COMMENTARY: Young Entrepreneurs A Sign of the Times by Dan Dimancescu
On varied occasions, I have stated or written that one of Romania’s most visible assets is the entrepreneurial energy found throughout the society. And while I recognize that the word ‘entrepreneur’ has a very different even pejorative meaning in Europe and one that is even treated as suspect by Romanians, in the US it is a sign of vitality and imagination essential to the building of a vibrant economy and culture.
On my most recent visit to Romania in November 2005, I had the opportunity to encounter three different cases of exemplary entrepreneurship – each different but having the common feature of being driven by young people. One example is Ioana Ceausu, a university student with superior qualifications, who is part of a seventeen-person team. Together they just launched issue #1 of a publication entitled oricum (see www.oricum.ro) aimed at the high school and university age market. Its birth is a result of sophisticated studies of the market, well crafted business plans, and a good understanding of design and printing. The product is superior by any measure – but like any new publication it must now deliver an audience that will in turn deliver paying advertisers. This, of course, is the element of risk and gutsy entrepreneurship that would be recognized worldwide. What impresses me, in this case, is the professionalism of so young a group.
Similar in profile but different in aspiration is Dan Niculae. He founded and just released his own niche publication – sharing the same 8″x8″ print format as oricum. But his ambition is far different. Entitled afterbusiness (see www.afterbusiness.ro), the goal is to tap the expat and foreign businessman market seeking to discover Romania through short 1-2 day upscale tours. His vision, though not unique, stands out in the quality of the execution: elegant design, well conceived tours, and an offering that fills a vacuum in the visitor market. His website is enhanced by a monthly publication (see image) that is distributed to hotels, banks, and other locations in Bucharest. Without any assurance that his business or income aspirations might be met or that the market will respond, Dan shares one similarity with Ioana. He too is a full time university student.
A third example was found in Cluj where I met Ruxandra Bucur and Paul Nemes. Both have invested considerable time, effort, and resources in creating three local retail outlets for traditional crafts. Their website sets the qualitative bar at a high level through good, elegant display of well selected objects: eggs, masks, ceramics (see www.popart.ro). Their goal is to create a market for traditional objects made by superior traditional crafstpeople – many of whom have achieved recognition as Living Human Treasures under a program instituted by the ASTRA Museum in Sibiu under the auspices of UNESCO. Also young, they confront the same risks as Ioana and Dan mentioned above. For them too, there is no guarantee of financial success and each step in that direction is both costly and unpredictable.
These four individuals, young, energetic, are unique in having set high standards in their choice of business and the product or service their offer. Whether they succeed or fail is not the issue. That fact that they have taken the initiative is the part that counts. When I taught in U.S. business schools, there was always one quality I sought that I considered essential to success. Was any given individual truly passionate about his or her chosen endeavor? Intellect and specific skills would come next. But absent the first, success would be less likely. This is one reason the individuals above stand out. They have – in my judgment – that essential quality of being passionate about their chosen business activities. In that respect, they reflect a new vibrance more and more visible throughout Romania.