March 31, 2023, Turkmenabat, Turkmenistan – Today, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Delegation of the European Union to Turkmenistan, with the support of the National Commission of Turkmenistan for UNESCO, launched the Lebap Handmade Exports (Lebap HME) startup incubator program. The event featured a crafts exhibition and a series of presentations and discussions on the results of the previous two rounds of the program that took place in Ashgabat (HME-2021 and HME-2022) and the features of the third round specifically designed for Lebap Province.
Presenters and program graduates highlighted the benefits and success of HME-2021 and HME-2022 that had empowered local craftspeople and promoted their traditional skills through global e-commerce marketplaces as sustainable sources of income. Visitors to the crafts exhibition had the opportunity to purchase handmade items made by artisans from various districts of Lebap Region and from other parts of Turkmenistan.
Over the next six months, 20 participants from Lebap will benefit from the expertise of talented professionals in product design, social media marketing, copywriting, photography, and digital marketing. The program will also provide ample opportunities for networking and collaboration, including with new business partners and online stores in the United States, the primary target market for Turkmen crafts sellers.
Addressing the participants, USAID Representative to Turkmenistan Nino Nadiradze stated, “Having seen the results of the first two rounds of the HME program in Ashgabat, we are thrilled by the opportunity to replicate this successful business incubator program in the Lebap Region. Our aim is to ‘incubate’ new sustainable and thriving businesses, owned mainly by women, based on the rich cultural heritage, and unique and beautiful crafts of this ancient region.”
EU Ambassador Diego Ruiz Alonso added that “the EU Delegation to Turkmenistan is excited to support this program, because the European Union has a long partnership with the local communities of Turkmenistan promoting self-employment, alternative financing and improved economic opportunities at the local level. During the past two years, the EU-funded programme ‘Ready4Trade Central Asia’ implemented by the International Trade Centre, has supported local handicraft artisans to improve online sales and marketing during the times of lockdown and reach wider local market. With the end of the lockdown, it is now the right time to reach international e-commerce platforms and global markets, which is why it is especially important to partner with the donor community to maximize the effects of our actions.”
More than 300 people attended the event held at the Museum of History and Local Lore of the Lebap Region. Many attendees have set their minds to apply for the incubator program available at this link.
During 2021-2022, USAID supported two rounds of the Handmade Exports incubator program for a total of 42, mostly women entrepreneurs and handicraft makers. Twenty-four participants opened their individual eBay stores with 265 products worth over $100,000 listed on eBay. Through eBay alone, program participants have sold 49 items, worth over $7,500 to American and international buyers, including from Canada, Japan and European countries. In addition, the merchants’ cumulative domestic sales have amounted to 1.75 million manats over the past year. This marks a significant increase, largely thanks to the introduction of new sales channels, such as local online marketplaces, more active participation in local exhibitions and improved marketing.
USAID is the world’s premier international development agency and a catalytic actor driving development results. For more information, visit the USAID Central Asia website: https://www.usaid.gov/central-asia-regional and Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/USAIDCentralAsia.