After the earthquake: tailor-made changes for a tailor’s life work

The earthquake could not destroy her hope to recover, considering her business’s huge potential.

Engjellushe Cenkollari has been a tailor her entire life. She is known for her creativity, design skills, a fine eye for detail, politeness and positive energy. Engjellushe’s small business — ‘Ana Rrobaqepesi’ — had quite a considerable number of customers before the November 26 earthquake that hard-hit the coastal city of Durrës. The earthquake made the building where she lived and simultaneously worked at uninhabitable.

Photo: © UNDP Albania

However, what the 6.4 magnitude earthquake could not destroy was her hope to recover considering her business’s huge potential.

What the earthquake left behind. Photo: © UNDP Albania

Even more motivated in the face of the rubble that her personal and professional life had succumbed to, Engjellushe searched for a new location that would host her shop and became one of UNDP’s “In-Motion” pilot program beneficiaries.

UNDP kicked off the pilot intervention that aims to stabilize livelihoods and improve the socio-economic conditions of some of the earthquake-affected micro-enterprises days after the earthquake left 51 people dead and more than 3,000 people injured. The “In-Motion” methodology, successfully tested in other countries previously affected by natural disasters, brought together owners of the most affected micro-enterprises and had 15 of them sign letters of commitment. The program has facilitated the reopening of these micro-enterprises, increase owners’ entrepreneurial skills, provide grants for the purchase of new equipment and help owners’ re-create their commercial image.

When “In-Motion” first-gathered the 15 business-owners that would directly benefit from the program on January 27, Engjellushe spoke about her lost equipment, merchandise and furniture. Her client base was unequally divided between those who knew her and would definitely follow her wherever the shop’s new location was and those she risked losing due to lacking marketing and a commercial image. Trusting the program, she decided to work on everything that needed improvement.

After only six months of work and consultations, and despite the impact of COVID-19, ‘Ana Rrobaqepesi’ has already improved its inventory, book-keeping and sales’ analysis. The 5S Japanese method became her workplace guiding philosophy, where 5S stands for “sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain.” In turn, these steps aim to increase a business’ productivity, security, image, resilience, cleanliness and lower its downsides and costs.

The 5S Japanese method stands for “sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain”. Photo: © UNDP Albania

Against all odds, the COVID-19 pandemic that negatively affected businesses and the global economy didn’t allow Engjellushe to lose faith or sidetracked her business’ path to success. Taking advantage of the online resources businesses worldwide started using and, in particular, the online support that “In-Motion” offered for owners, her shop’s modernization and selling process continued uninterrupted by the Coronavirus.

‘Ana Rrobaqepesi’ currently advertises and promotes products and services online, on WhatsApp and Instagram. Her official Instagram username is @ana_rrobaqepesi and has already reached a base of almost 1,500 followers.

Soon enough Engjellushe’s business will also be equipped with new furniture and devices, replacing those destroyed by the earthquake, as foreseen by “In-Motion” in order to maximize the effects of the program’s technical assistance and support. The total amount of $1,500 is funded by UNDP in order for all “In-Motion” beneficiaries to be able to improve their businesses following the technical assistance and the results of their diagnostic process. These funds will also help Engjellushe put into practice everything she learned during the “In-Motion” capacity building process.

The newly-developed labels and signs, part of the business’ commercial image, will be the cherry on top that will catapult Engjellushe’s business from a small neighbourhood shop to a high-quality service-provider, well-known all across Durrës.

“You have nothing better to do than simply smile, continue doing your work and be grateful for the opportunities and good things that surround you. In-Motion has been one of these extraordinary opportunities for me and my family. In addition to the material support, my day changes when I have the visit of the In Motion staff. They are so dedicated and with so many new ideas. They have given me a different image for my business, which I like and appreciate very much,” says Engjellushe.

“Talking with Engjellushe has made me realize that staying positive in hard times is the best thing you can do for yourself and those around you. She creates a warm and positive atmosphere also for her clients. She is a humble, friendly, hard-working, and grateful woman with a strong desire to improve not only her business but also her skills. It is not very common that small businesses in her position reflect such an open mind. With her attitude during the group training she has influenced also other businesses. It is very beneficial to have her in the program,” says one of UNDP’s consultants who worked with Engjellushe since “In-Motion” kicked off.

Engjellushe’s ‘Ana Rrobaqepesi’ is the first out of many examples that will follow and will testify to UNDP’s commitment in assisting sustainable economic and professional development of those who were hardest-hit by the deadliest natural disaster the country has seen in the last 99 years.

‘Ana Rrobaqepesi’ is now also making face masks to protect people from COVID-19. Photo: © UNDP Albania

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