Revitalizing Local Businesses: UNDP’s Project Brings Growth and Success to Hamallaj’s Entrepreneurs

At only 24 years old, Shpresim is an ambitious entrepreneur who had long dreamt of taking his family’s gardening business called “Thaci Gardening” to new heights. UNDP Albania

Specialiste Komunikimi, UNDP Albania

I made my way to the beautiful Hamallaj beach village to meet Shpresim in person and hear his story first-hand. I was eager to learn how a tailored UNDP programme had helped him transform his business. 

Shpresim warmly welcomed me and shared his inspiring journey.

At only 24 years old, Shpresim is an ambitious entrepreneur who had long dreamt of taking his family’s gardening business called “Thaci Gardening” to new heights. Despite facing stubborn skepticism from his father, he remained steadfast in his determination to succeed. However, with only a few clients, he struggled to gain traction and expand his business.

That was until Thaci Gardening became part of a UNDP project that works to strengthen value chains. 
Funded by the Governments of the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, the Economic Recovery and Resilience Programme in Albania (ERR) implemented by UNDP, aims to stimulate the economy by revitalizing the competitiveness of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). The project benefits from two previously tested methodologies: The Supplier’s Development Programme and In Motion were “exported” to UNDP Albania from UNDP’s Regional Bureau of Latin America and the Caribbean. The Supplier’s Development Programme focuses on strengthening local value chains and boosting exports by developing national suppliers. The programme provides technical assistance to a selected “value chain”, encompassing the “client company” or “the buyer” and its network of strategic suppliers, and is implemented through trained business consultants in six stages, including promotion, diagnosis, client company-supplier interaction, improvement plan design and implementation, and documentation & applicability.

Thaci Gardening is one of the six value chain members of the client company called “STARMAR,” which runs a hotel, a bar, a beach bar, and a restaurant. Through the SDP Methodology, the UNDP Programme provided one year-long personalized assistance and training to small and medium enterprises, members of the STARMAR Value chain, like Thaci Gardening on leadership and management, financial management, marketing and customer care, social media management, sustainable practices for businesses, and quality protocols (5S, Good Manufacturing Practices, Good Agricultural Practices and the HACCP system for food safety).

Shpresim’s participation in the Programme had a significant impact on his business. “Before joining the UNDP project, I had 0 vision for my business,” he said. “But after receiving personalized assistance and training for one year long, I realized the importance of having a formalized business and doing business based on contracts and well-defined rules. I understand that having a contract is good for the business owner and the client. I also learned how to better manage my finances and grow my business in a sustainable way. My company now has its’ online presence which has attracted more clients.  From very few clients, now I have forty. I have contractual arrangements with many of them. Without the support, none of this would have happened”.

Shpresim Thaçi dedicatedly tending to a garden under his care. UNDP Albania

The UNDP Programme not only helps improve value chain productivity but also builds capacity for small and medium enterprises to adopt better business practices. “By strengthening value chains in strategic sectors of the economy, the Programme helps boost productivity among small and medium enterprises and contributes to the creation of quality employment, increased export capacities, and a more resilient private sector,” says Jona Dundo, the Project Coordinator.

One year after

Through the pilot implementation of SDP, UNDP has supported 7 businesses in total in improving their value chain business relations through various measures. This includes designing a Supplier Evaluation and Certification System to measure and evaluate supplier performance, signing contracts to formalize business relations, creating product technical sheets, improving delivery times, payment terms and product quality, as well as building supplier’s capacities to provide technical assistance to their clients. 

Additionally, support has been provided through supplementary technical expertise to comply with international quality standards and food safety protocols including compliance with the HACCP food safety system, as well as Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and Good Agricultural Practices (GAP).

Capacity building has also been provided through personalized technical assistance and training on topics such as leadership, financial management, marketing, the 5S methodology, and social media management. Support has also been given to increase market outreach and upgrade commercial image, internal administration, and human resources.

All seven businesses have reported an increase in sales, improved capacity to manage their operations, and stronger client relationships. They have set a new standard that will serve as their guiding principle for years to come. Moreover, they take pride in the fact that they are contributing to their local economy by utilizing local products to create their products and services. By doing so, they are not only helping themselves but also supporting their community’s growth and development.

Shpresim Thaçi dedicatedly tending to a garden under his care. UNDP Albania

During my next visit to Hamallaj, I plan to have a conversation with Shpresim’s father to hear his perspective on his son’s flourishing business. As a parent myself, I can understand the skepticism that can arise when assessing our children’s performance. However, I have come to realize that it is important to trust, motivate, and encourage them. With the right support and approach, they can truly thrive and achieve their dreams. Shpresim is a true testimony of this.

In need of a gardener? Pick Thaci Gardening! Check them out here on their digital space:

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