Ludmila Antonauskaya is a perfect example of someone defying the stereotype that women and business cannot go together. She runs several companies, is one of the TOP 100 successful businesspeople in Belarus (No. 65, but the top woman on the list), and has raised two children.
Her main business – a holding company called Polimaster – is among the world leaders in the field of equipment for monitoring and controlling radiation. Its competition includes billion-dollar corporations, but Ludmila’s company is more than holding its own. The secret of her approach is simple.
“I am motivated by a sense of responsibility and my own willpower,” she says. “I feel responsible for all my employees and I have created working conditions that enable creative self-fulfilment. I love the mission of Polimaster – to improve people’s health and save lives.”
The EU, together with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), has also contributed to the success of Ludmila's company. The company received support from the EBRD’s Advice for Small Businesses programme, funded by the EU under its EU4Business initiative, and through the programme she was able to develop a long-term business plan, as well as attract additional investment equivalent to $1.2 million.
“Together with the project consultant we developed the company's mission, vision and long-term plan,” said Ludmila. “This two-year project turned out to be quite rich and complex, but it gave us a sense of purpose and helped us to form a clear vision of our goals.”
The programme also contributed to an increase in both the company’s turnover (15%) and number of employees (50%).
Ludmila believes that if it were not for cultural stereotypes in society, there would be more women in business in Belarus. “Women carry a big social burden. If a woman wants to realise her full potential, she often has to live two lives: one in which she is the preserver of the hearth and a mother, and one where is doing business or creating something.”
“Sooner or later, a lot of women have to choose what they want to focus on,” she adds. “If our culture was closer to countries like Sweden and Norway, then I believe that women would be more self-fulfilled. They have the education and skills!”
EBRD Advice for Small Businesses
The EBRD Advice for Small Businesses programme, funded in the Eastern Partnership countries by the EU under its EU4Business initiative, aims to promote good management in the SME sector by providing assistance to individual enterprises, helping them to grow their businesses. It supports SMEs to make structural changes and develop new business skills, helping them to thrive and compete in market economies. The programme also enables SMEs to access local consulting services on a cost-sharing basis by providing grants of up to €10,000.
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This article was produced in the framework of the EU Neighbours east project.