Sunday, October 3, 2010

Young Creative Entrepreneurs in Latvia

I had the chance last week to travel to Riga in Latvia as a guest of the British Council.

On Thursday evening I ran a two-hour workshop with local entrepreneurs, creative companies, designers and arts managers. The workshop was the second meeting of the British Council’s Young Entrepreneurs Club in Latvia and the theme was ‘expanding the scope of design’ as the creative industries in Latvia need to look beyond the borders of their country to find new markets for their services and products. We had a skype conference (analogue transmission) from the amazingly flexible Dan Ziglam at DeadGood live from his London office (they are HQed in Newcastle). Dan is a former British Council Young Entrepreneur and he spoke about the journey that he and his partner Elliot Brook had travelled to get to where they are today. This was a very open and really helpful dialogue for the workshop participants.

Then we had a live, in-the-room, face-to-face, physical presentation (terrestrial transmission) from Artis Nimanis the young director behind An&Angel, a local company designing and producing creative crystal and glassware. They have developed some very sophisticated ways of creating layers of colour in glass and have just returned from exhibiting at this year’s Maison&Objet in Paris earlier in September. He too gave a very frank description of the challenges and opportunities that young creative companies face. The company is currently working to export his products to Tokyo, Germany and France.

A repeating theme was the need for Latvian companies to develop better marketing abilities and to grow their competence and confidence to look to markets outside Latvia.

The workshop concluded with thirty or so delegates dividing into six teams and agreeing on three key strategies or actions needed in Latvia. These included:

* Access to finance. Currently, young entrepreneurs in Latvia can get access to some finance, but they need to pay all the costs up front. Only if the grant awarding authority deems the project to have been a success will the company receive funding.

* An active design policy from the government that promotes Latvian design and the role of design into Latvian companies. This would build upon the work being done by the Latvian Design Information Centre and would also build on design policy work completed previously - around 2004-2006 - that currently sems to have stalled under recessionary pressures ( I was told). There is also work that has been completed with regard to the Creative Industries with the definition of the creative industries of Latvia having been entered for the first time into the Guidelines for the State Cultural Policy of Latvia for 2006 – 2015. The British Council was involved in the document, 'Creative Industries in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania', published in 2010.

* Better access to training to increase the professionalisation of design

Thanks to Dace Melbarde and the team at the British Council for involving me in this second event of the British Council's Young Creative Enterpreneurs' Club.

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