Dr Celia Hadjichristodoulou is the Founder and Managing Director of GrantXpert, a consulting and training company with an expertise in EU and national funding programmes. During the past 14 years their research and training team has been involved in more than 100 funded projects and has implemented more than 80 training seminars for kids, young people, adults, and professionals with thousands of participants.

“We have expertise in the areas of entrepreneurship education, startup development, soft skills, digital skills, employability skills, the future of work and social inclusion of vulnerable groups. Our team has helped organisations (SMEs, research centres, Universities, NGOs, training institutions, municipalities) from Cyprus and the EU to absorb more than 35m since 2009, contributing to GrantXpert’s steady and continuous expansion, in a rapidly growing industry.

“In the past one year, I am also actively involved in a new business venture, the Future Skills Hub, a new unit of the European University Cyprus, aiming to upskill and reskill young graduates and professionals in emerging contexts and empower the citizen of tomorrow through learning and doing. This is an innovative venture for our country and the region, and we are working intensively in creating a hub that will be the most powerful source of professional education and lifelong learning for the generation of the future.

“I was also very honoured to receive the National Award “Woman Entrepreneur of the Year” at the Madame Figaro Women of the Year Awards.”

Tell us about your vision, and what makes GrantXpert unique?
“Our team’s mission is to deliver solutions, stemming from multi-disciplinary strategic partnerships at EU level, tackling current and future societal, digital & green challenges. The overall vision is to change and improve EU citizens’ life and maximising the overall impact of our funded projects.

“GrantXpert is also a leader in the development of innovative educational programmes and many of our Erasmus+ projects have been selected as “success stories” at national and EU level. Currently, our network of EU partners consists of more than 1000 organisations in all member states, enriched on a continuous basis.

“GrantXpert currently employs a team of 20 multidisciplinary and high-calibre professionals with expertise in diverse areas, including entrepreneurship, business administration, marketing, STEM/STEAM education, life sciences, social media management and communications, event planning and financial management.

“What makes our GrantXpert team unique is our high-level of professionalism, our proven, core expertise in providing training and consulting services to local and EU organisations and our successful track-record in implementing research work on entrepreneurial, business and other educational topics.”

How does GrantXpert empower business growth through innovation?
“One of our key areas of expertise is the support we provide to new and current entrepreneurs, through training, consulting, and mentoring services. GrantXpert assists existing businesses, young entrepreneurs, and startup founders in utilising EU and national funds for the development, growth, and enhanced competitiveness of their businesses.

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“We also organise a number of training seminars and participate as guest speakers in events that encourage young people, women, and other marginalised groups to become interested in the area of entrepreneurship and the development of their own business idea.

“Very often we provide mentoring services to startup founders through our relevant EU funded projects and the “Microsoft for Startups” programme that we implement on behalf of the European University Cyprus. In the past six years we have also supported more than 50 SMEs that want to grow their businesses further to embrace digital transformation in their everyday activities and become better equipped in handling the challenges of the future.”

As a woman with a pioneering role, how have you played a key part in bringing about change, and how are these changes enhancing your organisation’s potential for future growth?
“We can all contribute through small steps of progress in the advancement of our society, through our example and actions. One of the things that is very close to my heart is the empowerment of young girls. As a team we often visit schools in Cyprus and Greece and organise engaging and fun workshops for teenagers, aiming to equip them with the necessary self-confidence and soft skills that will help them achieve their future dreams.

“Through these talks, we emphasise the importance of resilience, of how failure is part of our lives, and how we need to take the lesson from each failure and not become devastated when something goes wrong. We also present to young people the professions and the skills of the future. This makes young people think in a more open-minded way about their future, what they want to become, how they can follow a successful career path, while developing their soft skills (communication, teamwork, analytical decision making, solving problems) simultaneously.”

How does an increase in the number of women in the workforce benefit businesses and organisations?
“Women constitute half of the world population. By enhancing the number of women that are active in the workforce and by encouraging them to take on more leadership positions – at all levels (in the private and public sphere) – we create stronger, more resilient and more impactful businesses and organisations.

“Women have a different skillset than men. We need both men and women to be actively involved in the workforce and to have equal opportunities for growth and career advancement, as the organisations and the national economy benefit in the long-run through this equal treatment of both men and women.”

What does it mean to be a female pioneer in your industry, in this day and age?
“Nowadays, we see around us great women role models, women who are pioneers and leaders in their industries, the organisations they work for, or the companies they have created. This gives me great hope for the future, as our girls today can become inspired and motivated through these women role models.

“When I organise workshops for girls, I often show these great examples of female leaders from across Cyprus, Greece, Europe, and the world, helping them see themselves through these examples. This gives them hope that it is possible to achieve their wildest dreams, aim high, not seeing any limiting factor along the way.

“I also mention to these girls that it is not easy to combine a successful career and a happy married life with children, it is a daily struggle to achieve work-life balance and you need a great support system around you.”

Did you have a woman leader as a mentor, or are there specific women who inspire you and why?
“I am fortunate to have had the chance to work with, interact with, and learn a great deal from a variety of women over the years in both my personal and business life. It is an ongoing, never-ending process, and I continue to learn from my coworkers, collaborators, and customers every day.

“I draw inspiration from both well-known female leaders and regular women because they share a trait in common: they are warriors. Women who successfully juggle a fulfilling personal life with a great career are my role models because they maintain their identity throughout the process.

“Some traits shared by these women include humility, friendliness, kindness, and sensitivity. Sometimes we confuse harshness with our dynamic work persona, which can be tricky. I admire women who are emotionally accessible to their family, friends, and coworkers.”