Photo (L -R): Selkirk students Krys Klimuk and Trent Zoobkoff with Selkirk Business Administration instructor Michael Konkin recently travelled to Tbilisi, Georgia, to meet with entrepreneurs and help them move toward a market-based economy.
Georgia is a country that wants to move its economy into the new millennium. Not an easy task for a former Soviet Republic that has been in conflict on and off with Russia since the summer of 2008.
Despite their country’s troubles, Georgians are a friendly and very hospitable people. According to Selkirk College Business Instructor, Michael Konkin, they want to embrace capitalism but they don’t yet have the know-how or the infrastructure to make a western-style economy work. As well, they are faced with 20 per cent interest on business loans, a prohibitive amount for the small business entrepreneur.
“They have difficulty understanding the concept of the customer. Having a customer orientation is not part of Georgia’s communist heritage. While they live in a relatively modern world today—with cell phones and Facebook—they have a very limited concept of entrepreneurism.”
This limited understanding of entrepreneurism is what Business Administration students Krys Klimuk and Trent Zoobkoff set out to change, at least a little. On a two-week internship earlier this year, the pair travelled to the city of Tbilisi with instructor Michael Konkin, and two students and faculty from Thompson Rivers University. Their work completed the final stage of an economic development project spearheaded by Selkirk’s International program and funded by Canadian Investment Development Agency (CIDA).
“The assistance provided by our Business Administration faculty and students in Georgia is a great example of bringing Selkirk College to the world, “ says Vi Kalesnikoff, dean of community, corporate and international development. “It was the final stage of a successful five-year project in the region.”
Students and faculty met with a dozen entrepreneurs—from egg and mushroom farmers to car importers—and discussed their businesses and their challenges. Some of the entrepreneurs were also business students at Gori College and Georgian Technical University. One-on-one consultations helped them learn about customer service and about how to tackle their business problems strategically, with an eye to the future.
“Georgian business owners find it very challenging to invest in the future. Russian warplanes still fly overhead occasionally, so their focus tends to be on making money right now. They need stability and infrastructure,” explains Konkin.
From the students’ perspective, the trip had a lasting impact. “This internship was a great learning experience for me. I had the opportunity to see how business was conducted in another country and I got to help entrepreneurs resolve some of their business issues,” explains Krys Klimuk.
“Everything about this experience is memorable. It was an eye-opener to see how different Canadian culture is compared with Georgian culture and how welcoming our hosts were.”
Selkirk College offers business programs with international work, study and volunteer opportunities for Canadian students. Visit http://selkirk.ca/programs/ba/businessadministration/ for details.
First published on June 30, 2011