The benefits of making your business a creative industry

It is evident that Cubans who are in some way linked to the private sector are capable of discerning the problems that the social confinement sparked by COVID-19 health crisis has caused for their businesses; and they are also aware of their capacity to face these challenges.

However, has this sector overlooked what it needs to do to face the effects that the looming crisis could bring later, once this stage of the pandemic is partially overcome?

Cuban authorities and decision makers have slowed down the process of the most urgent transformations regarding the private sector. Some steps have been taken in this direction, such as the replacement of the previous list of permitted self-employed activities for a list of banned activities. However, some professional fields that have been demanded by Cuban private sector workers are still excluded. These cloudy areas that could have been cleared now combine with other difficulties generated by the pandemic, a challenge that puts the sector’s most creative problem solving capacities to the test. 

Creative economy?

The creative economy phenomenon could help Cuban “entrepreneurs” to be more resilient to the new crisis. Knowledge of this concept among these actors, how to apply it to their businesses and the benefits it provides, could be a key element for Cuba’s “self-employed” sector, and a driving force for economic development. This term, associated with small-scale private businesses, refers to those economies that present an added value, whether creative, cultural and/or identity-based, different from the fundamental value of their activity; which provides additional benefits to their business and to the community where it is based.

Creative economies offer products based on knowledge, which have a cultural and identity foundation, social and cultural projection, are interested in the dissemination and conservation of heritage and generate significant profits and jobs.

The private sector in Cuba is fundamentally based on the creation of  businesses motivated by economic necessity. This means that the  activities developed, in their majority, are categorized as marginal or of subsistence. This can result in the loss of the enterprising spirit of  creators, which becomes a risk factor in terms of the sector’s resistance faced with, for example, the current health crisis.

Within the private sector in Cuba there are very few businesses that can be classified as creative economies, and the fact is that most self-employed workers do not have an added value from the point of view of innovation and creativity associated with their primary activity, which could be significantly beneficial for their business.

The first steps

In the last few years and mainly in the big cities, our country has seen a boom in private creative industries, which have sought very diverse and innovative proposals. Some enterprises have gone from providing their basic service to offering new and creative ones. This is the case of “Luly Salón” in Havana’s Miramar district, which advocates new services such as online beauty tutorials and other specialized home services. In addition, in the coming months, it plans to start classes to teach techniques of the profession to young people and hold modelling events exhibiting the best work.

Before COVID, some Cuban “enterprises” were already part of creative industries, which has assured not only their survival today, but also added benefits in the future. An example is the famous “La Guarida” restaurant, that uses avant-garde cooking techniques based on the island’s gastronomic traditions, and offers other artistic proposals linked to its business. Given the current situation, the restaurant started a new service called “La Guarida at home,” through which customers can hire bar, kitchen and even private chef services, to bring the creative atmosphere of the business to their own homes.

It is necessary that such changes in business models, towards greater creativity and initiative, be prolonged over time, and not only emerge in difficult periods as a reactive response.

Shortening the path

There is a lot of potential on which the institutions in charge of managing territories can rely. Continuing to evolve in local economic, social and cultural development, and ensuring that a greater number of self-employed businesses offer a cultural value associated with their fundamental activity would help achieve more sustainable economic development. Here, several lines of action could contribute to the process:

  • Publish innovative proposals of creative activity by the most successful enterprises in the local and national media
  • Create advisory groups that are responsible for formulating new proposals associated with the creative economy and guide existing private businesses that do not yet offer creative goods and services
  • Hold exchange events (including online) with local entrepreneurs and experts in this type of economy

Cuban “entrepreneurs” are obliged to adopt certain measures, mainly aimed at innovation. The country has a skilled workforce, with excellent business ideas, great creativity and preparation. Developing e-commerce, new business techniques, home-based services, online courses and classes, more advanced applications and rethinking the structure of each business would be a very effective way forward.

The actors that could be part of creative economies should reflect on this and give their business activity a new creative value: different and innovative. It is evident that there are huge gaps in terms of economic, regulatory, geographic and financial conditions and profitability within the private sector activities developed in Cuba. Perhaps this is the key for entrepreneurs: to think like creative industries.

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