In the words of Silvana Subashi: “Just as we can raise responsible children, we can also build successful businesses”
24 October 2023
A story by UN Women Albania
Silvana Subashi is a 47-year-old woman entrepreneur from Albania who is the administrator of Subashi Olive Oil, a cultivation and production oil company that has won many gold medals. A finance graduate with two children, Silvana will participate in the upcoming Women’s Entrepreneurship EXPO 2023 satellite event, taking place on October 27 in Tirana, Albania. Silvana and her husband have been working for almost two decades in the business of olive oil and beyond. They started with an olive orchard and a factory and have since expanded to include two shops and around 2,000 olive trees in Marikaj, an area with the richest flora in the region where they also organize degustation guides. The area is now part of the Ancient Olive Orchard of Albania, a popular tourist destination. Silvana is also the President of the Albanian Olive Oil Association since 2014, and the company is part of the International Slow Food movement.
In 2005, we embarked on our entrepreneurial journey upon returning from Italy, where I completed my studies. Our vision was to contribute to our homeland by investing in it, and we made a significant move by acquiring an olive orchard in Marikaj, my husband's hometown. Furthermore, we established the region's very first olive processing facility.
In the early days, it was a rather uncommon sight to have male customers visiting the factory. Many of them automatically assumed they should speak with a male owner during the processing stages or when finalizing deals. However, I'm delighted to note that times have changed. Today, it's a source of pride for us as we witness a growing number of women customers frequenting our factory and actively participating in olive processing activities. We are proud to have a workforce consisting of 13 women out of 15 who excel in various roles such as finance, sales in our shops, packaging of herbal teas, painting our wooden products, and crafting embroidery packages.
Since starting our business, significant changes have unfolded, and I hope I have contributed. Engaging with various business and women's associations, I've persistently highlighted the issue of women's land ownership, which historically hindered their access to bank loans. In the past, only my husband could secure these loans. Despite the significant contributions of women in labor-intensive tasks such as olive harvesting and land cultivation, the profits from olive oil production and sales continued to be channeled into the hands of men. I argued that such an unequal system was unacceptable and advocated for a fairer distribution of property ownership. Recently, when my husband and I acquired a new property, it was an encouraging sign of progress—two certificates of ownership were issued by the notary, one for each of us.
People often ask me about the challenges of being a woman entrepreneur and a mother of two. However, my approach has always been to turn potential difficulties into strengths. I've integrated my children into my work life; my son, now 20, used to help with client messages, and now my daughter is doing the same. We blend work and family, even transforming business trips into enjoyable family adventures by taking the children with us.
I want to encourage women not to be afraid to start their own businesses. Success relies on self-belief. Just as we can raise responsible children, we can also build successful businesses.
Launched in 2021, the Women’s Entrepreneurship EXPO is a unique partnership platform to promote women’s entrepreneurship ecosystem building in the Europe and Central Asia region. EXPO provides an interactive space for women entrepreneurs, investors and private sector representatives for networking and collaboration, peer learning, ideas generation, capacity building and business development. EXPO 2023 is organized by UN Women Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia in partnership with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and Yıldız Holding as part of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator supported by Mary Kay.