Learning the art of business in an unlikely place | WeBalkans | EU Projects in the Western Balkans


A young entrepreneur from Serbia travels to a small village in Spain to learn the art of business


Torralba de Ribota has only 120 residents and its economy could be described as far from vibrant. This village in northeast Spain has no shops and only one bar, and the inhabitants’ main source of income is farming. Yet it is here that 31 years old Serbian entrepreneur, Mladen Savković, chose to spend a month to improve his business skills.

Mladen is a public relations (PR) professional who, after working for ten years in journalism and freelance PR for art and cultural activities, recently opened his own PR agency. However, Mladen realised that he needed support to perform better.

“I came across a story about a woman from Serbia who founded a homemade pasta company. To improve her business, she had successfully applied for EU funding to go to Sicily for a few months to learn the craft from experts. That seemed ideal to me! So I started researching how she got to go there,” he says.

“I thought that if you learn how to engage an audience there, you can engage an audience anywhere.”

Mladen Savković

This is how Mladen found out about the MOVE-YE project, which is funded under the European Union’s COSME programme. Like many other young people, Mladen jumped at the chance of a working visit to an EU country. As he speaks Spanish, Spain seemed like an obvious choice.

Where to go?
His first idea was to go to Madrid or Barcelona. He explains that he had plenty of host company options, most of them in tourism, IT and other sectors. But he was attracted by an opportunity in the cultural sector that came up in Torralba de Ribota.

“I was interviewed by two ladies who ran the Saltamontes Festival of art and music in the village, and was really impressed. This is a small village, and they have managed to organise a successful arts festival! I thought to myself if you can learn how to engage an audience there, you can engage an audience anywhere and decided that this was the right opportunity for me.”

Mladen spent a full month working at the Saltamontes Festival. He saw the importance of promoting art and culture outside of urban areas, where it still forms a vital part of everyday life, but in a slightly different way. “I have become more aware of the importance of engaging with the local community and listening to their cultural needs and interests,” he says.

“I have become more aware of the importance of engaging with the local community and listening to their cultural needs and interests.”

Mladen Savković

Bringing the experience home

Mladen mostly works with institutions that organise cultural events and festivals. Now he is planning to introduce to his clients in Serbia the audience engagement methods that he learned in Spain. “You can make an exhibition and just put it there. But I learned that it is important to work with the audience and focus on engaging the community more intensely. The experience at the Saltamontes Festival made me think about ideas that I can implement here in Serbia,” he says.

The EU-funded MOVE-YE (Mobilising Entrepreneurial Values and Ideas Across Europe) project aims to enhance entrepreneurial culture and the networking between European entrepreneurs. Funded under the COSME programme, it offers both young and experienced entrepreneurs the opportunity to observe different business practices, understand new markets, and internationalise and innovate their business via a cross-border mobility scheme.

Photo Credits: Mladen Savković

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