The announcement was made at a virtual award ceremony yesterday, and despite fierce competition from 10 other inspiring shortlisted finalists, Mariia, won the prize of USD$5,000 funding to support the development of her business.
Supported by Youth Business Russia and Impact Hub Moscow, Maria says her and her co-funders had no business experience when they started.
“When we started, my co-founders and I were teachers and about to leave our jobs because we felt defeated with the state of education. Instead we decided to organise an edutainment event to encourage teachers to use new technology in class, equip them with IT skills and feel motivated in their job. We had no experience in business. The first event we organised, 300 people took part, and 1,300 people turned up to our last party. You can make education fun, you can learn with fun. I don’t want teachers to ever leave school. I would like to say thank you to Impact Hub Moscow and Youth Business Russia who have supported me and assisted me in being able to participate in this Award.”
Giulia Pettinau, Founder of Orangogo, an online search engine for sports in Italy, placed first runner-up and Mathilde Cortinovis, Founder of the eco-responsible Équilibres Café in France placed second runner-up.
The awards were a celebration of the five-year partnership between Youth Business International (YBI) and the Citi Foundation, designed to tackle the structural issue of youth unemployment in Europe.
As part of the Citi Foundation’s Pathways to Progress global initiative, the programme has supported Youth Business Europe, a consortium of 11 YBI members across Europe as well as Kazakhstan and Russia. Since 2015, the programme has been providing entrepreneurial support services, skills training, mentoring, and access to low-interest loans to young entrepreneurs. Over 26,000 young entrepreneurs across Europe have been supported to grow their business, create jobs, as well as invest in and strengthen their local communities.
The event, hosted by Adenike Adeyemi, YBI Trustee and Executive Director of FATE Foundation, included presentations from leading female entrepreneurs Bonnie Chiu, Managing Director, The Social Investment Consultancy; and Pip Jamieson, Founder & CEO, The Dots. Both provided invaluable insights into female entrepreneurship. YBI CEO Anita Tiessen, and Silvia Boschetti, Public Affairs and Government Affairs Officer, Citi Italy, talked about the impact of the programme in addressing gender inequality.
Today, only 1 in 3 businesses are owned by women, many of whom face structural barriers at almost every stage in the entrepreneurial journey, including barriers of race, culture, and even government policies.
Unlocking the potential of women entrepreneurs supports the economy through job creation, as well bringing a wealth of innovative business ideas to market. This is particularly important now at a time when women are disproportionately feeling the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Anita Tiessen, CEO of YBI, called for greater support from governments in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, stating, “I am incredibly proud of what all of the finalists have achieved. Every woman who succeeds brings us one step closer to gender equality in the entrepreneurship space. But as governments worldwide plan for economic recovery, we cannot risk leaving a generation of girls and young women behind. We urgently need them to build back better and create the SMEs that are vital to our economies and communities.”
Silvia Boschetti, Public Affairs and Government Affairs Officer at Citi in Italy, said, “Like thousands of entrepreneurs we worked with, the eleven talented and resilient finalists we are celebrating needed support to transform their idea into a successful business. Women-owned businesses aren’t side hustles. The Young Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award finalists are filling gaps in their markets and coming up with innovative solutions to address issues we face at a really difficult time for our economies and communities.”