Interview with Mrs. CRISTINA CHIRIAC, founder of the National Association of Entrepreneurship, European Commission ambassador of Woman Entrepreneurship.
How did you come up with the idea of setting up the National Association of Entrepreneurship in Romania?
Although we live in a complex world, our needs are simple. Along the time, looking around me, at a globally level, and getting in touch with more and more entrepreneurs, I have realized that the majority of them confront the same issues: the lack of transparency, the high level of bureaucracy, a hard legal frame, unfair competition, and also the lack of specialized people. All of these, and also the need to make things move in our Romanian society, have constituted a strong motivation in order to gather around me entrepreneurs who wish to be involved in the process of stimulating the Romanian economy. This is the way in which the National Association of Entrepreneurs was born, an NGO, that has as a purpose to support all the entrepreneurs who are just starting out, and not only them.
What does the European Commission ambassador of Woman Entrepreneurship title involve?
The title of Ambassador of Woman Entrepreneurship, given by the European Commission, makes me want to fight more and more for the women rights and values. It is a title that comes with a lot of responsibility and power to change things, to make the entrepreneurs women feel strong, capable and help them as much as I can. This is one of the reasons why I am organizing, on the 9th of November the first International Conference about entrepreneur women, Beauty of Entrepreneurship 2016.
How is the entrepreneurship concept ranked in Romania nowadays? Definitely there is a lot of talk on entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs in our country, but what about real facts?
Nowadays, in Romania, the entrepreneurship area is growing, but the young entrepreneurs, who are at the start of their business, are afraid of risking and the state doesn’t help and support them or their ideas too much. If you want to start a business, you have to believe in yourself and be able to invest a lot of time and passion in order to make it grow. We need to believe more in the future and to stop being indifferent to those who try to make a difference in our country.
What is the profile of the Romanian entrepreneur at this moment, in your view?
I believe that the Romanian entrepreneur is full of ideas, it is passionate to work and improve the Romanian economy but the enthusiasm disappears when they see that they have no support. It is hard, I admit it, to create and maintain a business in our country. There are a lot of entrepreneurs who give up their dreams once they start the procedures to create their own business. And because we are talking about entrepreneurs, I will tell you the essential features of the Romanian entrepreneur: courage, innovation, determination and resistance!
What is the women’s share in the entrepreneurship equation? Recent statistics by the National Trade Register Office (ONRC) reveals that over 600,000 women are their own business in Romania or are self-employed (as registered sole trader). The business media names them the so-called ‘high heels businesses’. Is it much, is it less, is it room for more?
I really like this expression “high heels”. I believe that the businesses developed by women have elegance and passion, and I also believe that most of these businesses are in the services area. From my point of view, the fact that 600.000 of women have their own business in Romania it is a very low percentage. I don’t want to start here and now a debate about the importance of your work place, the care of tomorrow, or how many single-parent families we have in Romania. I have often said it, entrepreneurship is the only viable solution to reduce the state budget pressure regarding the social side. If we want a strong economy, we need to take care of our entrepreneurs. They are the ones that make things go, they are the ones that feed through taxes and fees the state budget and they are the ones who create jobs!
Do you think it’s easier for women to start their own business in Romania than let’s say, 10, 15 years ago? If so, what were the favorable turns?
Along the time, I have learnt that things do change in our country, but they do slowly. Although it is hard, I think that indeed, it is a little easier for women to start their own business nowadays than 10-15 years ago. I was taught that ambitions and positivism can get you in amazing places. I believe that women entrepreneurship is evolving and taking as model other countries, Romanian women are more and more courageous and if they are passionate about their work, they will manage to create and sustain their business idea.
What challenges do you think modern woman still needs to face, generally speaking and particularly in Romania? After all, we are not among the countries with high figures on fighting gender gap, wages inequalities, we still have to fight misogynist mentalities, prejudices, etc.
In Romania, sometimes, a woman is not seen at her true value. Her qualities of what she really is and what she really can do are not highlighted enough. Because of our past and history, women were used to stay home, raise children, cook and do chores around the house. Evolving, the women are no longer like this anymore. They are now in a state where they have to prove that they can also do business, they are also smart, strong and can be independent, just as men can, yet, these are for the moment in a low percentage.
Let’s talk a little bit about your dear project…Flori de ie. Why did you choose this name? What does it comprise? What is the feedback so far?
Flori de ie was born out of my love and passion for the Romanian art, values, tradition and history. I have always loved my country and I have always supported it. One day, I fell in love again with the Romanian traditional blouse, the well-known “ia”. I started wearing it at my international economic and business conferences and everyone was shocked. Then I realized what a great power the Romanian blouse has and what a special impact it has on other people and in other countries as well, just like an ambassador. I believe that the “ia” is the international ambassador of the Romanian people from everywhere. Then, I wanted to bring back to life the Romanian true art and I started collecting a collection of vintage, old, very valuable traditional Romanian blouses and costumes. After that, I started my business – “Flori de ie”, with the aim to recreate the Romanian blouse in a more modern and wearable style, so that anyone, at any age and in any circumstance can wear it. Its versatility and uniqueness attracts people and we traveled around the world promoting the “ia”, from New York to London, Paris, Vienna, Abu Dhabi, Shanghai and so on.
Coming to your latest entrepreneurship event, the Beauty of Entrepreneurship 2016, due on November 9, what is its purpose? It’s the first conference of this kind in Romania? It will be focused more on businesswomen?
Beauty of Entrepreneurship is the first event of this kind from Romania, it is an international Conference dedicated to the women entrepreneurship. There will present international speakers, with notoriety in entrepreneurship, and also in areas such as leadership, management, social media, fashion and style, and more. It will take place on 9th of November in Bucharest and more details you can find at: www.anaa.ro. Its aim is to show the Romanian entrepreneurs women that they have support and if they are strong enough and believe in themselves they can defeat their fears. Beautiful, strong and smart people will be together with us at the Conference, so that we can build together a strong entrepreneurship community.
If you had to join an imagination exercise, what do you think the near future of entrepreneurship will look like in Romania? What would be the fields of interest for the local entrepreneurs, considering the current trends in the economy?
If we start supporting more young people, I think that they will stop leaving our country and they will start up businesses that will help the entire society. Young people need to see hope in Romania, they need to feel secure and see a light in their future in our country. It is hard but I still believe that Romania has the power to change more and more, both economically and socially. We need to lower the level of bureaucracy, the taxes and increase the funding. I hope that in the near future, the small, little entrepreneurs to manage to fight the system and create with success their business.