With Croatia still struggling to generate economic growth, the public discourse in Croatia has recently shifted toward the topic of entrepreneurship. Daily newspapers dedicate considerable space to covering the stories of successful entrepreneurs, while television programs have extensively covered the challenges Croatia’s entrepreneurs face.
Despite the large strides made in advancing women’s rights in the last century, women still face systemic disadvantages when entering the workforce, in education, and in getting access to capital. Few would argue against the fact that the economic empowerment of women represents one of the most powerful tools for not only lifting societies out of poverty, but for driving sustainable growth, and promoting genuine equality.
As anyone who’s ever attempted to start a business requiring a sizable initial investment knows, finding funding can be difficult. While there are many different avenues one can use to get financing that gets their business off the ground, one particular method is finding traction and has been attracting significant attention in Croatia and other countries.
The landscape of Croatian business has been drastically changing over the last ten years. According to the Center for Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Technological Development of the Croatian Chamber of Economy, the number of small and medium sized enterprises in Croatia grew by 71% between 2001 and 2011. Currently, SME’s make up just over 51% of Croatia’s GDP, and this is still a way behind of the contribution of SME’s to the Economy of the European Union, which stands at 58%. Despite this, SME’s contribute similarly to aggregate employment, with 66% of both European and Croatian workers employed with SME’s.
At a recent regional forum, Simon Chenev from the SME Policy Development Unit of the European Commission identified two main categories of obstacles entrepreneurs in the Balkans face. One group can be described as bureaucracy and financial obstacles, including the lack of financing, administrative procedures, etc. The other category is mind/attitude obstacles, which include lack of confidence, fear of failure, inertia, etc.
Entrepreneurship cannot be considered a phenomenon that manifests independently of its context. As Daniel Isenberg noted for Forbes, Taiwan’s entrepreneurial explosion was fueled by the Chinese Diaspora in the United States, Ireland’s development in the 1980’s was strongly influenced by Ireland’s free education system, the prevalence of the English language and proximity to the European market, while Israel’s entrepreneurial environment is heavily influenced by military needs, the absence of natural resources, and the far distance to its main markets.