August 18, 2023 | Friday

Empowering Entrepreneurs: Jakova Innovation Center

In the heart of Gjakova, Kosovo, lies a dynamic hub of innovation and entrepreneurship – Jakova Innovation Center (JIC). Established through the collaboration between the Ministry of Trade and Industry of the Republic of Kosovo and the municipality of Gjakova, this non-profit organization has been on a mission to foster the growth of new companies and support young entrepreneurs since its inception.

As a committed business incubator, JIC assumes a pivotal role in equipping aspiring entrepreneurs with the necessary tools to turn their ideas into thriving ventures. With additional EU support, JIC is further bolstering the employability potential of youth, women, and disadvantaged groups.

We talked with Fatos Axhemi, the Executive Director at Jakova Innovation Center, to delve into the organization’s impactful journey over the years.

EH: How does Jakova Innovation Center identify and select young entrepreneurs for its programs?

FA: Usually, startup businesses or participants in our programs are enrolled through open calls or promotional campaigns targeted at specific groups or institutions, such as schools and networks. Additionally, we accept all interested parties into our programs, provided they have a valid business idea or a personal development plan that aligns with our offerings.

EH: Can you provide examples of businesses that have successfully launched and grown through the support of the Jakova Innovation Center?

FA: A number of successful startups have grown and developed through our programs. Some notable businesses are: Luna Pictures and Films — a photo and video production company; Partners in Diet — a personal health management startup; Lotamania — a dried fruits and healthy foods production startup; YKLLA – a designer and recycled clothes store; Nature’s Pride — an artisanal producer of apple cider vinegar; Glass Tech recycling — a recycled glass processor; Mind World Clinic — a speech therapy clinic.

EH: What specific training and consulting services does the center offer to budding entrepreneurs?

FA: Our training programs encompass a set of basic business skills training, accompanied by communication and life skills. Also, digital skills are another training package offered to our beneficiaries.

With regard to consulting services, we offer pre and post-incubation business management consulting, as well as mentoring, tailored to the specific needs of the startups.

EH: How does JIC ensure that it remains at the forefront of business knowledge, especially in key areas like finance, marketing, and market research?

FA: We pay close attention to the vast and fast-paced landscape in those key areas, including the new technology trends and we motivate our team, our beneficiaries, and partners to enroll in specific trainings pertaining to the new trends and the sharing of know-how. Additionally, we update our development programs based on industry developments and movements

EH: What challenges has the center faced in facilitating new companies to enter the international market, and how have they been addressed?

FA: One of our training programs is Sales and Digital Marketing Channels. That is one way through which we offer our expertise to local businesses, in their endeavors to reach international markets. Furthermore, through cooperation with other partners, intermediary institutions, and business networks we facilitate new companies to easier access international markets.

A big challenge remains Kosovo’s full access to international organizations as that hinders new companies in their access to international markets, as they scale-up.

EH: Can you speak to its impact on the local and national economy of Kosovo so far?

FA: Our center serves the Gjakova and Kosovo communities for more than 9 years now. Besides helping local new companies and individuals, we have also helped create and maintain an image of business support, development, and collaboration. To date, Jakova Innovation has helped more than 120 new companies in Gjakova region. More than 3500 individuals have benefitted from our training programs.

EH: How did the recent “STEP UP” project by the Jakova Innovation Center impact the employability and skill sets of young individuals and women from the municipalities of Gjakova, Deçan, and Junik during its run from November 2022 to June 2023?

FA: The project has been a success, reaching all its targets and significantly contributing to youth empowerment and entrepreneurship in the municipalities of Gjakova, Deçan, and Junik. The project has demonstrated the effectiveness of a comprehensive and inclusive approach in equipping young people with the skills and opportunities they need to succeed.

Over the project implementation period, a total of 91 of young individuals aged 18-29 directly benefited from the project’s initiatives. This group included 62 females from the municipality of Gjakova demonstrating the project’s commitment to gender equality and the empowerment of women.