I grew up in Paphos, a place in Cyprus I consider a small town. Small towns certainly have their pros and cons. Many people who grow up in small towns find themselves counting the days until they get to escape their roots and plant new ones in bigger, “better” places. And that’s fine. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought those same thoughts before too. We all have, but they say it’s important to remember where you came from.
When I think about where I come from, I can’t help having an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for my roots. Being from a small town has taught me so many important lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. But that is how I feel now and definitely is not how I felt growing up…
The feeling of limited opportunities in Cyprus
Once I became a teenager and started to think about my career and what I wanted to do with my life, I remember thinking that I had no future in Cyprus. I was always a curious child who enjoyed being involved in creative activities and I liked testing my skills and abilities in different ways. Friends and family would often ask me ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?‘ and my answer was never straightforward. (After all, are there really many teenagers who know exactly what the want to be in life?) I do however remember being very aware of the limited job opportunities in Cyprus and felt the pressure of choosing something that could give me a career in Cyprus. Why is this you may ask?
Well, generally speaking, it was and still is quite normal for those who graduate from school in Cyprus to then go abroad to study at Universities in countries like the UK, Greece, Germany, the U.S.A. I was one of them, as in September 2012 I went to Lancaster University. At this time, Cyprus was about to experience an economic crisis and the country was about to see an unemployment rate rise to two-digit figures for the very first time!
Unfortunately, young people were those hit the most (Cyprus Mail Online). By June 2014, Cyprus had reached the fifth highest unemployment rate of people below 25 in the European Union, touching 37 percent (Cyprus Mail Online). Over time the struggle became real as many young people ready and eager to work, could not find a regular job that could pay for their basic needs. This frustration led to the emigration of the youth of Cyprus, including even those with no academic degree who would leave Cyprus after discovering that their entrepreneurial dreams had very little chances of materialization. Eventually, it became quite the norm for students not return back to Cyprus and stay in the countries they studied in, in order to seek for work after their studies were completed. In fact, many parents would actually encourage their children to find a job elsewhere, as they knew that the work opportunities outside of Cyprus were more and that the salaries were higher.
I completed my B.A. English Language & Linguistics in June 2015; however, I was still not ready to return back to Cyprus to work. Over the past three years, I had gained an interest in Business and started to research the possibilities of continuing my education in a completely different field. A few months later (September 2015), I started my M.Sc. E-Business & Innovation, knowing deep down that this would be a new beginning for me. During this year, I learned so much about Business, Entrepreneurship, Management and Marketing, and realised that one day I wanted to create my own business. However, with Cyprus not looking very promising at the time, I had a lot of concerns, not just for myself but for all those who were about to graduate and were about to go out into the job market. Would we be able to find work in our field of study in Cyprus? Would the dreams of those who wanted to start up their own business and become entrepreneurs be crushed?
A ‘change of air’
Over the past years, the restructuring the economy and restoration of credibility in Cyprus’ banks has been a top priority – and true to form, the country’s economic recovery has been faster than many first projected (Cyprus Profile). With strong fiscal performance and new large-scale projects in the pipeline, the small EU country has exceeded international expectations and has kept a steady pace in improving efficiency, implementing reforms and boosting investor confidence. It is as if overnight, Cyprus has reclaimed its status as a self-determining and thriving economy. With an economic growth that surpassed all expectations in 2015-17, the priority has now been shifted towards ensuring that the recent strong growth momentum will be maintained.
It seems that the issue of unemployment has also been tackled. The unemployment rate started to fall in the first half of 2015, averaging 14.9% in that year. It dropped to 13% in 2016 and 11% in 2017. Although youth unemployment continues to be a serious challenge but has seen a drop from a peak of 38.7% in 2013 to 22.3% in March 2018. (Cyprus Profile). Cyprus’ medium-term goal is to reach full employment conditions by 2020.
Cyprus can support Youth Entrepreneurship
The Youth of Cyprus is already beginning to receive more support when it comes to Entrepreneurship, thanks to several schemes and programmes that aim to develop, support and promote entrepreneurship to young people for the development of new and sustainable SMEs. Most importantly these schemes provide financial support and educational training courses.
The Cyprus Youth of Board is actively supporting a specific scheme that it is operating under the umbrella of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, as the implementing agency. Through this scheme particular emphasis is given to the usage of new technologies and innovative production methods, to the promotion of products and services and to the enhancement of entrepreneurship in the field of the environment. The scheme also aims to promote modern entrepreneurial operations for the development of dynamic, evolving and competitive businesses in Cyprus. See more HERE.
Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs is also a great opportunity for new entrepreneurs, firmly planning to set up their own business or for those who have already started their business within the last three years. The programme allows new entrepreneurs to gather and exchange knowledge and business ideas with an experienced entrepreneur, with whom they stay and collaborate for a period of 1 to 6 months, a stay partly financed by the European Commission. In the last five years, more than 2,500 pairs of entrepreneurs have benefited from the programme. See more HERE.
If you know that you want to be an entrepreneur, but you are still unsure about what your dream business is, then do not panic. You can simply enjoy the journey towards the discovery of your dream business, and since you don’t already have established boundaries or conventions, you have the advantage of inventiveness, thinking outside the box, unconventionality.
Take some time to read through some of the interviews on MARY-ANN&CO and learn more about the many young and aspiring entrepreneurs living and working in Cyprus, who have taken the time to share their stories and creative ideas. Learn more about what it takes to start-up a small but profitable business, read more about their business ideas and plans and find out what they think makes a successful entrepreneur! Click HERE to find out more.