The entrepreneurial spirit as an expression of the independence of the contemporary woman seems to be flourishing in Romania these days.
According to statistics, women account for 29% of the total number of entrepreneurs in Romania, which points to a 7% increase in recent years. Also, according to the Female Entrepreneurship Index calculated by the Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute (GEDI), Romania ranks 33rd among the 77 analysed countries, with 49 points of a maximum of 100, for the climate and general conditions encouraging women to do business. Many of these women who have accumulated a lot of professional experience working for different companies and now want to start a successful business of their own. Others are young mums who, after giving birth, want to work from home to be able to manage their own time and be able to take care of their children. There are also women who simply want to turn a passion or a hobby into a business.
Adina Filculescu, an entrepreneur who owns a floral design business, tells us more about the main areas in which women are more likely to start a business of their own in Romania:
"These areas are the creative industries, education, healthcare, tourism, trade and event management. In general, they start from a passion for a certain domain or, as recent research has shown, women tend to start a business in the domains they have specialised in. The financial aspect is also important, but I know of many women who have left high-paying jobs in various private companies to start their own businesses, despite the risks."
The risks and difficulties are right there from the very beginning, when female entrepreneurs want to get loans from banks, which continue to be reluctant to finance businesses started by women. Adina Filculescu:
"Women tend to be interested in the creative industries and become entrepreneurs more out of passion and are not necessarily focused on an accelerated increase in profits. Consequently, banks believe there's a risk when it comes to paying back the loans."
Maybe this is one of the reasons for a number of initiatives from EU institutions to encourage and finance female entrepreneurship and women's leadership in small and medium enterprises. We asked Adina Filculescu if she finds such initiatives useful:
"These are mainly funds provided under the EU's structural and cohesion programmes. Another similar programme is available to women wishing to start their first business, who can receive 10,000 euros worth of funding at the start, as well as various other incentives and facilities, such as exemption from paying their social security contributions as employers. However, all these programmes are difficult to access because they involve a lot of red tape. Therefore, many women prefer to do it on their own."
One such example is Bibiana Stanciulov, the owner of the company that makes the famous Topoloveni plum jam, the first Romanian product to be awarded the European Quality Label. The jam got its Protected Geographical Indication label in 2011. Bibiana Stanciulov tells us more about how she started out:
"In 2001 I bought what had remained of a factory in Topoloveni after liquidation, namely the division that used to make dehydrated plum jam and spirits. It was terrible in the beginning when I realised that nothing in this factory was still working. Looking back, I can't believe how much enthusiasm and motivation I had. It was probably because I was so afraid of something bad happening that I had to do everything to succeed. I was a graduate of the Faculty of Sociology and Philosophy, so I had had almost no contact with business or the food industry."
The success came with a newfound passion for traditions and the discovery of a 100-year-old recipe for plum jam specific to the region of Topoloveni. But tradition was not enough. Bibiana Stanciulov needed money for the plum jam to be produced at the standards she wanted, and which were also required in order to obtain the Protected Geographical Indication label. Getting the money was not easy, Bibiana Stanciulov remembers:
"I was promised that I would be able to access a special European fund for farmers for which the interest rate would have been 2 or 3%. However, being independent, that is not affiliated to a political party or a group of interests, I missed the chance of accessing those funds. The bank then offered to give me a loan with a 7-8% interest rate in euros, provided I was able to contribute 20% myself. That was a superhuman effort for me. And it had nothing to do with the fact that I was a woman. In Romania all that matters is to be affiliated to a party or to a group of interests. But, paradoxically, I have made it without political affiliation. The credit I took out was a real burden for me, but I was never exclusively focused on profit. My main focus was to continue a 100-year-old tradition."
Bibiana Stanciulov has now managed to overcome those difficulties, although others have appeared. Still, she encourages women not to give up entrepreneurship if this is what they really want:
"If they want to start a business, then that business should belong to them. That business needs their personal touch and they need to believe in what they are doing. Otherwise they should not start in the first place. It is not easy to do business, but it gives you the satisfaction of being totally independent financially."