Naryn entrepreneur Gulmira raises her baking standards after SPCE Entrepreneurship course - Issue 117

Date: 26 April 2012
Other languages: Русский язык |

A native of Naryn city in the Kyrgyz Republic, Gulmira Toktosunova worked as a teacher for most of her adult life. After retiring from teaching five years ago, Gulmira, 45, decided to set up a bakery as an alternative means to support her family. “I have five children. I knew I needed to continue to support myself and my family,” said Gulmira.

Gulmira’s bakery is located in the heart of Naryn city. She and her staff of eight produce several different varieties of bread, such as the traditional Kyrgyz bread lepyoshka, for Naryn town citizens.

Gulnara employs eight people in her bakery and produces
different varieties of bread for Naryn town citizens.

In the fall of 2011, Gulmira enrolled in the Entrepreneurship programme offered by the University of Central Asia’s (UCA) School of Professional and Continuing Education. The Entrepreneurship programme helps Naryn-based entrepreneurs develop skills in management, marketing, business communication, and business plan development. Those graduates who were able to successfully defend their business plans before a panel consisting of independent experts subsequently enrolled in SPCE’s Small Business Management with Mini Technologies.

This year the Entrepreneurship Programme has been implemented with the support of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) Kyrgyz Republic.  In addition to an innovative curriculum, the  Entrepreneurship programme also features a mentorship component which pairs entrepreneurs with established businesses to learn industry-specific best practices.  In April 2012, Gulmira traveled to Bishkek, where she, with other bakers, spent one week with one of Bishkek’s best bakeries.  “I enrolled in the programme to learn skills that would help expand my bakery business,” said Gulmira. “The programme was an eye-opener to understand the basics of business planning and to build additional skills in marketing and accounting.” 

Three entrepreneurs from Naryn during their apprenticeship in a bakery.

In the Kyrgyz Republic, many start-up entrepreneurs have difficulty accessing microcredit due to the specific conditions and high interest rates (regional average of 23%) set by microfinance institutions in the region. In May 2011, UCA and Kyrgyz Investment and Credit Bank (KICB) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to support entrepreneurs in Naryn with low interest loans. Through this MoU, Norwegian funds provided the $25,000 collateral for the establishment of a revolving loan fund of $25,000. KICB provided an additional $25,000 of collateral, raising the total amount of the revolving loan fund to $50,000. These small loans are designated to support the top business plans of Entrepreneurship programme graduates, providing these graduates with access to capital from KICB to realize their business proposals.

For Gulmira, the small loan programme gave her the opportunity to raise the standards of her product and, in turn, improve her output. Today, Gulmira produces nearly 1,000 loaves of bread per day.

“My goal is to produce high-quality products for the people in Naryn town,” says Gulmira. “When I took a KICB loan, I was able to grow my bakery business. Today, my products are successfully supplied to a local school, kindergarten and hospital.”

The project Promoting Stability and Economic Opportunity in Kyrgyzstan is being implemented by the Aga Khan Foundation, Kyrgyz Republic and the University of Central Asia. The project falls into two categories: Professional and Vocational Training and Rural Infrastructure.

Overall, the project contributes to promoting stability and social harmony through improvement of livelihoods in the country.

“I enrolled in the programme to learn skills that would help me expand my bakery business. The programme was an eye-opener for me to understand the basics of business planning and to build additional skills in marketing and accounting,” Gulmira Toktosunova.