Serbia has a lot to work through in the coming year, with a national election looming and the fallout from whatever decision is made over its relationship with the European Union. That does not even acknowledge the impact of the global economic climate on trade or the effects of the on-going emotive issue of Kosovo.
In the long run up to the election, we have already seen politicians of all colours posturing to grab the attention of voters, while some of the less salubrious business heads manoeuvre their way to seize even greater influence over the country’s future. Nothing is new there then.
Aside from the self aggrandisement of politicians and the bluster and bravado that momentous times attract, most people are just getting on with life, trying to make the best of their lot.
Among those, there is another group of people who are beavering away at business and new ideas, regardless of what is going on around them. These young entrepreneurs are the spirit that will drive the recovery of a nation. I am always encouraged by the number and attitude of these (mostly young) people who pay apparent disregard for the potholes they might encounter of their road to success, and stride ahead with their concepts and initiatives. To hell with the consequences.
Maybe this cavalier attitude is born out of living for so long with limitations and controls that they have recognised (rightly, I must add) that they alone are accountable for accessing a better future for themselves and their families. Repeatedly, governments have shown that they cannot be relied upon to provide beyond the most basic level of encouragement for business or employment. Societies needs not just people with ideas but people with the gumption to see those ideas through to fruition.
Wannabe Magazine is itself the product of entrepreneurialism. A core of three go-getters had the idea to put together a team of enthusiastic writers and commentators to write about fashion, culture and lifestyle. Hey presto, Wannabe Magazine was born and the rest, as they say, is history. Even now, this award-winning publication is not content to rest on its laurels. Management are constantly exploring new opportunities, securing new writers and pushing boundaries in business to deliver an increasingly interesting product for the Serbian market.
Another publishing project that is close to my heart is Branding Magazine, an online marketing publication that has rapidly built an international reputation for its individual style of reporting of marketing and branding stories. A energetic team of Belgrade students set up Branding Magazine early in 2011. They had a good idea and they decided to have a go at making it happen. Now with an impressive roster of high profile contributors from across the global business world, and the magazine’s own fearless reporting, Branding Magazine is attracting attention from big money advertisers and businesses in Serbia and abroad keen to be associated with its growing online readership.
Another bunch of Belgrade students have also been making their name beyond Serbia’s borders, and have the shelf of awards to show for their efforts. Over at Strawberry Energy, Miloš Milisavljević and his team of young engineers have became quite the media darlings since their solar powered charger for mobile devices was awarded and applauded at home and abroad. When these Serbian students beat off established European businesses to scoop a prestigious EU award, last year, it finally prompted President Tadićto take a closer look at what was happening on his own doorstep. Since then, Strawberry Tree chargers have been scheduled for sites around Serbia, with people in Belgrade, Novi Sad and the product’s unassuming birthplace, Obrenavac already feeling the benefit of clean energy. Due to this success – in no small part down to the anything-is-possible attitude of Miloš and his team – this innovative business now has plans to expand internationally, with foreign governments and authorities expressing an interest in the free social energy source. Entrepreneurialism is, quite literally in their case, fueling the future of Serbia.
There are many more examples of young Serbs deciding to tackle the future head on. Young film directors such as Stevan Filipović and Andrijana Stojković who are making incredible movies such as Šišanje(Skinning) and The Box, fashion designers who are holding their own in a cut-throat world, and energetic events managers and VIP tour promoters such as Bogdan Donćić (Volim ‘90s) and Ivan Agbaba, (Belgrade VIP). Of course, the list does not stop there. I have met too many to mention and even then I have only touched the tip of the iceberg. Belgrade is a particularly rich environment for opportunities. In Serbia, there is a healthy number of young people who are going out of their way to create their own future.
One thing that ties all of these success stories together is the infectious enthusiasm and willingness to have a go. The people behind these growing businesses see opportunities and solutions where others can see dead ends and dilemmas. If only more people could get up out of the chair and do something about their own future, we could all benefit from a stronger society. We could all learn a thing or two from these people.
Marcus Agar has been commissioned by Wannabe Magazine to write a series of observations. Click for Serbian or for an interview in English or Serbian.