The innovative girls of Prizren!
Meet Nertila, Hira and Medina, who express their courage through design
Prizren, August 2021 – Have you ever wondered what would happen if your and your friends' dream of doing business together came true? Well, we know a group of girls who made their dream come true.
They have an interesting concept: they want to bring illusion and transparency to clothing.
Nertila Memaj, Hira Dorma and Medina Hoxhaj are the three friends we are talking about. They come from Prizren, the cultural capital of Kosovo.
In March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was hitting every country, including Kosovo, these three girls had the courage to apply for a StartUP grant supported by UNICEF Kosovo, funded by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) and allocated to youth groups through the partner Innovation Centre Kosovo (ICK).
Four groups of young people were supported with €16,000 after an evaluation by a panel of professionals in the field of entrepreneurship.
The Pezul” project proposed by the three friends from Prizren was one of them.
“Pezull is a business started by us and is based on the creation of products inspired by the ideas of transparency and illusion”, says 24-year-old Nertila Memaj about Pezull, which, she says, is inspired by the saying “design makes solutions”.
The latest Labour Force survey conducted by the Kosovo Agency of Statistics (KAS) show only 14.1 per cent of women are employed. These women mainly work in the sectors of education, trade and health care.
The concept of women entrepreneurs is new in Kosovo, but it has started to be embraced, especially by the younger generation.
Nertila Memaj says that Pezull aimed, among other things, to empower girls and women through the unique style they have chosen. They believe that pastel-coloured, nature-inspired and transparent materials are an expression of courage to try something different.
“What we wanted to convey with our products is courage, trust, intimacy and comfort. This also inspired us to create the first product which is completely transparent, the Pezull bag”, she said. “The bag, as a more personal product, if it becomes transparent, symbolizes courage.”
The Pezull showroom contains various models that echo this courage.
The studio is full of sketches of design ideas, materials used for sewing, various photographs used for marketing etc. Everything is made with delicacy, a lot of passion and, above all, sincere friendship.
Hira Dorama, is one of the three girls. Together with Nertila and Medina, she studied design and is now an integral part of the team that won UNICEF’s StartUP grant for young entrepreneurs.
“The Pezull project started as a common dream between friends, each with their own different knowledge, and has achieved results thanks to the support from StartUP,” said Hira.
Hira Doramar, co-founder of Pezull, says that StartUP taught her how to do business.
“After winning the grant, we immediately started with the opening of the showroom and advanced in sewing machinery and tools. This has been very useful for us in order to continue our work even after receiving the grant", she said.
“In the StartUP workshops we learned one thing: there are challenges but the work is rewarded, especially if you work hard. It does not matter if you make mistakes; it is important that you try.”
One thing that is definitely appreciated by girls is the commitment of the mentors they have had within the StartUP program.
“We had different knowledge, but working with mentors has been very useful for us. They are committed to every last detail and provide us with information and support for doing business,” siaid Nertila.
“Quite simply: ICK and UNICEF are the reason we have our business today, and we have made the dream we have always had come true.”
Pezull, along with the start ups GrithArt, Talk, and Big Day Photograpahy, were granted seed funding in March 2021 as part of the fourth edition of the StartUP Social Venture competition, implemented by ICK and UNICEF Kosovo through support from donor the Austrian Development Agency.
Shpend Lila from ICK said that a total of 15 youth-led ventures, all supporting ideas for social entrepreneurship in different parts of Kosovo, have benefited from such support.
“Since the start of the StartUP programme, young entrepreneurs (aged 18-24) have been provided with €107,000 in grants, incubation services, training and mentorship. All of the enterprises in the last cohort are led by young women, and we are all proud of this trend.”
Empowering young girls and boosting female employment in Kosovo remains a priority for UNICEF.
”The StartUP programme, founded on the principle of social entrepreneurship, provides young people with the space and tools to develop products and services that help their communities create sustainable models,” said Laurat Raca, Youth and Adolescent Development officer at UNICEF Kosovo.
“The Pezull social enterprise is a great success story that should be a reference point for other young people to pursue their dreams.”
UNICEF Kosovo with support from the Austrian Development Agency supports 7,000 young people to access skills-building programmes annually, including empowering young women to become social entrepreneurs.