EBRD and EU help Kyrgyz small childcare business become more competitive

By Altynai Nanaeva

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As any mother of small children will know, everyone who is ready to take care of them deserves praise – babysitters, paediatricians and teachers alike. Communicating with children requires great love and dedication, and Olesya Sakeeva certainly belongs to this special group of people. She manages Mayak, a children’s camp located by Lake Issyk-Kul, one of the most beautiful resort areas in the Kyrgyz Republic.

Olesya considers Mayak camp to be her life’s work. She was only 16 years old when she started what became her career in the family-owned business. “My parents started our family business almost 30 years ago. My mother planted all the nice flowers and fruit trees here. Nowadays, we manage the camp together with my younger sister Irina, and our children also work in different capacities. We hope that my 18-year-old daughter will also join us as a chef this season as she is completing a cookery course in college,” she says.

The camp generally runs from May to September and receives more than 2,000 school-aged children per season. Olesya adopts a stance of inclusive education in her business and enrols children with special needs every season, with costs mostly covered by the camp. This is a very positive initiative, which enables children to interact with each other, develop loyalty and learn to care about each other’s needs.

A long-term co-operation

Mayak has a long history of co-operation with the EBRD, since 2005 when Olesya’s team first benefited from a consultancy service on implementing a management information service (MIS) with support from the Advice for Small Businesses programme funded by the European Union. The accounting system operates successfully to this day. The next chapter started in 2019, right before the coronavirus pandemic drastically changed all our lives.

According to Olesya, the camp relied mostly on various labour unions to attract new clients, thus limiting the scope for new opportunities and pricing package tours at below market value. She therefore decided that the company needed to increase its client base through direct sales. To achieve this, Olesya and her team reached out again to the EBRD.

An infusion of strategy

A team of consultants conducted analysis of the market and the company’s sales processes and developed new packages which include additional children’s activities such as rock climbing, robotics and dancing. They also helped to outsource the providers of these activities and concluded contracts for the upcoming summer season. Additionally, Olesya and her team received consultation on how to improve the company’s online booking systems, and developed a new marketing strategy for social media and the website.

Together with the consultants, Olesya prepared a list of more than 460 potential clients and created a mailing list. The joint work attracted new clients, including “Shoro”, the biggest producer of traditional beverages in the country. The ongoing pandemic does not allow the camp to operate at full capacity; however, Olesya and her family are very optimistic about the future and are planning to re-open Mayak’s doors fully by spring 2022.

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