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SICA Success Stories

USAID Provides Means and Inspiration for Young Entrepreneurs to Make an Impact that Multiplies

While studying computer programming in college, Ummatoy Yuldosheva also volunteered teaching unemployed women how to program at the Women’s Committee in Tashkent. Given her background, Ummatoy was keenly aware of the extensive time and technical training required to become a successful programmer. The 24-year-old began to wonder if there might be a more efficient way to equip unemployed women with the requisite skills to successfully enter the workforce.

“At the Women’s Committee, I witnessed firsthand the challenges unemployed women were facing. I knew I wanted to help this community of women, but I was unsure how.” Motivated but lacking a clear path forward, in June 2020, Ummatoy became one of 150 young activists to participate in the Central Asia Youth Leadership Academy (CAYLA), organized under USAID’s Social Innovation in Central Asia program. CAYLA’s focus on social entrepreneurship, critical and creative thinking and project management provided Ummatoy with the practical skills and drive she needed to launch her very own startup. Ummatoy also won a CAYLA Young Civic Leader Scholarship, which she used to pursue additional project management courses and networking opportunities.

“CAYLA played a critical role in the development of my social startup,” says Ummatoy. “When I was studying programming at university, I saw myself only as a coder. I never could have imagined having the skills to create and manage projects or to lead a team. Thanks to CAYLA, I see how I can leverage my IT skills for social impact. With CAYLA, I developed my project idea and then crafted a compelling pitch, which I sent to potential investors and startup accelerators.” Ummatoy’s project was picked up by IT Park, an Uzbekistani startup accelerator. She received financial assistance, free advertising, mentorship, and a team of 10 people to implement her project. Today, Ummatoy’s hard work has come to fruition in the form of Coozin, an online meal platform. Women sell individually portioned, homecooked meals online from the comfort of their homes, with offerings ranging from standard lunch fare to elaborate dinners to delectable desserts. The platform currently employs 65 women and receives over 50 orders each day. Chefs featured on Coozin earn up to $300 monthly, a notable sum in Uzbekistan, where the average minimum wage amounts to approximately $70. To help women develop their home enterprises, Ummatoy and her team also host. Ummatoy recognizes that her impact goes beyond offering employment and business opportunities to women during and after the pandemic. “Women’s unemployment is not the only problem that we want to solve. Many of our clients are industrial workers, who might not otherwise have access to quick, affordable, but still healthy meals throughout the day. By offering nutritious, homecooked meals, we promote healthier lifestyles among our customers. Coozin is kind to our clients’ pockets and their health. We are improving the lives of both the women we employ and the customers we serve.” Ummatoy’s efforts have gained international recognition. In October 2020, she and her team presented Coozin to the world’s top entrepreneurs at the Entrepreneurship World Cup in Riyadh. The Coozin team also placed as finalists in the Alibaba Get Global Challenge and won a trip to China. Inspired by her own success, Ummatoy hopes to provide job opportunities to at least 1,000 unemployed women within the next two years. She also plans to expand Coozin beyond Uzbekistan. “I look how far I’ve come in just the past year,” she says, “and know this is just the beginning. I am determined to create new opportunities for women to thrive throughout the Eurasia region.”

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