Small businesses are not an island on their own. They coexist and thrive with their surrounding environment. While some people have been wary of the creative industries in communities and cities perhaps they have not given enough thought to how small businesses thrive in these environments.
A city that is leading the way in combining artists and entrepreneurs who are wanting to make a difference through their start-up firms founded on creativity, innovation and digital technology is Berlin in Germany. A recent newspaper report indicated that the creative industries in Berlin employ over 240,000 in the city alone. These industries include clubs, gaming, fine art, performance arts, city development, music, TV, radio, form, newspapers and magazines, books, communications and advertising agencies, design and fashion.
Creative industries also have a close relationship with the tourism sector. The city of Berlin encourages such cultural innovation through making it easy for small businesses to do business, providing finance and infrastructure. Others supporting the creative industries include the federal states, private investors and bigger companies.
These creative industries provide jobs and by attracting other small businesses and innovators act as a catalyst for more start-up companies and job creation.
Breathing vibrancy into older cities and towns is not something happening just in Europe. In Santa Fe in the US so-called near-dead zones in downtown Las Vegas, Nevada, are trying to find out “how to grow Santa Fe young” to help make the small 400-year-old city more of a tourism-based economy more hip, urban and innovative. A Downtown Project is helping with small business loans and attracting’s tech companies, and promoting education, arts and culture. A new Inspire Theatre for TED-style educational talks and other events has started together with new shops, bars and coffee houses.
Visit some of the city smaller cities in South Africa and towns in the rural areas and you will see the struggle to revitalise business. Oddly enough, those towns that have attracted and grown a thriving arts and cultural community start to gain in tourism which provides opportunities for small businesses such as bed-and-breakfasts, small bakeries, restaurants and retailers.
A better understanding of how creative industries can help to provide the catalyst for kickstarting local communities is needed. Some small towns have virtually collapsed with most of the inhabitants unemployed because of a lack of vision and innovation. Small business alone can’t revived and revitalise these communities. It has to be done like in Berlin in a co-operative way together with city officials, leaders in the creative industries community and business. But any such initiatives need to take into account all of the people in a community so that they can benefit. You see too many elitist, small towns where a few business owners benefit with virtually everyone else excluded.
Instead of seeing the creative industries as nothing more than a sideline, hobbyists’ activity run by arty types, small business owners need to better understand how local creative industries can help revitalise communities to benefit not only young artists but also entrepreneurs and those in the tourism sector and in digital technology companies to help create a haven for endless possibilities.