34-year-old Edita is originally from Stepanavan, a small city in Armenia near the Georgian border. Here she lived a happy childhood and, thanks to sacrifices, managed to get a degree in communications management. Ten years ago, however, conditions in Armenia deteriorated so much that she decided to flee the country: she joined a group of asylum seekers in a van headed to the UK, via Ukraine. When they thought they arrived at their final destination, they soon realized they never made it to the UK but were actually in an asylum seeker centre in Ter Apel in the Netherlands. As it often happens, the group had been deceived by the smugglers.
Edita spent six months in the centre before she was informed that she had not been granted refugee status and had to leave the country. Determined that a future in Armenia was not an option, Edita started her new life in the shadows, without valid papers or money, unable to work or study. This was the beginning of eight years of uncertainty, living in constant fear of getting caught and be put on a plane. She learnt Dutch as fast as she could and tried to blend in her community as much as she could to avoid any trouble.
But in this difficult time, she also found friendship and warmth: to Edita’s surprise, many people were willing to offer her temporary accommodation when she had to leave Ter Apel. She also received support from the Pauluskerk in Rotterdam, a church providing help and shelter to homeless and people without a valid residence permit. As Edita spoke Dutch well, had a good education and was a hobby photographer, she started to get more and more involved in the events organized by the church and in 2014 she became its in-house photographer. In 2017, she had the opportunity to exhibit her photos on World Refugee Day. Quite exciting for Edita who was not wanted in the Netherlands!
Last year Edita finally obtained her legal residence status in the Netherlands and she can now focus entirely on her photography business. She is undoubtedly a passionate photographer, but as she says, “transforming knowledge into a successful business is another story”. To give herself a better chance, in 2019 Edita joined the EigenBaas entrepreneurial training school for migrants organized by Qredits in Rotterdam. This experience was eye-opening, both in terms of content, as all aspects of becoming an entrepreneur were thoroughly covered, but also in terms of individual support offered by mentors.
Edita was coached by Margreth Entingh, a ‘real no-nonsense mentor’. She taught Edita where to find answers, rather than giving them to her, and to strengthen her self-confidence, pushing her to speak up in class and to pitch in front of a jury. Edita is proud of what she’s achieved during the course and, thanks to the support of Qredits, she’s now on the right path to achieve sustainability.
Like many others, Edita’s business has slowed down due to the recent COVID-19 crisis. However, she’s finding new ways to engage with her customers, such as a series of ‘front door shoots’ which allows her to be at a safe distance. The service has been well received and it’s getting traction through word of mouth. As a small entrepreneur who just started, Edita immediately felt the effects of the crisis. She’s used to challenging situations and setbacks, but this was something altogether different. Asked about how entrepreneurs can bounce back, she says:
“Use your creativity and imagination! And look at what others are doing: maybe take an idea and give it your twist. Being an entrepreneur is not always easy, but once you get started your resourcefulness will come to life!”
Qredits is part of the Youth Business Europe Programme, a regional initiative supported by the Citi Foundation to help young entrepreneurs to start or grow a business.