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Tag ‘Sustainable business’

From leather design to Quality Assesment – Find out about Stella and Kristel

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We are back with the next two entrepreneurs in our ‘Meet an Estonian entrepreneur’ series! Why Estonian entrepreneurs? This year the SME Assembly 2017, the flagship event for European SME Week,  will be held in Tallinn under the Estonian presidency from 22-24 November 2017. In order to get ready for the event, Promoting Enterprise will be exploring Estonia as a digital pioneer as well as meeting the exciting entrepreneurs it has to offer! Today it is time to meet Stella Soomlais, a sustainable leather accessories designer and studio owner, and Kristel Kruustük, co-founder and CEO of Testlio – an end-to-end Quality Assessment management platform.

Stella Soomlais

Stella Soomlais is a leather accessories designer and studio owner, who designs and creates bags made to last. In 2004 she began making custom orders whilst at Tartu Art School, and set up her own company in 2011. In 2014 she began recruiting employees and now has over 10 people working for her. Her vision, and that of her company, is a sustainable one, and champions the idea of reusing leather after its first life cycle so as to maximise material use.

What motivates you?

I’m motivated by the ability to make things better and to improve situations. It makes me happy when I see that my actions are making a difference.

The best thing about being an entrepreneur?

Freedom – I can pick the projects and people I love to work with and be the boss of my own time.

What skills do tomorrow’s entrepreneurs need?

I would say that tomorrow’s entrepreneurs need to treat others as they would like to be treated. This includes everybody and everything, clients, colleagues and Mother Nature as well. Understanding different characters, the way they work and feel motivated, and the importance of sustainability is the key to success. In addition, good old patience is still necessary – it takes years of 24/7 work to implement your dreams and visions. But it’s worth it!

Find out more about Stella and her sustainable products:

Kristel Kruustük

Kristel Kruustük is co-founder and CEO of Testlio – an end-to-end Quality Assessment management platform and community of highly vetted testers that help businesses deliver amazing customer experiences. At the age of 23 she came up with the id ea of building a platform that would appreciate the work of testers and elevate the importance of Quality Assessment within organisations.  Since launching in 2012, the company has raised $8M in funding, hired over 60 employees, and established offices in Tallinn and San Francisco. Clients include Salesforce, Lyft, Microsoft, CBS Interactive, Flipboard and Strava.

What motivates you?

I’m motivated by my vision for Testlio which is to change the way Quality Assessment is done and to help businesses create successful products with a great team, community and customers. Even when things get very challenging and hard, I know that there’s always a solution for every problem.

What’s the best thing about being an entrepreneur?

Making your vision and dream come true. Testlio began because of my own frustration about how software testers were treated in the industry. Testing was often perceived as an afterthought and testers were often blamed when things didn’t go as expected.

What’s especially rewarding about being an entrepreneur is when things move in the right direction. It is so inspiring when the people around you are happy, excited and motivated to make a difference. I have written more on what I love about entrepreneurship here.

What skills do tomorrow’s entrepreneurs need?

Putting people first and not treating business like a machine. Businesses are all about people (your team, your customers, your community) and in today’s world, ideas don’t matter anymore, what matters is people, making connections and building long term relationships.

Read more of Kristel’s ideas and thoughts on her entrepreneurial journey:

ECOSTAR – The custom built accelerator and entrepreneurship hub for nature based business

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What kind of support is out there for green and eco-entrepreneurs? How can you sell an idea that is innovative, eventually profitable but also green and sustainable? Entrepreneurs in this field may find it difficult to convince investors or find the right support systems for their offered products and services. This is where the newly launched ECOSTAR accelerator is there to help!

ECOSTAR is the research-enterprise impact hub and accelerator that promotes entrepreneurship and innovation for nature-based businesses. The initiative is promoted by a university-enterprise partnership between European and US-based institutions, and it is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union, and other private investors. It’s an Impact Hub that promotes the start-up and acceleration of new business initiatives with a positive impact on environment and society. It’s a Research-Business alliance that links universities and companies, providing networking and market-oriented training. It focuses on business models that make profit by marketing, promoting and enhancing biodiversity, and ecosystem services. The initiative provides business opportunities and real benefits for the environment through the following main actions:

JOIN: Create a wide research-enterprise network at EU level, linking together entrepreneurs, scientific and business mentors, and investors, wanting to create value for nature through new business ideas.

LEARN: Deliver a series of specialised entrepreneurship and innovation trainings targeted to MEEB through multidisciplinary approaches to teaching and learning.

GROW: The ECOSTAR Nature-Accelerator selects and invests in early-stage impactful startups that are developing innovative and sustainable solutions for disrupting the agriculture, forestry and natural resource sectors.

E-learning technology, business model case studies, EU support networks, and free ad hoc MEEB business plan advice, are some of the methods that are delivered through a strong and committed partnership of businesses and universities at country and European level.

To find out more about this exciting initiative and to read some of the success stories from participating eco-ventures, visit their website:

‘Find your own distinctive formula’ – Sustainable beekeeping triumphs at EEPA 2016

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winner-cat-5Beekeeping and sustainable development can be a winning combination, as seen with the success of ‘Lime Trees & Honey Bees’ at the European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA) 2016.

Lime Trees & Honey Bees triumphed in Category five “Supporting the Development of Green Markets and Resource Efficiency” with a project promoting sustainable development through beekeeping in the Danube Microregion of Serbia. This interview gives us an insight into their application journey, their advice for EEPA 2017 applicants and what to expect from the project team in future.

How did you first hear about the national competition?

We first heard about the national competition through a public notice on the web site of our national EEPA coordinator, the Republic of Serbia Ministry of Economy. Their experience and support was invaluable during the preparations, especially because it was the first time we were applying.

Why did you decide to enter the national competition?

The Local Economic Development Office (LED Office) team prepares, supports and monitors the implementation of a significant number of projects regarding local economic development for the City of Novi Sad. The moment we found out about the competition we knew we had to apply with the project “Lime Trees & Honey Bees for Sustainable Development of the Danube Microregion”. It already had outstanding results in supporting entrepreneurship in a not so commonly exploited field but a significant one for the entire ecosystem.

How did you go about preparing your application?

2-5-beekeepers-in-honey-bees-farm-best-practice-examples-from-serbia-and-austria-limehoneyFrom when the project was first created and implemented by the LED Office team, to filling in the application, we were sure that the “Lime Trees & Honey Bees” experience was worth sharing. However, the preparation of some supporting materials was challenging since the project officially ended in February 2015. Luckily our enthusiasm about this project once again inspired colleagues from several city departments. We joined forces and completed the application materials. In general, it was rather joyful remembering all the hard work on this project and the great results and we believe that is what made our application stand out.

What was it like to win the award?

Winning the award was a complete surprise! Of course we were secretly hoping for it, but we were also aware that the competition was very strong. Even on a national level we had two winners, the other competitor from Serbia was SEE ICT’s project “We know we can”. Therefore, we thought being on the shortlist was already a success.

We were competing in category number five “Supporting the Development of Green Markets and Resource Efficiency” and, as the time was passing by, we were completely focused on the ceremony, enjoying the presentations and great organisation of the EEPA team. Hearing the name of our project being announced as the award winner was an incredible moment. It was overwhelming and exciting, but above all such great recognition for everyone who had worked on this project and supported it.

How did winning the award immediately impact your work?

One 1-1-2-young-beekeeper-in-her-honey-bees-farm-city-of-novi-sad-limehoneyof the main reasons for our application was to further support the producers of Fruska Gora lime honey and we expected certain publicity thanks to the award, but we were quite surprised by the amount of interest and increase in the media coverage by the local as well as the national media. This boosted the interest in beekeeping and quality product Fruska Gora lime honey as we hoped. In addition, work on this initiative and winning the award brought recognition to the City of Novi Sad LED Office, as well as invitations to relevant events. It also strengthened our cooperation with the Ministry of Economy on supporting entrepreneurship.

What kind of response did you receive?

The reactions were very positive from the general and professional public. The significance of EEPA was clear despite the fact that in most cases it was introduced for the first time. We have used the increased interest of the Serbian national and regional media to promote Fruska Gora Lime honey and beekeeping as an ecologically sustainable business as much as possible.

We hope that the success of the City of Novi Sad in the EEPA competition will inspire others to create innovative projects on the subject of SME development and to enter the EEPA competition.

Can you already see a long-term impact or do you have any expectations?

Winning this prestigious award has given greater exposure to the City of Novi Sad, thus significantly contributing to our credibility, improving our chances in creating new project partnerships across Europe and working on innovative solutions for supporting the development of SME’s

1-city-of-novi-sad-fruska-gora-lime-honey-limehoneyWhy should others enter EEPA 2017? What advice would you give them?

Entering the EEPA 2017 gives a unique opportunity to exchange experiences and contacts with colleagues, experts and other stakeholders, drawing focus to the relevant questions and impact SME development. A good idea, a quality product, enthusiasm, detailed planning, active stakeholder involvement and teamwork were the key to our success. Our recommendation to future competitors would be to make sure to find their own distinctive formula

What are your plans for the future?

Currently we are working on Horizon 2020 projects, Cross-border-cooperation IPA Hungary-Serbia and IPA Croatia-Serbia with special emphasis on SME development. We will continue our work on improving the business environment and encouraging faster economic development of Novi Sad and expect to achieve even better results in future. As for the “Lime Trees & Honey Bees” we expect that beekeeping associations will continue to follow the guidelines set within the project, use and expand acquired knowledge and skills, and increase the market share of the Fruska Gora lime honey, an exceptional high-quality product, typical of this area.

Winners of the 2013 European Enterprise Promotion Awards

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The 2013 EEPAs were presented in Vilnius

The 2013 EEPAs were presented in Vilnius

Category | Grand Jury Prize

A special prize awarded to the entrepreneurial initiative considered the most creative and inspiring in Europe.


Think Small First – Introduction to Micro Companies in Latvia


The Latvian Chamber Of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) developed Think Small First to help bring Latvia out of the economic crisis.

The initiative has helped micro-enterprises by promoting the creation of a special tax rate and simplified tax accounting system. It has also introduced a micro-credit programme and has made information about launching a business available in one place.

The LCCI has played one of the leading roles in discussions held in the Latvian Parliament, the Saeima. This included initiating amendments of laws to enable implementation of the concept of micro-enterprises. Through support from the Ministry of Economy, the Saeima supported the Micro-Enterprise Tax Law, which came into effect on 1st September 2010. In addition, improvement of the regulatory framework is ongoing, thus providing support to the smallest enterprises.

As a result of this initiative, a total of 28,000 enterprises have utilised the simplified tax accounting system and the number of micro-enterprises in Latvia is continuing to grow.

Overall, the introduction of the concept of micro-enterprises in Latvia has helped to further the country’s rapid economic growth within the European Union and provide a favourable climate for small businesses to operate.


Lita Kokale, Head of Public Relations

Krišjāņa Valdemāra Iela 35

Riga, LV-1010


Category | Promoting the Entrepreneurial Spirit

Recognising actions that promote an entrepreneurial culture and mindset. Raising awareness about entrepreneurship in society.


MyCity, The Finnish Economic Information Office, Finland

The MyCity learning entity is a miniature city, built from mobile wall elements, and includes at least 15 different local and regional enterprises and public services. Students work within his or her own trade in the city and receive wages. They also act as consumers and citizens of the society. Approximately 70 pupils work at the same time at the MyCity site. MyCity, sponsored by the Finish Ministry of Education and Culture, operates in eight different municipalities and 24,000 sixth graders and 1,000 teachers have visited the sites.


Tomi Alakoski, Executive Director


Category | Investing in Entrepreneurial Skills

Recognises regional or local initiatives to improve entrepreneurial, vocational, technical and managerial skills.


Senior Enterprise, The Mid East Regional Authority, Ireland

Senior Enterprise is specifically designed to encourage a greater involvement with enterprise by those aged 50 and over and to raise awareness of their potential to start a business, acquire or invest in a business started by someone else, or to become a volunteer mentor. To date almost 1,000 individuals over 50 years of age, who have received support from Senior Enterprise in Ireland, the UK and France, have set up new businesses.


John Byrne, Director


Category | Improving the Business Environment

Recognising measures to simplify administrative procedures for businesses, particularly for start-ups.


Starters’ Agreement for Entrepreneurs

The Belgium Starters’ Agreement helps aspiring and existing entrepreneurs to succeed. Entrepreneurs enter into a starters’ agreement with the City of Ghent, Belgium, to draft a business plan, appeal for professional advice and specialist guidance, follow training and development courses and to continue the independent business activity for at least three years in Ghent. With this contract, entrepreneurs can receive support of a maximum of €5,000 for education, professional guidance and investment. All start-ups that have been established as independent enterprises in Ghent for less than two years can apply for a starter’s agreement. One of the most important objectives of the agreement is to increase the success rate of starting companies during their first years and to prevent failures. To date, a total of 171 starters’ agreements have received a positive recommendation by the evaluation committee, with 166 of these approved by the Council of the Mayor and aldermen.


Ria Dossche, Advisor


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.


Portuguese Shoes: The Sexiest Industry in Europe, Portuguese Association of Footwear Industries, Components, Leather Goods and their Substitutes, Portugal

The Portuguese footwear industry exports more than 95% of its production to the most demanding international markets. In order to allow the sector to continue to take firm steps in a competitive international environment, the APICCAPS, a national business association, with the support of the Compete Programme, has taken various measures to promote Portuguese footwear. The current campaign has helped to promote around 120 SMEs at professional events all around the world. A campaign symbol for Portuguese shoes was developed using the slogan ‘Portuguese Shoes: Designed by the Future’. The image promotes a mark of quality and seeks to establish Portuguese Shoes as a sophisticated innovation. As a result of this strategy, footwear exports have grown more than 20% in the past two years.


Paulo Gonçalves, Director of Communication


Category | 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.


The Town of Gürsu Developing with Unlimited Clean Energy, Municipality of Gürsu, Turkey

Key aims of the Town of Gürsu project are to increase the use of green energy in Gürsu to prevent environmental pollution caused by the use of fossil fuels, to save energy used for municipal services and to help socio-economic development of the town. Since the initiative began, four innovative applications have been configured, tested and applied. A photovoltaic solar energy plant was developed and Gürsu is now well-known for using clean solar energy in all of its service areas. The project aims to enable Turkey to take a leading role in renewable energy investments at both regional and national levels. Since the project began, Gürsu has obtained 40% of its electricity needs from the sun in the 5 months of winter and 100% in the 7 summer months.


Hüseyun Özmen, Strategic Planning Division Manager


Category | Responsible and Inclusive Entrepreneurship

Recognises regional or local actions promoting corporate social responsibility and sustainable business practices.


Integration of Disadvantaged People , AV Mobilita s.r.o., Slovakia

AV Mobilita s.r.o. is a sheltered workshop specialising in integrating disabled people into all areas of life. As a pilot organisation, it focused on car repairs and it now co-ordinates other sheltered workshops forming part of the Škoda Handy Disabled Persons Project in Bratislava, Prešov, Banská Bystrica and Žilina. It participates in the cultural, social and sporting activities of Associations of Registered Disabled Persons throughout Slovakia. The scheme has facilitated the smooth integration of disabled people into society through mediation of special-priced vehicle sales and through comprehensive theoretical and practical training of applicants seeking a licence to drive a car. In 2009, the workshop received an award from the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family of the Slovak Republic for the integration of disabled persons into the workplace.


Klaudia Valušková, Owner of Auto Valušek

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