Forging Ahead, But Not On Their Own

Speeches Shim

Tuesday, August 4, 2020
Konstantin Glushenkov, a young entrepreneur from Ashgabat.
JA Worldwide

A Turkmen entrepreneur equips youth with the tools to succeed in a modern

Konstantin Glushenkov, 32, grew up in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, in a family well-known for their musical talents. His grandfather was a successful composer, and his mother teaches and writes about music. Konstantin, however, had a different dream: to build his own business.

Today, he is the proud owner of a computer store and coffee shop. And to give back to his community, he’s working with USAID to help other young Turkmens succeed in business.

Striking out on this new path of entrepreneurship was not easy for Konstantin. He grew up without a father and he didn’t have any business owners in his family to turn to for advice. So, he decided to learn everything he could about business on his own. 

Starting from the age of 15, he took jobs in different fields to learn what made different businesses successful. He worked as a hairdresser, a computer salesman and repairman, a photo editor, a website designer, and a laser show engineer in Dubai.   

As a result of these jobs, Konstantin worked with many different types of bosses, co-workers, and subordinates. He realized that even if people gain technical skills from formal education, many didn’t have the soft skills to succeed.  

When Konstantin started his own business at age 22, and began hiring people, he realized that many young Turkmens didn’t know how to write a resume or conduct themselves in a professional interview. They had never been part of a team or learned how to handle stressful situations professionally in a workplace.

Konstantin found joy in mentoring his young employees and giving them the chance to shine. He didn’t have any official training in mentorship, however, so he scoured the local market for resources. 

Konstantin learned about USAID’s new course for Turkmen entrepreneurs interested in becoming certified soft skills trainers – the first of its kind in Turkmenistan – and knew it was the right fit for him. The course was part of USAID’s Enriching Youth for Tomorrow project, implemented by JA Worldwide. Through this project, USAID invests in youth to help them find economic success in Turkmenistan.

In February, after over a year of training, Konstantin was part of the first cohort of 18 certified soft skills trainers in Turkmenistan. 

“Looking back, growing up without a father was very difficult for me, but overcoming that challenge and others has made me the man I am today,” Konstantin said. “I consider myself self-made and have learned hard lessons about business through years of experience. Using my experience and USAID’s training, I can make overcoming challenges and succeeding easier for the young people of Turkmenistan entering the business world. That is what motivates me.” 

Certificate in hand, Konstantin was ready to start realizing his dream of supporting the next generation of Turkmen entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Konstantin to once again adapt, as conducting in-person training would not be possible. 

Leveraging his computer skills, Konstantin worked with USAID to develop an innovative web platform to train youth via an interactive webinar. 

“This challenging period represents an important opportunity for learning and growth,” said Konstantin. “We must continue to support the next generation of Turkmens so they can navigate the abundant flow of information about COVID-19 and be better equipped to enter an unpredictable job market.”

Konstantin partnered with USAID to teach his fellow trainers how to publicize and conduct webinars so that they can move forward with equipping youth with the skills they need to succeed. Next, Konstantin and his fellow trainers will build upon the foundation provided by USAID to conduct webinars for young people interested in starting their own businesses. 

“As an entrepreneur, I value the opportunity to share my experiences with eager young people who want to learn,” Konstantin said. “These webinars are a powerful tool to demonstrate to youth how communication and creativity are essential to career growth. I would not have been able to launch these webinars without the leadership and mentorship training and the professional network I gained from USAID.”

Over the past two years, more than 3,000 young people from Turkmenistan took part in the project’s programs on work-readiness and soft skills. After completion, 63 percent of the participants reported they successfully found employment, and 71 percent had increased their incomes. 

“The pandemic may have disrupted our plans, but who knows, maybe it will lead young Turkmens to consider starting e-commerce and web-based businesses that perhaps they wouldn’t have considered in the past,” Konstantin said.