Valbona Ajeti was one of many women in Kosovo in search of opportunities. In 2015, she and 15 unemployed ambitious women, with 10 euros each in hand, started a business to produce preserved vegetables (pickles) in a car garage. Fast forward to seven years later, the business which was named GRASEP, meaning “women of upper Sllatina”, not only produces for the local market, but through USAID support, it exports to Austria and Switzerland.
GRASEP was producing only for the local market until they participated in the first USAID-supported Food Sector Forum. The forum provided Valbona with the opportunity to meet diaspora buyer Ekena.at, an online supermarket, and established an export contract to Austria. So far, GRASEP delivered six orders to Ekena.at worth over 60,000 euros.
To create further export linkages, this year, Valbona participated in the USAID supported Diaspora for Women Entrepreneurs program, implemented in partnership with GERMIN, a local organization. Through the program, 20 women entrepreneurs were matched with diaspora professionals for mentorship and knowledge-transfer. “I learned a lot from my mentor Sirena about presenting my business and improving my selling skills,” said Valbona.
Additionally, the program organized a B2B (business to business) event in Switzerland where 10 of the mentored women participated. Valbona was one of them. The women entrepreneurs held over 80 B2B meetings with diaspora, including one with food distributor R.B. Import Export GmbH. Valbona invited the owner of the company, Rexhep Berisha, to visit her factory.
“I was really impressed with GRASEP’s products and facility, and immediately decided that I wanted to sell the products in the Swiss market.” The next day, Valbona and Rexhep signed a contract to export six GRASEP products to Switzerland.
Looking ahead, Valbona's plan is to continue to expand exports and promote her business. “Now, I will need to build a new warehouse to accommodate the increasing orders and exports.”
The second cohort of the USAID-supported Diaspora for Women Entrepreneurs program starts in December 2022, with another 20 local women entrepreneurs who will benefit from mentorship with diaspora professionals and B2B meetings in Germany.