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The entrepreneurship programme created for refugees by Estonian Refugee Council and Garage48 is waiting for participants from all over Estonia this fall

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The Empowering Women entrepreneurship programme, starting in September, welcomes people who have been forced to flee their homeland and want to rebuild their future in Estonia through entrepreneurship. The programme supports both businesses that are being built from scratch as well as companies that already exist but continue in the Estonian context.

"Getting your life back on your feet in a new country often means a lot of self-transcendence, because often everything is different: systems, work culture, language, and you also need start-up capital to start a business. Together with Garage48, we have helped refugees and internally displaced people in Ukraine and Estonia to start more than a hundred companies over the course of four years. The result is self-confident and independent women and sustainable businesses that, in addition to earning the necessary income, offer value to the entire society with their services," explained Taavet Tomberg, a Livelihood Programme specialist of Estonian Refugee Council.

The autumn entrepreneurship program takes place in two parts, the events preceding which introduce the Estonian entrepreneurship environment. Idea Garage's 2-day idea hackathon is an opportunity to develop your business idea based on the principle of problem-based approach and design thinking. The most potential ideas are selected for a two-week entrepreneurship programme, as a result of which a business plan is prepared. The best teams get the opportunity to participate in a six-month long mentoring programme that supports raising initial funding and starting a business.

"In 2022, 10 new and successful women entrepreneurs, who have arrived in Estonia as war refugees, are operating in Estonia after the programme that took place for the first time in Estonia in the fall of 2018. We encourage you to follow their example and take part in the programme. It is important to know that until now the Empowering Women entrepreneurship programme has empowered Ukrainian internal refugees and war refugees in Estonia, but now the programme is open to all people who have been forced to leave their homeland and who see entrepreneurship as an opportunity to build their own and their family's lives here in Estonia," explains Kadri Tiisvelt, Garage48 board member.

The entrepreneurship programme welcomes ideas from various fields: education, culture, health and well-being, food production and catering, arts and crafts and everything else. You can apply from anywhere in Estonia, as a large part of the activities take place virtually, the participants will be compensated for the transportation and accommodation costs of the on-site events in Tallinn. Activities of the entrepreneurship programme take place in the evenings and on weekends.

The programme is held in English and Russian, and participation is free. The prerequisite for applying to the programme is participation in the Idea Garage idea hackathon, where 100 participants are selected to develop business ideas in a team and with mentors. You can find more information and Idee Garage applications until September 2 here.

Empowering Women Entrepreneurship Programme 2023 is organized by Estonian Refugee Council and Garage48, the cooperation partners are the British Council in Estonia, Swedbank in Estonia and EENA - Estonian Entrepreneurial Women's Association. The program is also financed by the Coca-Cola Foundation and LHV.

In the years 1997–2021, Estonia granted international protection to 603 people. After the full-scale invasion of Russia, the European Union activated the Temporary Protection Directive for the first time in its history. By the end of July this year, more than 45,000 people have received temporary protection in Estonia and nearly 5,000 people have received international protection.

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