Young Entrepreneurs Generate Business at Kosovan Trade Fair

Preparing for Young Entrepreneurs Fair
USAID grantee Mergim Cahani, owner of Phronesis, a local web search engine, coaches his employees on how to demonstrate the company’s services to fair visitors. Left to right: Eneida Reçica, Festim Cahani, Qëndresa Kastrati and Cahani.
USAID Young Entrepreneurs Program
Networking helps new businesses to grow
“The most important thing is that USAID is giving us the chance to meet one another.”

More than 70 of Kosovo’s most promising up-and-coming entrepreneurs gathered at a first-of-its-kind fair held May 16-18, 2013. The Young Entrepreneurs Fair provided a unique opportunity for these businesses, many of them newly established, to showcase their goods and services before clients, investors and the media.

The fair was sponsored by USAID in partnership with Kosovo’s Ministry of Trade and Industry. 

“The most important thing is that USAID is giving us the chance to meet one another,” said Kujtim Krasniqi, 27, owner of Vitorja Decor, a manufacturer of adhesive wall decals. “Business isn’t just about customers. It’s about developing cooperative relationships, too.” During the fair, Krasniqi met the owner of a local printing company, who agreed to take on some subcontracting work.

Another successful example of how networking worked during the fair came from Flamur Grudi, 30, owner of Muli Shoes. While setting up for the exhibition, Grudi realized his booth could use a pair of banners. A program officer introduced him to Ardian Kurhasani, 34, owner of Arti Graf. Hours later, and just in time for the opening, Grudi had his banners—and Kurhasani’s graphic design business had a brand-new customer.

Elsewhere at the fair, Valon Sopiani, 30, wasn’t just seeking new viewers for Click Channel, a start-up television channel. The station manager also worked to lure potential advertisers and employees. Admir Vula, 36, hoped to interest the several Internet commerce sites exhibiting at the fair in retailing his oil paintings of scenes from Kosovo’s history. And Liridona Muhaxhiri, 26, sent a text message to every exhibitor to drum up work for her marketing firm.

Approximately 70 percent of the population of Kosovo is under 35, and USAID has been channeling focus toward providing job opportunities for this large number of Kosovars. Since 2011, USAID, through its Young Entrepreneurs Program, has provided $1.7 million in matching grants to 304 businesses in Kosovo , including everything from kindergartens to consultancies.

The three-year Young Entrepreneurs Program, which ends in September 2013, is designed to assist Kosovo’s new and emerging entrepreneurs, ages 18–35. The program recognizes that young entrepreneurs need more than mere training—they need capital and real-time support during the critical start-up period. To achieve this, the program provides new businesses with matching start-up grants, financing options, practical training, and sustained, hands-on coaching services.