Buram's business produces handmade products, including uniforms for schoolchildren in her village and local mining companies. In late January, Mongolia closed its borders with China to limit the spread of COVID-19. As thousands of people commute between the two countries every day, the border closure caused many small businesses significant losses.
The situation worsened when all international flights were suspended in February and March. The Mongolian government is offering a support package for small businesses. However, it does not extend to those in the informal sector. Many businesses are struggling to pay basic costs like office rent and staff salaries. Women entrepreneurs are facing additional challenges as they are responsible for looking after their children and families during the lockdown.
Buram’s sewing business is still up and running as she continues to receive orders from local mining companies. This allows her to continue to pay her employees and support her community in this difficult time. In addition, she is now producing face masks and distributes them to vulnerable people in her village, free of charge. This is particularly important as the Mongolian government has made wearing face masks mandatory in public and failing to do so is punishable by a fine. Buram knew this would be a challenge for her remote village where masks are expensive and hard to find.
"COVID-19 is forcing me to adapt quickly and update my business plan. I believe that we can overcome the current challenge if we come together as local communities, including women and youth, with our available resources and skills."
Our local member, Youth Business Mongolia, is supporting Buram and other small business owners through the crisis through online consulting, coaching, and mentoring. This includes support to adapt their business plans, apply to government support schemes and identify other financial support available. To ensure as many entrepreneurs as possible in remote areas can access virtual services, Youth Business Mongolia is providing free mobile data. They are also providing entrepreneurs with a handbook and other support materials.
Bat-Orshikh Erdenebat, Manager at Youth Business Mongolia, said:
“Through the crisis, Youth Business Mongolia is working hard to support and connect young entrepreneurs, using both traditional and advanced technologies, so that they can adapt their businesses in response to the challenging new environment.”
Buram won YBI’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2019, in partnership with Accenture.