5 Inspiring Romanian Female Business Heroes

The NextWomen Europe Theme.

Simona Sandru from the Romania Association of Women in Business interviews their Founder Alice Botnarenco about the startup scene in Romania; the realities of being a woman in business there; and five female business heroes who inspire the region's female business ecosystem.

Alice Botnarenco, the founder of the Romanian Women in Business Association and owner of a rent-a-car company, made a bold step into entrepreneurship in 2003, believed in the power of momentum and succeeded in achiving business excellence. Fueled by her passion for cars, Alice took her first steps into the automotive industry in 2003, when she set up her rent-a-car company. She seized a need of the market and took advantage of it.

“She was the right person in the right place at the right time.”

In response to the financial crisis that reached its peak in 2008, Alice founded the Romanian Women in Business Association meant to support the growth of the feminine business environment at national level. The road to performance was marked by important milestones and Alice walked us through it further in this interview.

SS: You own a rent-a-car company and you are running a business association. Has the Romanian Women in Business Association had any impact on your business? How do you combine the two of them?

AB: The Romanian Association of Women in Business has made the difference for my business. The financial crisis had an impact on my company as well and I was forced to find a solution for its further growth. Thus, I looked for other female entrepreneurs dealing with the same issues and searched for the optimal solutions together. Our meetings soon turned into business events faciliating business referrals and connections, access to valuable information and to other businesses. Combining the two activities, it is really challenging and interesting for me; it is simply great when you do it out of passion and when one of them supports the other.

The Romanian Women in Business Association has been the solution for my professional future.

SS: Could you please provide us with a picture of the Romanian feminine business environment? Are there any measures taken to support the feminine business? How does the Romanian Women in Business Association contribute to the development of the feminine business in Romania?

AB: Taking a close look at the statistics featuring the female entrepreneurship in Romania, we can figure out that the number of men involved into entrepreneurial activities is much higher than the number of women; though women represent 51% of the country’s population. The percent of women willing to startup a business decreased dramatically from 42,9% in 2009, to 11% in 2010. Fortunately, starting with 2010, the banks have started to come up with packages and facilities to support early stage female entrepreneurs. Moreover, the government has started to take action and to introduce startup funding programs; the associations are heading for the same direction as well. The Romanian Women in Business Association completes the picture through the business events that aim at helping women grow profesionally. The usefulness of our activities is translated through the recurrence of our business events.

SS: Which are the startups trends in Romania? What is your advice for the early stage entrepreneurs?

In 2011, the number of new startups increased by 9% compared to the previous year, most of them being registered in commerce (28,4%), other services (23,9%) and agriculture (15,6%). The new programs implemented for supporting the growth of the feminine business envirnment are meant to bridge the gap between men and women and lay the grounds for a new way of doing business, a brand new economic component.

Entering the entrepreneurship arena is not an easy step to take, but a definitely great one if it’s done out of dedication and passion. 

Keep an eye on the market, on its opportunities, on its trends and combine the results with what you really want to do. The intersection point will mark the business line you should follow further.

SS: You have had the chance to interact with a wide range of successful business women in Romania. Which are the 5 Romanian female business heroes that you consider inspirational for the feminine business ecosystem in your country?

AB: The Romanian business ecosystem is chalenging and complex. There are obstacles to overcome, there are opportunties and there are lots of powerful women to face them or take advatage of them.

I will limit to 5 names, but the Romanian business arena is rich in successful women, some of them have already managed to stand out, while the others are on their way to the fore.

Rucsandra Hurezeanu – is the founder of the first dermo-cosmetics company in Romania, called Ivatherm. She holds a PhD degree in medical sciences and she is a doctor with an experience of more than 15 years in the pharmaceutic and cosmetics industry in Romania and France. The Ivatherm company is one of the 5 main players in the cosmetics industry and aims at going international and expand its market.

Camelia Sucu – she is one of the founders of the Mobexpert company, a premium furniture retailer and producer. Later, she sold part of the company but she kept the luxury division, Class Living that she has continued to grow. Camelia Sucu initiated the Design Leader programme meant to support young talented designers, she joined the UNICEF’s cause, is a member of the international association Leading Women of the World and Romanian charities such as the Rebirth Foundation and Provita Foundation. For two years, she has entered the agriculture industry as well.

Bibiana Stanciulov – her name is associated with the well known Jam of Topoloveni, the only traditional Romanian food product protected by the European Union and rewarded with distinction the ‘Superior Taste Award', by the International Taste and Quality Institute in Brussels, for the second consecutive year. Her company is the supplier of the Royal House of Romania. In 2013, the company will start a promotion program for the Topoloveni plum jam in countries like Finland, Switzerland and Japan.

Doina Costache – the various projects in online marekting, internet and mobile banking paved the way towards one of the most admired companies in the world, Google. For more than 2 years, since Google opened its office in Romania, Doina Costache has been in charge of the business and online marketing strategy for the fiancial industry, for retailers and automotive companies in Romania. She is also responsible for the mobile division, considered Google’s „successful future in the digital world” business. 

Iulia Dobrin – the creator of the luxurious and sophisticated lingerie I.D. Sarrieri, has managed to bring her brand to the shelves of the world's leading retailers. Her collections are featured on the covers of noticeable fashion magazines worldwide and she is one of the first Romanians who found the multibrands up-market solution by opening The Place Concept Store in Bucharest. She succeeded in bringing brands such as Oscar de la Renta, Jil Sander, Marchesa and Alexander Wang to Romania, but also in delivering the ID Sarrieri collections to multi-brands in Europe, North America, Australia and Asia. Her collections are sold in Romania, Australia, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the United States. I.D. Sarrieri brand is included in Forbes’ most luxurious lingerie names top.

Simona Sandru is the Business Development Manager of the Romania Association of Women in Business, an organisation representing the most active and professional business community dedicated to women in Romania; The Association supports and promotes the female business environment, organizes business events and develops international partnerships. In 2012 the Association launched the 1st online platform for business women in Romania, accessible through their website, and represented Romania as speakers at the Global Summit of Women in Athens.

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