News archive - SPARK: Encouraging a positive entrepreneurial climate in the WBC

The dutch NGO SPARK has undertaken some effective initiatives to help launch promising SMEs in the Western Balkans. By establishing local Business Start-Up Centers (BSCs) in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia and Serbia as well as creating a pan-region Southeast European Network of Start-Up Centers and Incubators (SENSI), SPARK aims at building an enabling environment for entrepreneurs under 35 years old.

The comprehensive program, which seeks to strengthen young entrepreneurs’ motivations, abilities, and opportunities, has begun several supportive programs that see young SMEs through from idea to operation and beyond.

Locally based BSCs organise competitions and training programs to ignite the interest of young entrepreneurs (students, recent graduates, etc). Business Skills Training seminars have attracted hundreds of participants eager to learn crucial skills and know-how for running a private business. Many of them go on to submit entries to the largely successful Business Plan Competitions. Winners of these local competitions are awarded micro-credit loans, coaching and consultancy vouchers, office space or free registration for their business. Since the inception of the Business Plan Competitions, over a hundred full business proposals have been submitted and eighty promising new start-ups have received awards and assistance.

A broad array of programs to support operating SMEs has also been implemented. One project currently underway offers a matching grant to SMEs to pursue international quality standards certification. Such efforts can add momentum to the expanding business sector by increasing international exportation, improving sales, and, subsequently, bringing more income into the local economy through strengthening local businesses’ capacities.

Similarly, Spark has assisted local partners in setting up Business Incubators. These incubators are designed to aid SMEs in their critical first year by offering low rent office space and technical support, such as administrational, accounting, and professional managerial training. Empowering young start-ups with these fundamental skills, knowledge and backing enables them to successfully navigate the difficult initial period of running a small business.

To enhance regional coordination, these Incubators and BSCs are linked together by SENSI, which further strengthens the burgeoning entrepreneurial culture of Southeastern Europe by bringing together Universities, municipal governments and business sector leaders. These exchanges have facilitated knowledge sharing, curriculum development in accordance with EU standards, and established mechanisms to introduce and promote new businesses throughout the region.

Entry created by Katarina Rohsmann on November 7, 2008
Modified on November 7, 2008