Beneficiary story

Moldovan entrepreneur supported by ILO finds the way to respond to COVID-19 in his community

News | 24 April 2020


© Mihai Balan
 
Last year, Mihai Balan was just one of many entrepreneurs applying for the support offered within a job creation programme for employers, implemented for the first time by the National Employment Agency in 2019 in the Cahul municipality of the Republic of Moldova with the support of the ILO.

Over the last two years, his company Texiteh SRL produced souvenirs and various decorative items, such as watches, frames, cake stands. Mihai was assisted by three employees, but the number of orders was increasing, so he decided to expand his business. He applied to the workplace adaptation scheme to partially cover the cost for the purchase of a specialized equipment he needed and to create a job for a person with disability.

Thanks to this programme, Mihai benefited from a 50% reimbursement of the costs necessary to buy a modern laser cutting machine. The machine allowed him to diversify the product range and also created a new job for the operator. This program supported Mihai to hire Ion Toderici, a person witha locomotor disability from Cahul. At that time, Ion was a registered unemployed. He had been looking for a job for quite some time until Mihai offered him the opportunity.

In addition, Mihai Balan also benefited from a grant worth over 11 thousand lei (560 Euro) as wage subsidy for the recruitment of a low-skilled person and Ion Toderici received an on-the job-training. But Mihai did something unexpected: he decided to donate all the money from this grant to Toderici. "Ion has three children, he was unable to find a job for more than three years and he accumulated a lot of debt. He was the one who needed the money the most”, said the entrepreneur. 

"Thanks to the programme support, it was easier for Ion to get through the adjustment period at the workplace, and for me, it was easier to find a dedicated employee. With that, the company can now deliver what the market needs."
 

Toderici was hired as a designer-operator, even though he did not have the practical skills and was unfamiliar with all the necessary software. "As many Moldovans work abroad, it is very difficult for an employer to find a skilled and dedicated worker. This was also my problem until I applied to the programme. It was difficult at first until Ion acquired the necessary skills, but because he is a responsible person, hardworking and willing to work, he quickly learned the work process. Thanks to the programme support, it was easier for Ion to get through the adjustment period at the workplace, and for me, it was easier to find a dedicated employee. With that, the company can now deliver what the market needs,” said Mihai Balan.

This is already a success story. However, there is room for another positive turn. Currently, the equipment purchased through the subsidy program is used for the production of visors, which ensure the safety of health workers who work in the front lines of the response to the COVID-19 crisis in Cahul and the whole southern region of the country.

Mihai Balan decided to produce visors at the request of a public association from Cahul, which was aware that his company used laser cutting equipment. "At first I provided a few sample visors, than we started  producing bigger lots, using all the raw material we had,” says the entrepreneur. So far, the company produced more than 600 pieces of visors, distributed to the medical units of the Cahul district, whichever needed such equipment the most,  particularly emergency units. Some of this equipment was sent to the Republican Clinical Hospital in Chisinau, where people in severe condition caused by COVID-19 are hospitalized.

"The production of visors was my response to the crisis in Moldova. Once I was the one in need of help, now it is my turn to help those who are in the front line fighting the coronavirus."

The price of a visor includes only the raw material costs. Under the circumstances, the work of the employees is voluntary. In addition, the company started to produce protective screens for vendors. Mihai Balan, however, pays a part of the salary to his employees, so that they can overcome the effects of the crisis and support their families. This pandemic practically paralyzed his business, sales completely stopped. "The crisis affects all of us, but I try to support my employees so that they have a minimum of existence, and the company is not ruined forever," said Mihai. "The production of visors was my response to the crisis in Moldova. Once I was the one in need of help, now it is my turn to help those who are in the front line fighting the coronavirus,” he says. His words are supported by the epidemiologist Vladimir Lîsenco, the head of the Cahul Public Health Center: "Cahul rayon is one of the 10 most-affected rayons in the Republic of Moldova, which is explained by several factors, including its geographical location at the border and the massive migration of people.  As it happened all around the world, we were not prepared for the pandemic and we are having difficulties with the provisoin of protection equipment, so any kind of help is welcome. We are always happy when entrepreneurs, like Mihai Balan, get involved and help us keep the virus under control. The visors are extra protective measures and we tried to distribute them first of all to hospitals with the worst cases of patients affected by COVID-19. 

The enterprise is among the first companies in Moldova to convert parts of its operations to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. Mihai Balan belongs to a new breed of Moldovan entrepreneurs. At only 37 years of age, he was able to cut out a role for its company in a society where jobs and entrepreneurial spirit are a precious resource. As a development community, the ILO is proud to invest in creating an enabling environment for such companies. 

For a general overview on the ILO Local Employment Partnership Project that supported this and many other job creation initiatives in the south of Moldova, see here