Ukrainian refugees could help North East increase number of startups, says business enterprise

Free training courses to help Ukrainian refugees set up their own businesses have been taking place on North Tyneside.

Sandra Zhylinska is one of 46 refugees to sign up to the free enterprise skills workshop being run by Gateshead based Training company, FIRST.

She is a Ukrainian refugee living in North Tyneside - and attended this session at the Working Well support hub in North Shields.

Ms Zhylinska fled Ukraine 10 months ago with her two children aged five and six-years-old and they now live with a host family in Tynemouth.

In her home city of Kiev, she ran a confectionery business – hopes to one day to open a café in the North East.

Ms Zhylinska said: "I miss my country but if I can do this, in this country, I will try.

"I love to work in the kitchen. It's my favourite place and my children like to help me."

She added: "I want to understand how to do business in England, to understand the law here and to be able to offer English people my product."

The North East is currently behind other parts of the country for new start up businesses.

But FIRST - whose sessions are funded by the North of Tyne Combined Authority - say that the impact that Ukrainian refugees can have on our economy should not be underestimated.

Charlotte Windebank, Co-founder at FIRST, said: "We have quite a few under-represented groups in business, and the more that we can do to generate new business from these under-represented groups, the better for our economy.

"So as a region, we need 26,000 startups to be in comparison with the national average.

"These people are the keys to that success."

Nina, a tutor with FIRST said: "A lot of them have business already in Ukraine. So they are starting from scratch coming here.

"They are trying to get to grips with taxation, with registering, getting national insurance numbers, and we are trying to help them with that."

Anyona Holdovych of Corbridge received help to set up an online toy business similar to the one she ran in Ukraine when courses first ran last summer.

Ms Holdovych said: "I stayed in Ukraine one month and during that period we didn't have any work. It was really hard because of the war.

"When I came here, I worked as a gardener for some people. I thought it was good work. I enjoy gardening. But I thought I need to restart my business.

"I really want to do that. I miss making toys. I've already had a few orders so I'm really happy."

Anastasiia Inkova also fled Kyiv for the North East and now lives in Walker. She is a qualified translator who helps out at these sessions.

Ms Inkova said: "I think it's very useful and it's also great that people have the opportunity to connect and do some networking.

"We do have a lot of people who are interested in the same things. So maybe they can come together and create something together and start their own business."

Sandra is hoping for the same success with this first step in getting back to doing the job she loves.

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