“If you have a brain, you are a startup.”
So says a sign in Krakow’s “Podgorze” district: once a Jewish Ghetto – home to the Schindler’s Factory of Spielberg’s infamous “Schindler’s List” – and now a hotspot for Polish entrepreneurs. Amidst the uniform steely industrial warehouses, bits of color and life dart out: signs of the companies within, street art celebrating a reborn Poland, a waft of coffee from an edgy warehouse-turned-café (complete with chairs made of splintered wooden boxes covered in burlap coffee sacks), and splashes of paint – beauty amidst monotony, creation amidst a previous wasteland.
Entrepreneurs are that splash of color in every culture, taking the everyday and making it new, pulling ideas like rabbits from hats.
From country to country, entrepreneurs create the future: economically, technologically, and philanthropically. In my travel experience, I have been delighted to find these pockets of entrepreneurship growing and blossoming in nations around the world from Morocco to Japan.
Take – for example – a market in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco; there, every caliber of entrepreneur can be discovered: from the homegrown butcher with locals crowding his stand to bid on the raw slabs, to the jewelry salesman who brings Berber wares from the Sahara desert, catering to the tourists who clamor over his goods.
Or the constant innovations flooding in from Japan – from the ridiculous (a wearable toilet paper roll) to the incredible (the bullet train) to the delicious (cinnamon cookie KitKats).
Look at Macedonia, a country with a history racked with tumult and terror, its capital – Skopje – rebuilt into a glittering European city, golden statues towering, businesses emerging from the rubble, artists leaping from the ashes.
Step into the 3D printing café of Barcelona – the first of its kind in Europe – and sip a leisurely drink as your creation is printed before your eyes.
Discover the wintery summer of Tallinn, Estonia: the home of Skype’s software and a location where technology is so important that the law rules wifi a basic – and free – right for all.
In Alexandria, Egypt, children roam the streets – entrepreneurs from the moment that they can speak – hawking fluffy cones of cotton candy and horse and carriage rides around the city with what little English they know, doing business for the satisfying clink of coins to herald home to their families.
The comic owners of stands of Ephesus, Turkey advertise “Genuine Fake Watches,” and in the bazaars of Istanbul, businesses owned by families for generations and generations bare their wares in the open: carpets woven by cousins, jellies baked by sisters, wood carved by fathers.
In Mostar of Bosnia and Herzegovina – where bullet holes still mar the facades of hollow buildings, businesses bloom with traditional wares: warm, soft sesame breads, gently hammered metal earrings painted with traditional patterns, lovely laces spilling from a building with no roof.
Culture flows heavily into entrepreneurship, guiding the entrepreneurs of the world. Yet the entrepreneurs are also crucial in the creation of culture, of the country’s identity on a world stage – entrusted with the future. Entrepreneurship grows as one of the most wanted qualities in the workforce of today; so if you have a brain, you have a startup.
About the Author
Writer, world traveler, and art lover: Heather Keleher is a native of Raleigh, North Carolina and student at NC State. Author of the novel, “Waiting for Sunrise,” Heather conveys her passion for entrepreneurship in her writing. Visit her at heatherkeleher.com, check her out on the Huffington Post, and follow her on twitter @HeatherKeleher.