Watering the seeds of creative entrepreneurship in Flanders
This project gives young entrepreneurs the professional support they need in crucial management areas such as communication and marketing, finance, business organisation and the development of innovative ideas.
Projects such as this are helping the EU to become a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy by 2020, as set out in the EU 2020 growth strategy. The EU is facing some tough challenges, including an ageing population, an insufficiently qualified workforce, the need for greater innovation, striking a balance between economic growth and environmental degradation, and ensuring secure, clean energy supplies. Regional policy projects across the EU are playing an active role in dealing with these and many other challenges, by undertaking projects designed to generate employment, raise educational achievement, develop renewable energy sources, boost productivity and give all citizens access to opportunities. The projects and the regions play a pivotal role in this, as they generate real results that contribute to achieving the strategy’s key goals.
The underlying project aim is to revitalise entrepreneurship across Flanders by combining it with creativity. The support provided has included guiding 130 participating Creative Starters, holding Summer schools, arranging networking opportunities and press coverage and launching 20 cooperation contracts between Creative Starters.
Triggering start-up action
For years, Flanders has struggled to develop a strong start-up culture, finding itself well short of other European countries as noted by the 2007 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, the rates in West Flanders being particularly low. In late 2007, the entrepreneurial centre ‘Ondernemerscentrum Kortrijk’ started providing new assistance to start-ups. It soon became clear that they needed a professional sounding board for business plans and key decision-making during the start-up process.
The project therefore delivers young entrepreneurs expert support in how to communicate and market their goods and services, what sort of financial structure and business organisation is suitable, and how to take their innovative ideas forward. Their view is that by combining creativity and entrepreneurship, the ‘creative starters’ will act as a lever for revitalising entrepreneurship and set good examples of success, effectively acting as ambassadors of the entrepreneurial spirit.
Opportunities taken by budding entrepreneurs
One of the many successful initiatives has been the Summer school, during which young entrepreneurs were given the chance to think about their entrepreneurial capacities as well as business ideas and business plans, and learn how to move forward; the two Summer schools held attracted 40 participants. An experts week also provided an opportunity for key note speakers and business trend experts to help optimise creative ideas and develop workable business plans. Other significant milestones in the project are the development of a digital follow-up tool, 23 housing proposals and 27 Creativity shows.
Looking ahead, the project also wants to develop an informal network of business centres, advisers and academics for the future support of young entrepreneurs, ensuring that Flanders rises once more in the ranks of European start-ups.