The group invested another 8 000 Kyrgyz soms (about US$240) from their savings, purchased all the necessary inputs, and started their business.

The sweet smell of success

So far, it seems the business is blooming. In less than two months since startup, income from sales exceeded 93 000 Kyrgyz soms (about US$1240), and Mahabat is confident that the group will be able to return the starting capital loan to the revolving fund in time for the next group of women to start their business. The remaining income will be reinvested in working capital for the business, and in expanding the assortment of flowers.

The role of RWEE

Mahabat believes the RWEE programme was key in helping them get their business off the ground. The training enabled the women to acquire the necessary skills for operating a small business, managing income and savings, and planning for growth and development. She also credits their good business and marketing plan, and a strong sense of discipline and responsibility among the women in her group. For example, roles and responsibilities are clearly distributed within the group: Mahabat and Dilbarhan are responsible for the service agreements with the greenhouse where they grow seedlings, for purchasing seeds at the market, and for overseeing other supplies, as well as for financial record keeping and cash flow. Dilbarhan is the group’s treasurer, while Natalya and Ainura are in charge of marketing – they visit offices, schools, and post offices in their village and in neighboring areas, and seek out potential buyers. They also help take care of the flowers. Katcha is the main gardener; she maintains the flowers and keeps records of their growth. She also manages the moving of seedlings, fertilizing, and preparing for sale. Hasiyat’s strengths lie in communicating with buyers, so she operates a stall at the market, where she enjoys talking with customers and asking about their preferences.

In another piece of good news, the head of their municipal administration, who is a member of the local committee that is responsible for the selection and monitoring of economic initiatives, has noted their good work and success so far, and has offered further support to grow the business. He has committed to contribute funds from the municipal budget towards the construction of a greenhouse for growing flowers. Mahabat proudly reports that she has already found a suitable plot of land for rent and that the group has already made a cost estimate. They plan to start construction as soon as they have repaid the starting capital and built back a sufficient fund of savings.

And finally, of course, the women are expecting a large number of orders for the celebration of International Women’s Day on 8 March. They’re looking forward to it.