Magazine article International Trade Forum

Uniquely Slovenia Draws on Canadian Expertise

Magazine article International Trade Forum

Uniquely Slovenia Draws on Canadian Expertise

Article excerpt

Can the successes achieved by the Uniquely B.C. Creative Arts Show and the Uniquely Canada Show be transferred to a developing or transition country? The experience of Slovenia, whose trade officials hired Barbara Mowat and her team to help them prepare to showcase local crafts internationally, suggests the model is indeed transferable. Peter Hulm interviewed Zdenka Kovac, director of Slovenia's Small Business Development Centre (PCMG), about the origins of the First Uniquely Slovenia Gift Show held in Los Angeles, California, in July 2001.

Q You took over a Canadian model for helping small businesses to market themselves internationally. How did this work out in Slovenia?

A We were a little bit tired of training programmes that were based mainly on general principles of marketing, and I believe small businesses in Slovenia were tired of that as well. So when, just by chance, we identified the Uniquely B.C. programme that has been successful in Canada, we decided within the Government that we were going to try it in Slovenia. That is the first important lesson: a critical number of people in government has to take this decision and this risk.

Q What was the next challenge?

A When we looked at how to design and implement the programme, the main challenge was to find a local organization to be the implementer. It was decided that the Small Business Development Centre would be the coordinator. We also invited some private institutions dealing with trade promotion in order to create a critical mass in the number of domestic teams.

Q Was it a problem that you called in someone from North America?

ABecause Mrs Mowat came from a well-- developed part of the world, the whole initiative gained in attractiveness for small businesses in Slovenia. It was the major benefit of this programme. We received some criticism from would-be domestic promoters who said we could do it alone without foreign advice. For me personally, and the team around me, it was the opposite. We were totally convinced that somebody who knows the market we were trying to sell to was absolutely essential. Then once she was introduced to the small business community, we became convinced that it was going to happen and it would be a success. …

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