Ukraine Article

Nailing It: A Manucurist’s Path to Entrepreneurship

When Russia's full-scale invasion began in 2022, Olena's husband* joined the Ukrainian armed forces., leaving the 29-year-old young mother as the sole provider for her family in the village of Pidhaitsi, Volynska oblast. With two school-aged children and a third on the way, Olena faced great financial struggles, but Acted’s livelihood grant allowed her to turn her passion for nail care into a blossoming manicure business.

Since 2022, Ukraine continues to be severely impacted by the armed conflict. This includes ongoing military hostilities, frequent bombing of urban centers, and waves of displacement. The economic toll is immense, with high rates of inflation and unemployment. At the same time, the mobilization of working-age men is playing an increasingly important role in the economic activity and prospects of Ukrainian households, which continue to adapt to and recover from conflict-related shocks since 2022.


Since 2019, Acted is implementing a 5-year project, funded by Global Affairs Canada (GAC), aiming to support economic prosperity for individuals like Olena across Ukraine. Through the “Securing Women’s Economic Empowerment for Recovery and Development” (SEED) project, Acted provides livelihood and small-business grants, business development services, vocational training opportunities, support to labour centers and more.

As of April 2024, some of the major achievements of the project include:

  • 722 households directly benefitted from livelihood grants;
  • 504 scholarships for online courses provided to individuals;
  • 3,498 individuals provided with vulnerability specific support (training, protection and referrals to specialized services);
  • 5 subgrants provided to local Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to establish Business Advisory Centers (BACs) to provide entrepreneurial counselling;
  • 5 labour centres provided with trainings and equipment for advising, guiding and strengthening the capacity of jobseekers;
  • 405 of labour centres and CSO staff trained on Gender Equality and “Psychological State of Job Seekers Awareness” in both online and offline modalities;
  • 12 local social initiatives supported to upgrade/establish daycare centers.

The Blossoming of a Village Manicurist

In Volynska oblast, Acted provided 113 livelihood grants between April 2023 and March 2024 to support self-employment for individuals like Olena.

After a review and verification process, Olena’s application for a livelihood grant was approved in October 2023. During a monitoring visit on January 9th, 2024, Olena reported that the grant markedly improved her household’s financial situation: “My husband went to defend Ukraine. The financial situation was very difficult, but now it’s easier”. With the livelihood grant, she purchased essential equipment and supplies to properly outfit her home manicure salon.

Prior to receiving Acted’s support, Olena had minimal equipment and could only offer basic manicure services. But the grant allowed her to invest in a lamp, nail dust collector, furniture, tools and more. Her services expanded in both quality and variety. What began as a way to make ends meet has blossomed into a successful small business, with Olena’s client base continually growing.

In addition to the livelihood grant, Olena also benefited from entrepreneurial training provided through an Acted-supported business advisory center in Volynska.

The grant helped me develop my business. I'm so happy to be working in my favourite field.


A Mother's Resilience

Olena used to live with her husband’s parents along with 10 other family members. Later, they moved within the same village and began renting a house.

Since her husband joined the armed forces, Olena’s rising heating costs have put her in a difficult financial situation as a single parent. The grant from Acted allowed her to start earning an income again by following her passion.

With the grant, Olena is now able to offer professional manicure and pedicure services from her home. Her client base has grown, improving her household’s financial situation despite the immense challenges of wartime.

Looking ahead, Olena hopes to continue growing her nail salon. But most importantly, she wants to create a stable life for her children amidst the turmoil. “My children are my biggest motivation to keep going,” Valentina says with a warm smile.

The SEED project is empowering conflict-affected yet resilient entrepreneurs like Olena by providing livelihood grants, entrepreneurial training, and business advisory services, empowering women to turn their skills and commercial potential into sustainable income sources for their families.

Olena’s salon is more than just a business – it’s the path toward stability for her children’s future. With the support of the SEED initiative, vulnerable Ukrainian women and marginalized groups can gain access to economic empowerment and prosperity despite the conflicts’ devastating impacts.

As the project continues over the next two years, Acted aims to support more success stories like Olena’s. Her journey exemplifies how targeted economic assistance can transform lives. Livelihood opportunities provided under SEED contribute to the recovery and long-term development of local economies in the Chernihivska, Chernivetska, Mykolaivska, Odeska, Vinnytska, and Volynska oblasts in Ukraine.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the beneficiary.
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