Despite their fearless attitude, young entrepreneurs admit that their first steps would have been a challenge without help from others. Small entrepreneurial incubators are increasingly popular, with over a hundred now operational countrywide. Most are privately run, which would have seemed impossible in the late 1990s. In the early days of our move towards capitalism, nobody could have imagined that the state would help small businesses find their feet. However, global experience demonstrates that most new start-up companies, despite lacking money or experience, can find success with the smallest of nudges. Expert advice is vital however, including on how to behave with business partners and clients.
The corridors of the Youth Social Services building are quiet, although almost 150 new companies work there, in the fields of tourism, design, IT, public catering, advertising and consulting. Some are novices, while others are already recognised as ‘successful businesses’.
Gennady Myastovsky, who heads an advertising company, recollects the days when he rented just one desk in the building. “Three years ago, I was registered as an individual entrepreneur; now, my company employs 20 people — including a lawyer and an accountant. Previously, we outsourced these positions to our incubator neighbours. Working here has been truly advantageous, as we enjoy co-operation with those who share our determination: partners and similarly young and developing projects. We help each other, which is vital in the early days. Rental fees are affordable too, which is an undisputable advantage for newcomers. Though lacking enough money to rent an office, they can rent a working place,” he explains.
The General Director of Youth Social Services, Rimma Yepur, compares the incubator with a beehive, full of worker bees. As each business grows, it helps its neighbours, acting as a mentor. Relatively low rents are a real help for young businesses; in their first year of operation, they are charged just Br90,000 per month per square metre. Importantly, the incubator fully covers its own costs.
However, many problematic issues remain. Ms. Yepur explains, “Our key task is to stir up entrepreneurship across the regions. It’s vitally important that we ensure communication between business representatives in Minsk and the regions. It’s sometimes harder for the latter to develop, but Minsk colleagues can render support and help. We’ve already developed a programme for regional entrepreneurs, which envisages a moderately priced two-day stay in Minsk, including accommodation, food and attendance at master classes and lectures at our Youth Social Services. Those at the incubator will thereby help other business bees.”
Foreigners have been attending the incubator, such as Syrian Daniel Yusef, who offers services in design and architecture. He sees it as a great opportunity to establish contacts and accumulate experience. Success seems ‘inevitable’, as Svetlana Koltsova, who oversees small businesses for Youth Social Services, admits. She tells us that only a small number of incubator leavers fail to continue in business; most develop well, although they sometimes change direction. Very few leave the market altogether.
The incubator currently has room for three or four new young companies and is open to applications. Few can doubt the benefits of joining.
Irina Kostevich, Deputy Economy Minister
We’re now observing positive dynamics in the development of entrepreneurship: the number of commercial organisations in the country has risen by over 300 within the past six months. There are 5,000 new enterprises registered and 4,665 have ceased operation. We understand that the infrastructure of business support helps inspire business development and we’ve achieved progress in this sphere: 107 economic entities are operational in the field of infrastructure — including 16 business incubators and 61 centres of support.
In addition, we plan to establish a register of administrative procedures for entrepreneurs in coming years, aimed at three issues. Firstly, an information portal will be launched to help businessmen find the necessary administrative procedure and understand steps to be taken. Secondly, the project will fulfill a transaction function, allowing procedure to be conducted online. Thirdly, we hope to optimise administrative procedures.
By Andrey Krotov
Photo: Vitaly Gil
Photo: Vitaly Gil