Vasfije Ismailji, unemployed Roma women from Bujanovac, small town in south Seriba, is one of 71 recipients of a business development grant within the recently finalised Small Business Project, financed by the Latter-day Saint Charities.
She is a 58-year-old unemployed woman, with 30 years of experience in upholstering furniture, gained from her work in the largest Serbian furniture factory Simpo from Vranje.
In the transition towards market economy in Serbia she lost her job and on top of her problems, her son who lived in Sweden suffered from a stroke and had to return with his wife and three children, all unemployed and without any income, to live with Vasfije, who then took on the role of a sole breadwinner.
Using her skills, Vasfije started restoring old furniture for her neighbours and soon her upcycling services were in great demand, however she could do little with improvised equipment she worked with.
At that moment, Vasfije applied for support from Small Business Project, designed her business plan with the assistance from the project team and got selected for the in-kind grant!
She thus managed to replace the worn-out equipment with the new professional sewing machine, a compressor, two drills and an upholstery stapler and to significantly increase her upholstery engagement.
In her carefully arranged home, there are several pieces of furniture that she upholstered herself, with a lot of love and interesting details. Vasfije hopes that her grandchildren will soon get involved in her work, help her and develop a sustainable family business together.
Small Business Project project aimed to improve socio-economic perspectives of vulnerable populations in the poorest areas of Serbia: south-eastern regions, through building business development skills and supporting small business start-ups.