Courage, Inner Freedom and a Thirst for Knowledge – the Tools of a Rising Entrepreneur
Dace Kalsone (pictured) is a lecturer in the new International Business and Start-up Entrepreneurship study programme at Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU). She is a highly qualified financial and economic expert with an extensive educational background and significant work experience.
Kalsone holds a doctoral degree in economics, as well as a master’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in law with a specialisation in international and European law. She has worked at the Bank of Latvia as a financial market analyst, gained experience as a payment systems expert at the European Central Bank, managed the euro project at the Ministry of Finance, worked as the secretary of the Fiscal Discipline Council and is currently a data analyst at Swedbank. Being a lecturer at RSU will be a new challenge. We meet with her to hear what an expert with such an extensive portfolio of knowledge, skills and experience thinks about the emergence of the new RSU programme.
How do you assess the development of the programme and its significance?
The study programme complies with all the most up-to-date requirements regarding the knowledge and skills being taught, and is able to satisfy the requirements of the labour market. Much of this comes from the international environment in which the programme is conducted by which I mean the visiting lecturers the fact that the studies take place in Latvia, abroad, online, in university auditoriums and in the business incubator, the placements that students can undergo at international companies and, of course the fact that the programme is taught in English. During their studies, students will have an opportunity to acquire the theoretical knowledge necessary to become an entrepreneur as well as to get acquainted with the practical side of start-ups in the context of international business. Students will learn about a variety of modern forms of business, such as the digital economy, health economics, leadership, to learn how to develop a business idea and run a business, marketing, resource management, and more.
The programme gradually builds students’ knowledge, the courses acting as academic bricks. The building process begins with theoretical subjects that lay the philosophical, mathematical and economic foundations that an entrepreneur needs to know followed by courses on practical skills. The programme’s lecturers are both doctors of sciences and successful entrepreneurs who are willing to share their experience.
It is a great pleasure for me to be on the team of lecturers. I remember some fantastic meetings that we had last summer that brought together theoreticians from specific fields with experienced entrepreneurs. During the meeting, we joined our knowledge and various methods to figure out how to give students a professional education in a meaningful way and to formulate what we would like a student to know at each stage of their studies. In my opinion, Assistant Professor Romāns Putāns’ idea, who is also the head of the programme, to create the programme was very well conceived of and modern. As the programme will be implemented in English, both international and local students will study here. This will give our students the opportunity to improve their knowledge of foreign languages, because someone with a bachelor’s degree should no longer speak English on a high school level.
What makes this programme modern?
Among other things I would like to mention the way in which subjects are connected, by which I mean how two lecturers from different subjects can work in a coordinated way. For example, in one course I teach economic theory and work together with Evija Liepa who teaches higher mathematics. Our shared vision allows students to evaluate one issue from both an economic and a mathematical point of view. Subjects and their contents are synchronised and are therefore easier to understand than when teaching them separately in segments of one month.
You will be teaching microeconomics, or price theory. Why is this subject important?
A nice analogy is that in microeconomics you look at the tree, whereas in macroeconomics you look at the forest. My task is to make each student understand economics on the level of an individual tree. Based on the specifics according to which each emerging entrepreneur wants to work, it is necessary for them to be able to evaluate the market, market prices, evaluate their own costs, cost groups, and at which price points it’s possible to enter the market. This is theory, but when it comes to calculations, that’s already practice. I am very happy when people like to calculate. By mastering these subjects a student will understand costs, revenues and profits better as well as what the market will be like, what boosts are required, what the timeline is, and development plans need to be prepared accordingly.
How interested do you think that young people are in entrepreneurship? Could there be a lot of interest in the programme?
I think generations have changed, and many people already have an entrepreneurial gene by which I mean the ability not to be afraid to take risks and to add value through knowing that they are producing something that the market needs. It seems to me that this ability is growing in society. Parents and grandparents no longer teach young people that the purpose of life is to work from nine to five. You will have food on the table, just go and take risks, go and do something. Today, there is a growing number of people who have the spirit of entrepreneurship which is an important resource. We are no longer trapped in dogmas. The part of society that feels free and has a desire to do something new is growing.
What qualities does a prospective entrepreneur need?
When ideas are born, what matters is how unlimited your thinking is, how much freedom you allow yourself. I always want to believe that we can find more opportunities in the invisible part of the iceberg. It is also important to learn to work in a team and, of course, to love what you do.
A prospective entrepreneur should radiate energy and a desire to succeed. They must not be arrogant – they must have inner freedom, clear thoughts and action, and an understanding of the market. I also firmly believe that entrepreneurs see their businesses as inclusive, as an opportunity to preserve nature, reduce inequalities, and support society, or people who are less enterprising.
How do you assess the business environment in Latvia?
I would not separate the public and private sectors as something separate, isolated or opposed. Together they form one whole. Often the public sector does not see the need to regulate a particular area of the market, to issue regulatory enactments. The market knows better, however, and often turns to the legislator and says ‘we cannot handle this situation, we need a framework or regulations’. As a result, an inaccurate myth sometimes appears in society that too much is being imposed on them by institutions, the government or Europe. I once took part in drafting a piece of legislation prior to which entrepreneurs were repeatedly asked whether they really needed this single market regulation, and the answer was ‘yes, we need it and we need it fast!’
It is important how active each of us is as a citizen, because with our own initiative we can change a lot and change for the better. We ourselves are the business environment. If entrepreneurs are dynamic, the country can also be dynamic. No one can be blamed for changing taxes again, because they have to change. Everything has to change all the time. It is not right to blame the public sector for the changes taking place.
There are good conditions for starting a business at the moment – it can be done digitally, requires a minimum equity capital and the requirements are very simple. Latvian entrepreneurs and residents can even be considered spoiled because of the power of information and communication technologies here. This provides a good basis to start a business and compete on an international scale.
What do you want to say to students who have chosen the International Business and Start-up Entrepreneurship programme?
To be brave, free and have a thirst for knowledge, to not be afraid to take risks or give up at the first sign of difficulties. The path to becoming an entrepreneur is usually thorny, but great satisfaction and success lies ahead. Just like in any other profession!