Tag ‘small business’
Today on Promoting Enterprise we are bringing you the first of our ‘COVID Stories’ which will look at how companies and people have been affected by the current pandemic and how they are adapting to their new business environments.
Our first story focuses on Catherine Lorent, a Belgian micro SME owner who has used her sewing business to aid the medical sector and general public by learning how to make masks and fabricating them, as well as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as gowns and shirts for nurses at children’s hospitals who found themselves facing shortages as the urgent demand for PPE continued to rise.
In this interview she tells about what motivated her to start her business and how she brought her plans to fruition, as well as the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on her business.
Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your business?
My name is Catherine Lorent and I own a sewing business called ‘L’Or en 4’. I started my current business in 2017 after I had become unemployed. Up until that point I had been working for a company for many years, until it closed around 2016. I was 54 at the time and I realised that my re-employment opportunities were limited due to my age and that it would be potentially difficult to reintegrate into the workforce.
It was at this point that I decided to re-pursue my passion for sewing, and try and make a business out of it to be able to keep working. I’ve always enjoyed sewing and I did have a small business at one point so I decided to start it up again as I wanted to become independent and work for myself.
My sewing business covers just about everything, I’m a seamstress so I can fix clothes, furnishings (like curtains and upholstery), and I also do restoration work. In addition, I’m a creative seamstress so I help people bring their designs to life and co-create bespoke pieces for them from scratch.
What were the initial effects of COVID-19 on you and your business?
At the beginning of the pandemic it was really stressful because my clients stopped coming to my premises to have their garments tailored due to the lockdown measures which really affected my source of income. What’s more, some of my contracts started to be put on hold or dry up, like my work with the scouts to produce their scarves, seeing as all activities were suspended. The cancellation of several events also had quite a big knock on effect. My business is also tied to a lot of shops, as I work with several of them as their main seamstress for alterations, and when they had to close due to the health measures that also halted another line of work for me.
Overall it was an incredibly stressful period, and at one point I called one of my sons who helps me with the business and told him that I thought that I was going to have to close my business and stop working. I just couldn’t see how to replace my normal work and keep my business afloat. It was a difficult moment for both of us but it made me realise just how passionate I am about what I do and that I wanted to keep going however I could.
When and how did you start making masks for the hospitals?
I started making the masks as an act of solidarity as I realised that supplies were low and there was a genuine need. There was also this general expectation that people with skills like mine should pitch in and help out the hospitals and travelling nurses where they could, so I started experimenting with patterns and construction and making my first fabric masks. There was a lot of trial and error at the beginning as there were no official guidelines, requirements or certifications in Belgium for non-medical grade masks at the time.
Even sourcing the correct fabric was difficult during lockdown and I began by using my own stocks of hard polyester. When I ran out I turned to my own network to source more in order to keep up with demand. The fabric shop owner that I work with really helped out and at one point was throwing my fabric order down to me from a window! This was the only way that we could keep our supply chain going and helping the hospitals whilst keeping ourselves safe and socially distancing. It really emphasised that sense of community and just highlighted how everyone wanted to play their part and work together.
At this stage I was being paid by the national government via a dedicated scheme (Droit passerelle pour indépendants / Overbruggingsrecht voor zelfstandigen) for the self-employed that needed temporary financial support due to COVID-19. Through the scheme I was paid for my time and contribution so I was able to keep the business afloat, but I was still quite worried about how to keep my business going in the future.
What about the hospital gowns and shirts, when did you start making those?
Once I had already started making masks I saw an appeal on Facebook that was launched to find seamstresses willing to help children’s hospitals. The nurses that were working in these hospitals were running out of protective clothing as the main hospitals treating COVID-19 patients used up most of the supplies. The appeal asked for help in producing this protective clothing but also for the seamstresses to try and source ‘fun’ fabrics, as these nurses were treating young patients. I responded to the appeal and managed to make shirts for the nurses out of recycled fabric that I already had.
That is something else that I really stand for, the idea of recycling fabric or using what you have. Where possible I want to respond to the need for new products but not contribute to waste or harm the environment. If I can, I re-use or recycle fabrics or upcycle existing products into something completely new.
What was it like diversifying your activities to include masks and protective clothing? Was it difficult to keep up with demand?
At first it was a slower uptake but then it got to a point where I was not able to do it all on my own. I was very lucky to have neighbours giving me their time and helping out, as well as my sons. I taught them to sew when they were young so they helped me on the weekends to keep up with the orders and make sure we got everything out on time.
How did Catherine continue to diversify her business? How is she doing now and where does she see the future of her industry? Find out all of this and more in our next interview right here on the Promoting Enterprise News Portal. You can follow L’Or en 4 on Instagram and Facebook.
Have you got a COVID Story like Catherine’s to tell? Do you know an SME owner that has adapted to COVID-19 and wants to share their story? We would love to hear about it and feature it right here on the News Portal. Contact us at: email@example.com
Intellectual property (IP) can improve the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and provide a potential source of revenue. However, SMEs often lack the time, resources, or knowledge to address IP issues.
What is Intellectual Property?
As defined by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), a self-funding agency of the United Nations, Intellectual Property (IP) “refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.”
With different types of IP such as Copyright, trademarks, Patents and more, IP represents a potential source of income for SMEs that may be overlooked.
Where can I learn more about IP and get advice?
Learning about IP and the associated rights is important and the EU funds specialised helpdesks staffed by experts. These helpdesks provide multilingual support, advice, training sessions and further IP related information.
There are four different EU funded helpdesks to choose from:
- European IPR Helpdesk
- Specialised helpdesk for European SMEs in China
- Specialised helpdesk for European SMEs in South-East Asia
- Specialised helpdesk for European SMEs in Latin America
Learn more about European IP support for SMEs and
discover further resources right here.
This year, a record number of 32 countries entered the competition, with the most popular category being “Promoting the Entrepreneurial Spirit”. The Jury meeting took place yesterday in Brussels to review the national entries and decide on the shortlist for the 2015 European Enterprise Promotion Awards. The winners for each of the six categories will be announced at the Awards which will take place at the SME Assembly in Luxembourg on Thursday 19 November.
This year’s Jury was made up of members of the outgoing Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the current Luxembourg Presidency along with representatives from the European Commission, the Committee of the Regions, business, and academia.
The European Enterprise Promotion Awards showcase the most successful promoters of enterprise and entrepreneurship around Europe. They celebrate the best entrepreneurship policies and practices, create a greater awareness of the role entrepreneurs play in society and encourage and inspire budding entrepreneurs from across Europe.
Since 2006, the Awards have rewarded excellence in promoting entrepreneurship and small business at a national, regional and local level. Watch highlights from the 2014 ceremony here.
The six European Enterprise Promotion Awards categories are:
Promoting the entrepreneurial spirit
Recognises initiatives at national, regional or local level that promote an entrepreneurial mindset especially among young people and women.
Investing in entrepreneurial skills
Recognises initiatives at national, regional or local level to improve entrepreneurial and managerial skills.
Improving the business environment
Recognises innovative policies at national, regional or local level which promote enterprise start-up and growth, simplify legislative and administrative procedures for businesses and implement the “Think Small First” principle in favour of small and medium-sized enterprises.
Supporting the internationalisation of business
Recognises policies and initiatives that encourage at national, regional or local level enterprise and particularly small and medium-sized businesses to benefit more from the opportunities offered by markets both inside and outside the European Union.
Supporting the development of green markets and resource efficiency
Recognises policies and initiatives at national, regional or local level that support SME access to green markets and help to improve their resource efficiency through, for example, green skills development and matchmaking as well as funding.
Responsible and inclusive entrepreneurship
Recognises national, regional or local initiatives by authorities or public/private partnerships that promote corporate social responsibility among small and medium sized enterprises. This category will also recognise efforts to promote entrepreneurship among disadvantaged groups such as the unemployed, especially long term unemployed, legal migrants, disabled or people from ethnic minorities.
The Grand Jury Prize can be from any category and will go to the entry considered the most creative and inspiring entrepreneurship initiative in Europe.
SMEs are independent companies with fewer than 250 employees.
They provide two out of every three private sector jobs in the European Union and are responsible for 85% of new jobs created. SMEs account for 67% of total employment and 58% of gross value added (GVA).
Latest research shows that SMEs continue to form the bedrock of the European economy, with some 20.6 million companies employing more than 87 million people. SMEs account for more than 99.8% of all enterprises.
Micro companies – defined as enterprises with fewer than 10 employees – represent the biggest share of enterprise in the EU (92%).
The European Enterprise Promotion Awards recognises and celebrates organisations and initiatives that use ground breaking, creative ways to help to create and sustain Europe’s SME and entrepreneurship community.
Each country participates in European SME Week in a way relevant to its own small and medium-sized enterprise community, so we interviewed Olga Nikolopoulou, National Coordinator for Greece, to find out more.
How does the Week work in Greece?
It seems to be working quite well, as we tend to get a serious number of applications to hold events every year. Entrepreneurs, young people, students and various stakeholders are always interested in being informed about the available European Union financial instruments for the support of small and medium-sized enterprises. They also seek training and networking opportunities.
Which organisations are involved?
The General Secretariat for Industry of the Ministry of Development and Competitiveness and the Union of Hellenic Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
How do you promote European SME Week?
As soon as the SME Week platform gets activated, we begin our SME Week promotional campaign through various channels, such as: e-mail campaigns to targeted stakeholders, via social media, the Ministry of Development & Competitiveness’s interactive digital platform startupgreece.gov.gr which numbers over 5,600 members, relevant articles published in several Ministries’ newsletters, as well as direct communication with potentially interested parties.
What did you learn from last year’s events?
In 2013, we successfully co-organized “Europe 2020 Strategy for Growth: Promoting Business Partnerships in Greece” with the European Commission. The two-day event promoted business partnerships between Greek and European businesses in six developing sectors. 300 Greek enterprises, 110 foreign enterprises from 25 countries participated and over 1,300 business meetings were held between attending businesses. We learned that entrepreneurs are eager for any kind of networking opportunities, especially for entering new international markets.
And finally, what impact does European SME Week have in Greece?
Taking into account the fact that SMEs in Greece represent 99.6% of total enterprises, it is obvious that economic development in the country relies on successful SMEs. European SME Week events are therefore very popular.
Adopted in June 2008, the Small Business Act for Europe (SBA) reﬂects the European Commission’s recognition of the central role that SMEs play in the EU economy. For the first time, it sets out a comprehensive SME policy framework for the EU and its Member States.
The aim of the Act is to improve the overall approach to entrepreneurship and permanently embed the ‘Think Small First’ principle in policy-making – from regulation to public service. The Act promotes SME growth by helping them tackle problems which hamper their development, particularly focusing on initiatives that help small businesses by:
• Cutting red tape
• Providing access to ﬁnance
• Increasing access to markets
Finally, the Act also aims to deliver a longer-term shift in attitudes – creating a greater awareness of the role entrepreneurs play in society and encouraging and inspiring potential new entrepreneurs.
Who is responsible for driving the SBA forward?
As part of a review of the Small Business Act, the Commission invited Member States to nominate a national SME Envoy to complement the role of the European Commission’s SME Envoy, Mr Daniel Calleja Crespo. Together with representatives of EU-level SME business organisations, the network of SME Envoys facilitates the implementation of the Small Business Act on a European level and in Member States.
An SBA spin-off: the EEPAs
The European Enterprise Promotion Awards support the aims of the Small Business Act by recognising innovation and rewarding the success of public bodies and public-private partnerships in promoting enterprise & entrepreneurship at a national, regional and local level.
Where can those involved in promoting enterprise find relevant European Commission resources?
Enterprise & Industry Magazine
The Enterprise & Industry online magazine covers issues related to SMEs, innovation, entrepreneurship, the single market for goods, competitiveness and environmental protection, industrial policies across a wide range of sectors and more.
The printed edition of the magazine is published three times a year. You can subscribe online to receive it – in English, French, German or Italian – free of charge by post.
European Small Business Portal
Want to ﬁnd out what the EU does to boost small businesses in Europe and on the global market and what it can do for your business? This multilingual portal gathers together all the information provided by the European Commission on and for SMEs, ranging from practical advice to policy issues, from local contact points to networking links.
Secrets of Success brochure
As part of European SME Week, the European Commission publishes Secrets of Success to help inspire both those new to entrepreneurship and existing small business owners and promoters who could benefit from reading about the experiences and best practice of their European peers.
European SME Week
The Week, in 2014 held between 29 September and 5 October, promotes enterprise in 37 countries through events, of which 1500 were held in 2013. Find out about European SME Week events for 2014.
Business Planet is a series of videos published by Euronews and created in partnership with the European Commission. The videos cover topics such as:
- Making the most of EU financial support tools
- University support for budding entrepreneurs
- Japan: European entrepreneurs’ eastern ‘getaway’ to new markets
Category | Grand Jury Prize
A special prize awarded to the entrepreneurial initiative considered the most creative and inspiring in Europe
Making enterprise a realistic option for the hard-to-reach
Outset, YKTO Ltd, United Kingdom
Outset is designed to show the unemployed that self-employment and enterprise is a realistic alternative to unemployment.
Specifically created to help the most vulnerable groups, including the long-term unemployed, recently redundant, under-25s, women, people from minority ethnic backgrounds, people with mental and physical disabilities and those who are over 50 years of age, the programme takes a unique approach to supporting start-ups. A national project that works in urban and rural settings, it seeks to change beliefs about the ability to start a small business.
The project ethos involves using support teams that often have similar challenging backgrounds, come from the same local areas and have had first-hand experience of being self-employed or running a business. Outset actively reaches, through all types of community spaces, from sports centres to Diwali and Chinese New Year festivals to find the people that will benefit most. This in-person outreach is reinforced by highly effective, targeted promotions including radio ads with direct response SMS facilities, quirky and enticing posters, postcards and flyers plus online and email marketing and lots of social media such as Facebook and Twitter. We use normal, jargon-free language.
Since the start of the programme, Outset has engaged with over 6,000 people. Of those, 673 have started a business, together creating 890 jobs. Outset Finance has helped its clients raise £790,258 from a variety of funding sources to either start or expand their business.
Most importantly, the businesses that Outset support do last: survival rates, particularly for women entrepreneurs, far outstrip national averages. Within disadvantaged client groups, conversion rates from engagement to start are approximately 1:5 and Outset’s new business survival rate after four years is over 80%.
Bev Hurley, Chief Executive
St John’s Innovation Centre, Cowley Road, Cambridge CB4 0WS, UK
Category | Promoting the Entrepreneurial Spirit
Recognising actions that promote an entrepreneurial culture and mindset and raise awareness about entrepreneurship in society.
Boosting women’s entrepreneurship by providing easy access to financing Women’s Co-operative Bank Ltd Women’s Co-operative Bank ‘initiative’ Ltd, Cyprus
The Women’s Co-operative Bank seeks to boost women’s entrepreneurship by providing easy access to financing. The organisation identifies gaps in the economy, promotes support programmes for female entrepreneurs and provides free advice and guidance, as well as loans, that are tailor-made to the needs of small business owners. Since the project began, women’s entrepreneurship has increased in Cyprus overall from 12% in 2001, to 28% in 2012.
Artemis Toumazi, Chairman/Director
Sinergatikos Organismos Protovoulias, Ginekon Kiprou Ltd, 30 Pavlou Valdaseridi Street, Branches 1-4, 6018 Larnaca, Postal Code 42251 6530, Larnaca, Cyprus
Category | Investing in Skills
Recognises regional or local initiatives to improve entrepreneurial, vocational, technical and managerial skills
Fostering knowledge transfer and digital visualisation
Visualisation Park, Sweden
Visualisation Park in Sweden focuses on the commercial application of digital visualisation technology. Using a business park model, the location in Eksjö offers a home to a cluster of businesses with expertise in this emerging field. They are gathered around Campus i12, which offers a range of vocational courses. 50 partner companies support the educational programmes and the Park provides a meeting place for educational environment and industry to identify and develop projects. Since it was founded in July 2009 the number of partner companies has more than doubled, to over 100. Most importantly, students’ attitudes shifted. More of them are now inclined to be entrepreneurs themselves, either by launching their own start-up or freelancing.
Joakim Falkäng, Manager
Visualisation Park, Kaserngatan 26, SE-575 35 Eksjö, Sweden
Category | Improving the Business Environment
Recognising measures to simplify administrative procedures for businesses, particularly for start-ups
Tackling difficulties faced by SMEs in urban areas
FaciliTO, Municipality of Turin, Italy
FaciliTO is a model that the Municipality of Turin adopted to tackle the difficulties that small enterprises encounter in struggling urban areas. Micro and small businesses in Turin have faced particular difficulty in accessing credit, which is often due to the absence of project expertise. FaciliTO attempts to meet these needs by providing free consultations to support the development of business plans as well as direct financial support. Over 200 businesses have accessed FaciliTO and 93 of them have received financial support.
Elisa Rosso, Servizio Fondi europei Innovazione
Sviluppo Economico, Via Braccini 2, Cap 10144, Turin, Italy
Category | Supporting the Internationalisation of Business
Recognises policies to encourage enterprises and particularly small and medium-sized businesses to benefit more from the opportunities offered by markets both inside and outside the European Union
Co-operating to bring Douro wines to the world
Douro Boys, Aicep Portugal Global, Portugal
A group of five small wine producers from the Douro region worked together to create the Douro Boys brand. Designed to exchange information and support each other to steadily improve the quality of the wines they produce, the group also aims to co-ordinate a marketing strategy centred on promoting the Douro region and its wines to the world. Between 2002 and 2011, the exports of wine from the five producers increased from €4.7 million to €11 million, an increase of 134%.
Jorge Holtreman Roquette, Administrator for Quinta do Crasto SA
aicep Portugal Global, Agência para o Investimento e Comércio Externo de Portugal, EPE
O’Porto Bessa Leite Complex, Rua António Bessa Leite, 1430 – 2o Andar, 4150-074 Porto
Category | Responsible and Inclusive Entrepreneurship
Recognises regional or local actions promoting corporate social responsibility and sustainable business practices
Supporting disabled people into the workplace, Disabled at Work, Denizli Municipality, Turkey
Disability is a major cause of social exclusion and poverty, primarily due to the lack of employment opportunities. Disabled at Work, a joint Turkish-Dutch project, seeks to change attitudes and support the integration of physically disabled people into the labour market. The group comprises 16 organisations from Turkey and the Netherlands. The projects provide training as well as a matching programme which offers disabled people mentors as they prepare to enter the workforce. At the end of the programme, 194 people had been trained and 65 were employed.
Ms Pınar GÜLMEZ AĞIRBAŞ, Director of Survey and Project Department
Altıntop Mahallesi Lise Caddesi No:1, 20100 Denizli, Turkey