The youth conference held in Tallinn served as a kind of symbolic introduction to the Pan-European Entrepreneurship Day celebrated today.
Compared to the beginning of the nineties, when starting a mysterious, but so alluring business was almost a cherished dream of any young man who respects himself more or less, the interest of modern youth in entrepreneurial activity has somewhat cooled down. But it didn’t dry out: those who arrived last Wednesday at the conference center of the Tallinn Viru Sokos hotel could see for themselves.
Here and now
The pan-European Day of Entrepreneurship is celebrated, as you know, on October 9th. However, the youth conference preceding it took place in Tallinn the day before. Is it worth, however, to be surprised if the phrase Tdna pole liiga vara became its very slogan. Which is translated from Estonian as “Today is not too early.”
The Tallinn Conference, organized by MTÜ Õpilasest ettevõtjaks (“From Students to Entrepreneurs”), was preceded by the events on Monday and Tuesday in Pärnu and Tartu, respectively. Despite the fact that they took place under formally different mottos and differed in the selection of lecturers and the range of topics addressed, their main thing was the desire to awaken in senior pupils and students, perhaps for some time, their slumbering attitude towards entrepreneurship. And not just to awaken, but also to strengthen faith in one’s abilities – and at the same time to learn how and where it is possible to apply them best.
Orientation towards the “open world” is what perhaps characterizes the conference of young entrepreneurs held in Tallinn most of all. During the reports and the discussions that followed, the participants in the event were invited to discuss, for example, what to consider when running their own business at the international level. Or, exactly what skills of workers should be developed in order to be successful in markets outside the borders of their native country. They also discussed how to overcome their own fear of a young enterprise entering the international market and what rash steps should be avoided.
The foundation of prosperity
The appearance of the vice speaker of the Riigikogu Kristiina Oyuland among the lecturers of the Tallinn conference is not an accident. Her entrepreneurial experience, counted back from sewing at home children’s clothing during the “individual labor activity” of the perestroika era, multiplied by work in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Estonia, gives her the right to talk about the development trends of entrepreneurial activity in modern Europe as an expert.
As K. Oyuland was forced to note, the average economic indicators of the European Union at the moment are far from the most rosy. The average economic growth in the eurozone states is only 0.2%, while inflation has risen to 4.1%, which does not meet the standards established by the Maastricht criteria. It is easiest to survive in such difficult “rules of the game” micro-enterprises with no more than ten employees: their share of the total number in the EU states is 91.8%. “The same trend is visible in our country,” says C. Oyuland. “If in Soviet times the majority of existing enterprises were large, now over forty percent of those registered in Estonia are micro-enterprises.”
On the whole, the labor market in the modern ER is characterized, according to C. Oyuland, such negative phenomena as a sharp and inconsistent increase in salaries, a slow change in the economic structure, and most importantly – the lack of skilled labor and entrepreneurial skills in most of the population: residents of Estonia and to this day they prefer not to invest but to spend. “The basis of good economic health in Estonia should be a strict budget policy, a simple tax system and an efficiently functioning state,” said the Vice-Speaker of the Riigikogu.
Roman Babinets tells students about the production
On October 6-10, Narva hosts the Entrepreneurship Week, organized by the city government. An open day at the Narva Business Advisory Services, seminars for start-up entrepreneurs, a student companies fair – these and other events should stimulate the interest of citizens in expanding the horizons of business activity in small and medium-sized businesses.
Another important point – the city Department of Development and Economics at the start of the week announced the start of the traditional, seventh contest “Narva Entrepreneur”, the results of which will be announced at the end of December. The aim of the competition is to encourage the best firms and the most successful entrepreneurs and give impetus to business development. Only seven competitive nominations, in particular, the best prize will be awarded to the best entrepreneur of 2008, awards await the best employer, investor, novice entrepreneur, as well as the best businessman in the field of tourism and the best woman entrepreneur.
Within the framework of the week, there are many events aimed at schoolchildren and youth. So, students of Grade 8A of the Humanitarian Gymnasium familiarized themselves with great interest with the production at the factory for the production of table tennis rackets. The enterprise with its products occupies a quarter of the European market. The tour for teens was conducted by NTB Plant Executive Director Roman Babinets.
What tasks is solved by one of the first consulting centers that appeared in Estonia at one time – Central Administration of Narva Business Center, says Andrei Pobezhimov, international project manager of this target institution:
The main objective of the Narva Business Advisory Services remains to promote entrepreneurship and promote regional development of the North-East of Estonia. Recall that the NBAS in the market of consulting services has been around for 15 years.
Our center continues to be a non-profit organization providing a range of services to existing entrepreneurs and participating in various international projects. I’ll give a few figures reflecting our activities over the years of work: the total amount of funds raised for our clients amounted to about 10 million EUR, we prepared more than 100 business plans and financial justifications, we took part and implemented more than 60 international projects, contributed to the creation of more 800 jobs. The staff of the business center also prepared an investment project for the creation of a yacht port in Narva-Jõesuu, among other things, our socio-economic activity was expressed in the creation of the first lodging house in Northeast Estonia.
At present, due to the economic difficulties that our state and entrepreneurship are currently experiencing, we have somewhat shifted our focus to the following areas.
Market trends tell us that in a critical situation there is always the opportunity to profitably buy or sell an existing business. It is no secret that sometimes selling a business becomes the only solution. Our center has developed a number of criteria for evaluating enterprises, including analysis of sales and profitability, calculation of liquidity and, as the final result, a buyer search.
Today, every entrepreneur probably faces the difficulty of obtaining a loan for the development of activities, therefore we urge all entrepreneurs to use alternative sources of financing, that is, to be more active and participate in the programs offered by the Estonian structural funds. The thing is that banks are more disposed to issue loans to those companies that participate in the programs of the Estonian structural funds, as well as in the programs of the EAS Entrepreneurship Development Foundation, which, by providing financial support, thereby shares the risks with the bank. As a rule, a loan is aimed at covering the share of co-financing of an enterprise in a project.
Our new activity today is the creation of clusters. The classic definition of a cluster is the geographical concentration of interconnected companies, specialized suppliers, service providers, firms working in related fields, and their associated institutions (for example, universities, standards agencies, trade associations) that compete but also cooperate and complement each other. The main goal of the cluster is to obtain the added value of exports and access to foreign markets.
We began to master this topic and came to the conclusion that the economic environment and opportunities of our region are the best suited for the creation of such associations. We are currently preparing a petition for the Cluster Development Program (EAS), we are cooperating with local governments and entrepreneurs. In particular, we have reached an agreement with the mayor of Narva Tarmo Tammiste to cooperate in this direction. By the way, as part of the Entrepreneurship Week, on October 8, from 13 o’clock, in the conference room of the Inger Hotel, the business center will hold a seminar on what clusters are and what benefits they bring for entrepreneurs and the region as a whole.
The business center remains faithful to consulting support on foreign economic activity and internationalization, which is expressed in holding business meetings and training trips abroad for entrepreneurs. We continue to help attract investors. One of the latest achievements is the involvement of Saros Design, a well-known company in Russia for the production of stretch ceilings. The company successfully implements its projects in Estonia, creates jobs.
Today, there is quite a lot of competition in the consulting services market. It is no secret that there is an opinion that there are companies in the EAS environment that have the ability to lobby projects. However, the recent joint appeal of EAS, the Union of Estonian Advisers and the Union of Estonian Training Firms regarding the use of funds of the new structural period allows us to hope that fair competition is possible in this area too, and our entrepreneurs can safely contact us for the development of their business projects under programs help EAS.
Narvite Andrey Pobezhimov received secondary education at a school at the Russian Embassy in Italy, Rome. Higher education – graduated from the University of Malta with a degree in psychology. Incomplete higher education – University of Malta (economics and management). He has been working at the Narva Business Center since 2005.