Zebuniso Solieva became a woman entrepreneur, the CEO of Armon hotel apart in the city of Khujand in Tajikistan. She also a teacher of yoga She left her job at OCDE and began to focus on her new venture. the EBRD supports her and Switzerland country, one member of EBRD, Zebuniso in order to start her business processes and grow her hotel business.
She was so delighted and explained "How do you become a successful women entrepreneur in a male-dominated industry and environment? With a little starting capital, creativity and expert support I started my business with just one apartment that I rented out on an ad hoc basis,” she remembers. It was meant to be a passive investment that would bring additional income on top of her day job as an employee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) tackling issues related to human rights and civic education.
TOURISM is a key for the success
Mrs Zebuniso quickly realised there was a niche in the hotel market that needed to be filled. She told her story: “While I was at the OECD, there was a real problem with longer-term accommodation for foreign staff and guests visiting the mission,” she explains. “Service in local hotels was sub-standard and staying in them for long periods was inconvenient.” Mrs Zebuniso realised that a hybrid apartment-hotel, providing high levels of service and living standards, could be the solution. She left her job and began to focus on her new venture, slowly but surely buying new apartments in the building – sometimes through very creative measures.
She laughed and said “Securing a loan as a woman with a new business and no collateral was close to impossible, so I started out by getting micro loans. At one point, I had 15 micro loans with a local bank,” she laughs. It paid off, as today her enterprise, Armon Apart Hotel, provides 15 apartments for rent as well as yoga and wellness services.
Zebuniso received advise and help from two side of EBRD organization, one was from the Small Business Impact Fund that represents Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan Business and EBRD Technical Cooperation Fund and the USA, Zebuniso was able to implement automated accounting software and build a website.
She explained "As a small business, we didn’t have the means or the knowledge to implement sophisticated accounting software or build a website that would attract customers, so the EBRD’s support was crucial for our growth,” she says. The new software helped her to improve the management of her business’s finances, allowing her to spend less time on manual work and more time on helping clients discover yoga, nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. Her new website, meanwhile, raised awareness of the wellness services she provided on top of her accommodation offering. The result? People from outside Khujand coming to stay and practice yoga with Zebuniso, a 54 per cent increase in turnover and a 50 per cent increase in sales.
She added "Today we are a distinguished business – we’ve won many accolades such as Tajikistan’s ‘Brand of the Year’ in 2018 and are consistently in the top 50 hotels in the country,”
The woman business, she doesn’t plan on stopping. Looking to the future, Zebuniso intends to take her business to other cities in Tajikistan and expand the range of services it offers to become a true wellness brand.