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All sewn up with fashion house start-up


EPIC Shuttle participant turns her money-saving hobby into a thriving business

Sophio Tuaevi, an internally displaced person (IDP) from Kurta village in South Ossetia but now living in Gori, has come a long way in her career. Finding herself without regular work and a steady income, Sophio had to find ways to make savings. One such way was to reduce the money she spent on clothing. She had always been quite good at sewing but soon she found herself not only fixing up her old wardrobe but designing and making her own clothes. With some people commenting on how much they liked her designs, Sophio wondered if others would buy her designs and perhaps, she could turn what was essentially a hobby into something that could actually earn her a living.

She began looking around for training courses where she could hone her craft and soon happened upon a college in Gori. Gantiadi college is government-funded which meant she did not have to pay any course fees. Furthermore, upon passing the entrance exams, Sophio received a grant of 1000 GEL which went towards paying for the various materials she would need for the training course. Things were starting to look up for Sophio.

The course provided her with both theoretical and practical training. Upon successful completion, she then applied to the grant competition announced by USAID and through this she received a new sewing machine. Not long after Sophio was opening her very own sewing salon, which she named, Soma.

Sophio found out about Action Against Hunger’s Entrepreneurship Shuttle Programme through its Facebook page. The Shuttle Programme was part of the project, “Economic and Social Participation of Internally Displaced Persons and Local Population in the South Caucasus”. This project, implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), aims to increase participation and economic and social inclusion of IDPs by improving their access to employment, entrepreneurial and education opportunities.

Sophio decided to apply to the programme and, once accepted, she commuted from Gori to Tbilisi to attend the Shuttle trainings. The trainings provide participants with soft skills trainings, as well as personal and professional development. Speaking about the trainings, Sophio said, “My favourite part of the training was the support provided by corporate volunteers who came and spoke about their start-ups and their experiences.”

After completing the Shuttle training, Sophio participated in the regional Fashion Week. Her aim was to showcase her clothes and her talents, and hopefully attract more customers. Her dreams came true when the Makovsky Gallery signed a contract with Sophio and took her entire collection to Berlin, Germany. The Gallery has already sold out of her collection. “I am currently working on the next order of clothes to send to Berlin” said Sophio. In January 2020, she will visit Berlin to meet gallery staff to further promote her start-up business.

In the meantime, Sophio is now teaching courses herself and helping others to build their careers and pursue their dreams - “I want to motivate others”, she said. She has given her own certified courses in sewing and from these courses she has hired new staff for her business. Already Sophio has created five jobs in her sewing salon. Now she has three more vacancies and is looking to recruit new staff. She wants to give opportunities to others who, like herself, find themselves in a vulnerable economic situation.

You can see more of Sophio's work at her website: www.soma.ge and her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/soma.sopio/

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