Gulmira Dzhunusova, Founder of Gulum enterprise
Gulmira Dzhunusova, founder of a textile and ready-made garments enterprise, bore an idea of sewing women’s clothes since childhood. At the age of 36 in 2010, Gulmira rented a space for a sewing workshop and purchased five sewing machines. In eight years, the business grew into a well-equipped small garments enterprise with 40 employees in Bishkek. The enterprise was fulfilling orders of 2,000 items per week and exporting its products to the Russian and Kazakh markets.
In 2018, the enterprise faced a problem of further growth as its business processes needed optimization to meet fast changing and growing market demand. Additionally, it experienced increased tariffs on fabrics, a decline in demand for women’s dresses due to a cool summer, and a slowdown of economic activities at the Kyrgyzstan-based largest market of Central Asia. The few orders were coming at a very low price, which made the majority of Gulmira’s employees dissatisfied and leave, and only 15 employees stayed.
Further survival of the business was threatened by the Covid-19 lockdown and its economic consequences. For Gulmira, just like for all other garment companies and workshops across Kyrgyzstan, this meant a lack of fabrics and accessories and a further drop in the number of orders due to border closures, as well as layoffs of its employees.
Gulmira tried hard to find a way to keep the enterprise working and to retain her employees, who were all women with or from vulnerable families. A solution was offered by the UK Aid-funded PEAK Enterprise and Innovation Programme in January 2021. PEAK conducted a free of charge diagnostic (or assessment) of Gulmira’s business to identify gaps in its performance and recommend improvements. The diagnostic was carried out by a PEAK-certified business consultant who recommended considering new sales platforms and developing a marketing strategy. Gulmira applied to PEAK for further support from this marketing specialist to implement the findings. PEAK approved a subsidy covering 85% of the business advisory services cost and Gulmira covered the remaining 15%.
In a one-month period, enormous work was completed jointly by the business consultant and Gulmira. In particular, the ‘Gulum’ brand was created to represent the garments manufactured by Gulmira. A newly developed marketing strategy addressed the problem of vague positioning and lack of unique selling points. Gulmira received a ready-to-use marketing plan, annual sales plan, and a plan on establishing partnerships. The customer funnel was optimized to offer a flexible, high-speed and user-friendly customer service. One more breakthrough change for Gulmira was the introduction of online tools – the development of a website and the launch of an Instagram business account.
Sewing process at the Gulum workshop
Gulmira could immediately enjoy the results of the revised business strategy, practices and new model. She successfully retained the previous 15 jobs, created 17 new jobs and increased her revenues by 130%. Orders from the CIS countries have rapidly increased, making it a challenge for Gulmira to take all of them.
“I hope that in a few years we will become a popular Kyrgyz brand that is demanded in Kyrgyzstan and in the CIS countries and will employ a considerable number of local women”, says Gulmira.
Gulmira Dzhunusova is just one of the many entrepreneurs benefiting from UK Aid support from the United Kingdom Government through the PEAK Enterprise and Innovation Programme in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Since November 2020, PEAK Kyrgyzstan has completed 40 free business diagnostics and provided subsidies for business advisory services to 21 micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Batken, Osh, Issyk Kul, Chui oblasts and the cities of Osh and Bishkek. PEAK’s innovative and online Business Diagnostic Tool gives entrepreneurs an understanding of their business resilience and capacity potential post COVID-19. Both the business diagnostic assessment and the subsidized support are provided by business advisory service providers who have been certified by PEAK (following a rigorous assessment), as being qualified to offer business advisory services to MSMEs with PEAK subsidies.