SME Insider has travelled to the European Commission’s SME Assembly in Luxembourg. The three-day spectacle is one of the most important events on the small business calendar, bringing together some of Europe’s brightest minds and successful entrepreneurs to discuss SME policy and help shape the future for the next generation of business owners.
Helping SME leaders collaborate
Held in the European Convention Center in the heart of Luxembourg City, the event began with a rousing speech from Elzibieta Bienkowska, head of the EU SME Envoy and member of the European Commission for Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs.
Bienkowska noted that the landscape for small businesses throughout Europe has improved over the past decade, but has demanded to ‘‘make the EU the best place for SMEs.’’
The European convention, which is also part of ‘European SME Week’, attracted royalty on its first day, with HRH The Grand Duchess of Luxembourg (pictured below, right of centre) taking part in an interactive discussion as part of the Women Entrepreneurs panel.
Some of the world’s most successful female entrepreneurs shared their stories about breaking into the world of business and advised other women on how to do the same.
Empowering women to start their own business
Amy Millman, founder of non-profit venture Springboard Enterprises, a company whose mission is to facilitate women entrepreneurs access to the equity markets, spoke exclusively to SME Insider.
She told us that up until recently, it wasn’t common too see such a large number of women striving in the field of business, but now there are so many support networks to build on female success.
Millman acknowledged however that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it will take time for women to be ‘‘noticed as leaders’’ as much as their male counterparts.
Look out for the full interview with the Springboard Enterprises founder in the coming days, as she gives some great advice on how women can break into the equity market with their own SME.
Celebrating SME success
One of the biggest attractions at the SME Assembly is the European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA), with SMEs and business incubators all over Europe coming together to be celebrated and recognised for their achievements.
Flying the flag for the UK is Charles Cracknell, secretary of the John Cracknell Enterprise bank, a Hull-based initiative that offers grants of up to £1,000 for individuals or groups of young people who need finance to help make their idea happen. I spoke to Charles, who is nominated for the ‘promoting the entrepreneurial spirit’ award.
Charles told me about his dislike for the word ‘entrepreneur’, calling it a ‘‘buzzword that people in the business support sector have latched onto,’’ claiming that many people don’t actually know what the word really represents.
We also spoke about what David Cameron is doing for small business owners, how small children deserve to learn more about enterprising and why he thinks Yorkshire should gain its own major when the government’s devolution plans come into place.
Improving SME policy
The event also brought about a discussion on the recently released SME report, which gives an overview on how small European businesses have grown over the past 12 months, despite finding that SME owners are employing less people than they were in 2008.
An ‘Open Space’ opportunity was created within the convention centre to allow hundreds of assembly visitors to freely discuss what was found in the report.
The report found however that despite the economic crisis which is still being felt by some European firms, 1 in 5 SMEs reported a growth in their workforce, with the majority of those being young startups. The EU’s Growth department also report recognised the need to:
- Help create more successful SME’s, particularly in the construction and manufacturing industry.
- Ensure that SME-friendly public policies are further strengthened to support startups, improve access to finance, reduce red tape and assist SMEs in finding new markets, particularly within the EU.
- Improving policy initiatives, such as the EU commission’s ‘Single Market Strategy’, which is crucial for growth and job creation.
SME Insider also chatted to Tristan Wilkinson, founder of Digital Citizens, an SME-focused agency which helps small and microbusinesses improve their infrastructure.
Tristan believes that the government is doing great things for small businesses, including its recent pledge to improve broadband speeds, but more can be done to push small businesses even forward.
We discussed how UK entrepreneurs are now able to bring their business dreams to life with the help of investors and technology, and Tristan gave aspiring business leaders three tips for success.
Look out for all of these interviews and my Day 2 roundup in the next few days, but for now ‘Äddi!’ (That’s goodbye in Luxembourgish).