Young Female Entrepreneur of The Year Europe Award winner announced amid calls for greater support for girls and women to start businesses
23 October 2020 – Youth Business International (YBI) and Citi Foundation announced Mariia Plotkina as the winner of the Young Female Entrepreneur of the Year Europe Award 2020 during a virtual ceremony yesterday. Plotkina was presented with the award by Pip Jamieson, Founder and CEO of The Dots, for her outstanding work in establishing, running and expanding Geek Teachers, a business offering online courses and in-person festivals to help teachers use technology to enhance the student experience. Plotkina received training, business development support and mentoring through Youth Business Russia and Impact Hub Moscow.
Commenting on the award, Mariia Plotkina said, “When we started, my co-founders and I were teachers and about to leave school together because we felt defeated with the state of education. Instead we decided to organise an edutainment event to encourage teachers to use new technology in class, equip them with IT skills and feel motivated in their job. We had no experience in business. The first event we organised, 300 people took part, and 1,300 people turned up to our last party. We’re on our way to involve more teachers in our community for people to have fun at their work. You can make education fun, you can learn with fun. I don’t want teachers to ever leave school. I would like to say thank you to Impact Hub Moscow and Youth Business Russia who have supported me and assisted me in being able to participate in this Award.”
With the economic shock of COVID-19 contributing to rising youth unemployment across Europe and around the world, it is more important than ever to unlock the economic potential of women by helping them to set up businesses, and ensuring all girls and young women identify entrepreneurship as a viable and accessible career option. Yet, women still face structural barriers at almost every stage in the entrepreneurial journey, including barriers of their race, culture, and even government policies.
Bonnie Chiu, Managing Director, The Social Investment Consultancy, congratulated Mariia and all of the 11 award finalists, but highlighted that their stories of success would become increasingly rare if these barriers are not broken down, “Growing up I didn’t have the role models to look up to. When I think of an entrepreneur, of the entrepreneurs who are on the ground, serving their communities, doing the humblest of jobs. They are the ones keeping our economies going. Most female entrepreneurs look to their business as a way to supporting society. In times like this we need them more than ever.”
Pip Jamieson, Founder and CEO of The Dots, championed the support networks that are so crucial to the success of female entrepreneurs, “There are very distinct challenges as a female entrepreneur. You are not alone. Being part of this amazing network is so important”, and highlighted the importance of creating a business focused on social good: “The thing that made me resilient was that we always had a social purpose at the heart of the business. Social purpose has helped me persevere through the hard times when I could have given up. I’ve combined what I love doing, what I’m good at, but most importantly what the world needs. It’s about trying to make the world a little better. There’s never been a better time in history to be a female entrepreneur.”
A poll held during the event highlighted the entrenched barriers that women face in entrepreneurship and the importance of visible role models. 29% of the audience stated that gender bias was the biggest barrier to female entrepreneurship and a lack of role models was voted as the second most entrenched barrier with a 24% share of the vote.
Anita Tiessen, CEO of YBI, called for greater support from governments in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, stating, “I am incredibly proud of what all of today’s finalists have achieved. Every woman who succeeds brings us one step closer to gender equality in the entrepreneurship space. But as governments worldwide plan for economic recovery, we cannot risk leaving a generation of girls and young women behind. We urgently need them to build back better and create the SMEs that are vital to our economies and communities.”
Anna Samokhvalova, Director for Public Affairs Department at Citi in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, said, “Citi enables growth and economic progress in all its activities. The partnership program for youth entrepreneurship development helps transform ideas into successful businesses. Our congratulations to Mariia Plotkina, the participant of our program and the winner, we wish her further success in business.”
The Young Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award took place on 20th October and celebrated 11 of Europe’s most inspiring young women entrepreneurs, who are part of 26,000 young entrepreneurs Youth Business Europe Programme has supported over the past five years, with a tailored package of business training, access to networks, mentoring, and financial advice. Part of Citi Foundation’s Pathways to Progress initiative, the aim of the programme is to help address youth unemployment and access to decent work.
The Youth Business Europe Programme has trained and mentored young female entrepreneurs to equip them with the skills, confidence, and connections they need to become successful business owners. The YBE partnership includes 11 YBI member organisations in 10 countries: Belgium (
This year’s 11 finalists were:
NOTES TO EDITORS
Youth Business International (YBI)
YBI is a global network of expert organisations helping young people around the world to start, grow and sustain businesses, leveraging entrepreneurship to create decent work and drive inclusive economic growth, whilst transforming livelihoods and strengthening communities.
Our efforts are particularly focused on disadvantaged young people, equipping them to build the skills, confidence and connections they need to beat the odds and become successful business owners. By operating at the crossroads of business and social development, we support the entrepreneurs that are shaping the future, working to solve some of the greatest challenges of our time, and creating opportunities – not just for themselves but for us all.
Citi Foundation works to promote economic progress and improve the lives of people in low-income communities around the world. We invest in efforts that increase financial inclusion, catalyse job opportunities for youth, and reimagine approaches to building economically vibrant cities. The Citi Foundation’s “More than Philanthropy” approach leverages the enormous expertise of Citi and its people to fulfil our mission and drive thought leadership and innovation.
Youth Business Europe
In 2015, Youth Business International and Citi Foundation launched Youth Business Europe, a regional programme to support young people to start, grow and sustain their businesses. Through this partnership, we are working together with the Citi Foundation to tackle youth unemployment and drive sustainable economic growth across Europe. The programme has supported more than 26,000 young entrepreneurs, leading to over 6,500 businesses started or strengthened. For more information, visit
For a full list of finalists, visit:
Adenike Adeyemi, YBI Trustee and Executive Director, FATE Foundation
Adenike is a YBI Trustee and was a judge in the Young Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award. She is the Executive Director of FATE Foundation in Nigeria. She leads the Foundation’s efforts to design and implement strategies and programmes that enable aspiring and emerging Nigerian entrepreneurs while fostering enterprise development in Nigeria. We are pleased for Adenike to join us for this online event as Master of Ceremonies (MC).
Anita Tiessen, CEO, YBI
Anita is CEO of YBI, and leads the global network’s efforts to connect members, partners and young people to develop and scale new solutions that leverage the power of entrepreneurship to drive social and economic change. Anita has extensive experience in international development, human rights and leading global networks. She chaired the judging panel for this year’s Young Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
Bonnie Chiu, Managing Director, The Social Investment Consultancy
Bonnie Chiu is an award-winning social entrepreneur, a gender equality advocate and a leading social impact and impact investing consultant. She is a senior contributor to Forbes on gender and diversity and the Managing Director of The Social Investment Consultancy (TSIC), a global network of consultants specialised in impact assessment and impact investing strategies. Bonnie has also been coordinating the Women in Social Finance network.
Pip Jamieson, Founder and CEO, The Dots
Pip Jamieson is the Founder & CEO of The Dots (https://the-dots.com), a professional network for people that don't wear suits to work -'dubbed “The next LinkedIn?' by Forbes. She was named by The Sunday Times as one of the Top 100 Disruptive Entrepreneurs innovating in their respective fields & by Ad Week as one of the 41 trailblazing leaders having a positive impact on the world.
Being a dyslexic sole female tech founder, Pip has put promoting social responsibility and helping business build diverse teams at the heart of everything they do! 68% + of The Dots community is female, 31% + BAME & 16% + LGBT+. The Dots also do a lot of work around socioeconomic diversity and neurodiversity to fuel a more balanced industry of the future.
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