Vice President of Volyn Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Ukraine receives valuable week-long training on membership services from Seville Chamber of Commerce in Spain.
The East Invest 2 BSO Exchange Programme empowers Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs), associations and related BSOs (such as Chambers of Commerce) in Eastern Partnership countries by matching them with experienced counterparts in EU countries. The goal of these exchanges is to provide individual training and help to increase the BSO’s capacity for promoting a conducive business environment.
One recent success story comes from Ukraine, where Iryna Halimska, acting Vice President of the Volyn Chamber of Commerce and Industry, received training at the Seville Chamber of Commerce in Spain. As the Volyn Chamber is actively working to increase its membership base, this week-long training focused on membership services and developing a proactive marketing strategy for promoting these services. In particular, there was a focus on building services in the areas of green economy and energy, as well as providing specialised support to women entrepreneurs.
With over 130 years of history under its belt, the Seville Chamber of Commerce is well positioned to mentor younger chambers, such as the Volyn Chamber. “This was a great opportunity to learn from a very powerful and successful Chamber in Spain and to get an inside look at the services they provide local businesses,” says Iryna. She also notes that it was helpful to see how the Chamber interacts with both local and national governments and to understand the various types of memberships they offer.
Focus on membership
During the training, Iryna worked with the Seville Chamber’s leadership team, as well as Spanish organisations such as the Smart Services Centre for Energy Management (CSIGE) and VUE, the country’s one-stop-shop for launching a new business.
Much of the week’s focus was on growing membership and expanding member services. For example, the Volyn Chamber does not receive public support and thus is entirely dependent on membership fees. “In Spain, chambers used to get public support, but when this ended we needed to adjust our business model accordingly,” explains Manuel Montoya of the Seville Chamber’s International Department. “We were happy to share our experience and best practices with Iryna to help them develop a business model that works for them.”
In terms of expanding membership services, the Seville team shared how they have built professional training opportunities into a reliable source of revenue. In fact, the Seville Chamber has its own ‘university’ where members receive tailored, professional training for a fee. “Here we showed the Volyn Chamber how to start out smart and small and slowly invest into professionalisation and training,” adds Manuel.
A two-way street
According to Iryna, the BSO Exchange was a great way learn from the experiences of a well-established Chamber. “This opportunity is essential to Ukraine,” she says. “By learning how better to provide support to local businesses, the Volyn Chamber is now well-positioned to take an active role in improving the local economy and community.”
Since returning from the exchange, the Volyn Chamber is already offering business seminars and trainings to its members. These have proved particularly popular with local SMEs, resulting in the addition of four new members. To be able to expand this service in the near future, a number of the Chamber’s staff are currently studying to become certified business coaches and consultants.
But it wasn’t just the Volyn Chamber that benefited from the exchange. According to Manuel, the Seville Chamber learned from the experience too. “Before the exchange, we didn’t do a lot of business with Ukrainian companies,” he says. “But through the exchange we learned a lot about an exciting new market with many potential opportunities for our members.”
The two chambers continue to be contact and are currently working on scheduling a networking event in Seville between Ukrainian and Spanish businesses.
The BSO Exchange programme, developed by the East Invest 2 project, provides Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries with quality training with their EU counterparts. The aim of the programme is to facilitate long-term partnerships and trade between SMEs and business associations in both EU and EaP countries.