'She Means Business’ - Opportunities for Women SMEs in the Western Balkans
Many small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the Western Balkans lack adequate information on how to access affordable finance, expand their businesses, and improve their supply chains. This is particularly true for women-owned SMEs (W-SMEs). To unlock private capital for SMEs and W-SMEs in the region, USAID CATALYZE initiated the Engines of Growth Activity (EoG). CATALYZE EoG collaborates with Business Advisory Service Providers (BASPs) and financial institutions (FIs) on developing new and sustainable financial products and services that facilitate W-SMEs’ access to finance, which can drive inclusive growth, lead to job creation, and increase the competitiveness of the Western Balkans.
On Friday, March 31, 2023, a webinar featuring the USAID CATALYZE EoG Activity in the Western Balkans. CATALYZE EoG shared its approach and lessons learned in supporting W-SMEs’ access to finance, showcased successful examples of W-SMEs from the Western Balkans that have accessed finance with EoG support, and discussed with various stakeholders from the region and beyond USAID CATALYZE EoG’s efforts to build the resiliency and growth of SMEs and W-SMES through improved access to and utilization of appropriate finance.
For further information on the USAID CATALYZE Engines of Growth Activity, please contact email@example.com
Anila Behramaj, Albania and Kosovo Activity Manager, USAID CATALYZE Engines of Growth
Anila Behramaj holds a postgraduate degree in International Public Policy from the United Kingdom and currently works as activity manager for Albania and Kosovo for the USAID CATALYZE Engines of Growth in the Western Balkans.
Anila has experience and strong interest in development projects with a gender component. Her experience is mostly focused on projects for women’s economic development by increasing their access to finance and their capacities for self-employment. She is an avid human rights advocate and vocal in the global fight against inequalities. Anila has a vast array of interests, spanning from politics, economy, history, and sports. Last but not least, Anila holds pride of a 12-year professional tennis career and even a tennis champion title in the Kosovo junior league.
Pranvera Guxho, Consultant, CBS, Albania
Pranvera Guxho is an experienced consultant and product developer at Creative Business Solutions - CBS, a consulting company from Albania where she works on a number of business development projects.
As part of the CAFE project, Pranvera works collaboratively with SMEs and financial institutions in the region to develop alternative financial instruments focused on women entrepreneurs and green financing. Pranvera also facilitates stakeholders’ connection through LORES+, a cutting-edge FinTech platform.
With her expertise in business expansion and innovation, Pranvera is committed to supporting businesses and organizations in achieving their business development goals and is helping to drive innovation and progress in the financial sector.
Arjeta Puca, Founder and manager, TIMAK, Albania
Arjeta Puca is the founder of “Timak,” a company with branches in Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia that manufactures and sells construction machinery and public service vehicles. Arjeta’s vision is to build a strong business with a dominant presence throughout Europe and worldwide, and they have already begun exports to Chile and Ukraine.
When Arjeta was four years old, her family emigrated from Albania to Turkey. In 2006, the family opened a small shop to repair superstructures. She studied computer engineering and helped part-time in the family shop. After graduation, she worked at the Research and Development department at Bosch Germany and Bosch Japan. Five years ago, she moved back to Albania and started her company Timak.
Dragana Bulatović, Consultant, CEO & lead auditor, Isomont ltd, Montenegro
Dragana is a finance consultant and consultant for implementation of the International Organization for Standardization’s (ISO) standards and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Based in Montenegro, she is primarily focused on helping female entrepreneurs across the Western Balkans to achieve financial stability and success in their businesses.
Being a business owner herself, she knows first-hand of the challenges and opportunities of female entrepreneurs. For that reason, she deals with issues related to gender bias, unequal access to funding and resources, and the need for a supportive and inclusive business community.
She has a master's degree in Economics, experience in the banking sector, and has focused significantly in the past 10 years on ISO standard implementation and female entrepreneurship. A busy mom of two girls, Dragana is also very active with several local NGOs and is a member of the Committee for women's entrepreneurship.
Mirjana Šarac, CEO & lead designer, Mixo ltd, Montenegro
Mirjana Šarac is a fashion and costume designer, awarded for her work both during her studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade and for later solo artworks.
In recent years, she has been focused on Mixo d.o.o, a company she started in 2016 and runs on a daily basis. The company produces clothing for children under the brand name Mino, and a wide assortment of textile household items under the brand name Mixo.
Mirjana aims for sustainable fashion with environmentally friendly materials and contemporary production technologies. She advocates for equal rights for all members of society and promotes a clean and healthy lifestyle and conservation of natural resources.
Rozalija Karchicka Vasilevska, Regional Economic Growth Specialist for WB6
Rozalija Karchicka Vasilevska is the USAID/Regional Economic Growth Manager for Access to Finance and Investment Transparency under the Bureau of Europe and Eurasia in Washington, D.C. She is also involved in bilateral activities for Business Support Organizations (BSO) supporting youth economic opportunities.
Rozalija has developed professional experience in the areas of Economic Development, Governance, Program Evaluations, and ICT for more than 25 years, with a geographic focus on the Western Balkans region. She has served in senior and management positions for several USAID projects during the period 2002- 2021. Currently she is managing USAID CATALYZE Western Balkans – Engines of Growth (EoG) Activity.
She holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy and Management from the University of Pittsburgh, USA, and a Bachelor Degree in IT from the University of St. Cyril and Methodius- Skopje.
Dragana Stanojević, USAID CATALYZE EoG, Team Leader
Dragana Stanojević is a seasoned USAID Chief of Party (COP) and Deputy Chief of Party (DCOP) who brings over 20 years of experience leading complex initiatives to address the economic, financial, regulatory, and behavioral constraints to SME growth, advising Serbian and regional governments, and implementing projects related to e-Commerce, digital economy and financing, digital literacy, and SMEs empowerment.
She has worked in both the private and public sectors and deeply understands the local political economy. Over the course of her career, she has built substantial networks and collaborated with government representatives, the media, the private sector, the diplomatic community, NGOs, and international financial and donor organizations to help improve the business-enabling environment for SMEs. She graduated from the Law Faculty, at the University of Belgrade, and was the first licensed Bankruptcy Administrator in Serbia.