A Ukrainian refugee organises a conference in Estonia to empower women

Khrystyna Didukh, a Ukrainian entrepreneur who was given safe haven in Estonia last year, organises a conference called Brave2Bloom in Tallinn from 3-4 April – to empower female entrepreneurs.

On 24 February 2022, when Russia attacked Ukraine, Khrystyna Didukh, a flower wholesaler from Lviv, was on a two-day business trip to Poland. The day before the war started, she had bought two truckloads of tulips. While the first truckload was already on its way to Ukraine, she realised she could not send the second one, because the war had caused the price of tulips to drop fourfold and the general situation in Ukraine was getting worse by the hour.

Her family was also advising against returning to Ukraine. Instead, hundreds of thousands of people wanted to get out. “The queues to the border were 70 kilometres long and people were fleeing like in some apocalyptic film, scraping cars against each other,” Didukh said.

So she decided to sell the flowers directly to customers – in Estonia, where she had become an e-resident of the country a year before.

She arrived with her truckload of flowers to Tallinn on 25 February, a day after the war broke, and immediately started to search for buyers. “I posted the information to all the Facebook groups with the word ‘Tallinn’ in the name,” Didukh recalled. The information went viral on social media and soon, there were fifteen flower shops that sold her tulips, selling them all by May.

Khrystyna Didukh. Private collection.

A country of opportunities

As a wholesaler, Khrystyna’s company supplied much of Ukraine, and her company’s main market was eastern Ukraine, which they lost completely due to the war. So she decided to stay in Estonia where she feels at home. “Estonia is a country of opportunities – the startup and entrepreneurial possibilities here are really outstanding,” she stated.

She was surrounded by flowers all her life – her mother also ran a flower shop in Lviv. Khrystyna’s father is a university lecturer of math and physics and she believes in lifelong learning. Having two master’s degrees, she worked for three years as a consultant for PriceWaterhouseCoopers before setting up her own companies – so diversifying is not new for her.

After visiting various conferences and startup events, she decided to perform her next leap of faith – and together with a few fellow Ukrainian female entrepreneurs co-organise a conference to empower women, called Brave2Bloom, due to take place in Tallinn from 3-4 April.

“A year ago, our life changed for worse, now we want to change it for better – and not only for us, but for every woman, who face the same challenges as we do: who is sometimes not believed in, sometimes said she is too much: too pushy, not silent, not convenient and not obedient enough,” she explained.

Khrystyna Didukh. Private collection.

A fusion of business and art

“Brave2Bloom conference is a fusion of business and art. The programme has a lot of useful information – a manual for opening a company in Europe, online commerce techniques, pitching, export strategies, the use of AI, crypto and blockchain,” Didukh said. “Apart from that, it is probably the most beautiful event you have ever visited. Power of flowers and art create a unique combination to be revealed.”

“If we connect female entrepreneurs from all over the world, give all the necessary knowledge, which all the businesses on early stage need, add a network of investors, governmental bodies and a bit of creativity and passion to make this all happen, the impact will exceed our expectations,” she added.

The speakers include Kristel Kruustük, the founder of Testlio; Signe Riisalo, the incumbent social protection minister; Kaidi Ruusalepp, the founder of Funderbeam; and Kaimo Kuusk, the Estonian ambassador to Ukraine.

The conference is taking place in Tallinn’s Kultuurikatel, but those who cannot attend in person can also follow the event virtually. The tickets cost between €65 and €470 – but Didukh said Ukrainian women can attend the conference free of charge. “I believe it will help them create their own success stories and contribute to rebuilding Ukraine as soon as possible.”

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