Business in the Balkans

Training Course

Montenegro, 12th -18th October 2013 (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Turkey and UK)

This course aimed to demonstrate entrepreneurial skills and business creativity through non-formal education. The course brought together young entrepreneurs from 7 different countries to learn about business start-ups and to look at how to develop their ideas into winning pitches.

This project brought together some of the brightest young entrepreneurial talents from Serbia, Estonia, Turkey, Montenegro, Romania, The United Kingdom and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Participants came to Plav in South East Montenegro to attend a week long training seminar about building business skills and developing entrepreneurial ideas. Throughout the week participants learnt some theoretical background on business and marketing models, as well as engaging in series of challenges and tasks.

During the course, all participants worked in business teams consisting of different nationalities. The teams then worked together to develop new and innovative ideas that met the needs of certain sectors such as health, education etc. Teams worked together and developed their ideas that were later scrutinized by a panel of successful local businessmen from the local area. During the week participants were asked to refine their pitches, have clear plan for delivery and demonstrate how they could bring their product to market and make a profit. By the end of the presentations the local businessmen were very impressed and some were trying to chase participants further to support and learn more about their ideas. It clearly demonstrated to an older generation of business people that young people have great ideas, enthusiasm and a hunger to develop businesses.

Our partners on this programme were:

  • Students Union of Montenegro – Montenegro
  • Istanbul Youth Initiative – Turkey
  • Udruzenje Omladinski centar “Kosmos” – Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Centar za omladinski i društveni razvoj RES POLIS – Serbia
  • Culture helps to breath NGO – Estonia
  • Asociatia B-Right Media – Romania

In addition, participants also got the opportunity to meet with prime time television celebrity Darko Ivanovic, who as well as being one of Montenegro’s most well know presenters is also a successful business man in his own right. Mr Ivanovic gave up his time to travel to Plav and meet with the participants, sharing his story of success. Mr Ivanovic was very open and honest with the participants answering questions and discussing the challenges he faced along the way. After his presentation participants also has some time for informal discussion over coffee and expressed his interest to support further international training courses like these.

Participants also visited a local business which was a furnishing company, who were sustainably creating a range of different furnishings from cabinets, doors to whole kitchens. The business had been running for over 20 year and was developed by 2 local young men. They now employ a whole team, have a full order book and are even selling products outside of the country too. As well as having a chance to explore the workshop participants learnt from the owners how they set up the business from scratch, train new people and maintain its success. Participants were able to ask questions to the owners and staff about their secrets of running a successful business. The visit gave participants a real life example of how to run a business in this area, as well as demonstrating some of the real talent of the area.

Throughout the course we also wanted participants to explore the areas of culture that are new to them, do not understand or find difficult to come to terms with. To achieve this we held a session about exploring stereotypes where participants wrote on post-it notes all the stereotypes they had of each others nations. Fom the former Yugoslavia countries some of the comments were quite tough, such as asking about Srebrenica and Kosovo and Nicolae Ceaușescu. Likewise, Estonians where asked about the issues of Russian minorities in their country. Of course all of these were difficult conversations and the process was managed with a lot of mediation and facilitation. The process was really great as it helped participants to learn about what are the national feelings toward such questions. Whether they agreed or not they learned how to empathise better about the national and cultural values. For example, all Serbians represented at the course could not recognize Kosovo as an independent nation and shared their feeling on why this is the case. Participants were able to listen and hear this from the Serbian perspective and gain an understanding to why the national feeling is the way it is. This allowed the space for some discussion and engage in what we call “the difficult conversations”. We feel that this process is really important to support to continual integration of Europeans and to continue to foster peace. The cultural integration on this project was amazing, participants made strong connections and partnerships as well as forging what seemed like life long friendships.

Some of the main objectives of this training course were:

  • Teaching young people the creative skills needed to become an entrepreneur
  • Demonstrating to youth workers how to create such projects in their own communities
  • Linking young people and youth workers up with inspiring local entrepreneurs as examples of successful business starters
  • Demonstrate project management skills, business theory and marketing techniques
  • Confidence building, presentations skills and self-promotion
  • Highlight funding opportunities for activity with young people such as the YiA programme and  Erasmus +
  • Developing participants cultural competencies and understanding of other nations

Act Global is committed to supporting young people to develop their business skills, increase their employability and work towards helping them develop their own solutions for economic stability.

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