Farewell to 2023 – Glimpse into 2024

As we bid farewell to 2023, reflecting on the year characterized by challenges and opportunities is essential. The world grappled with new tensions, high energy costs, and the persistence of COVID-19 variants. These difficulties, coupled with the ongoing consequences of the pandemic, urged governments and businesses to seek innovative solutions. Two themes consistently stood out throughout this tumultuous period: resilience and frugality.

Resilience and Frugality in the Face of Adversity

2022, these themes began to emerge, and they remained at the forefront in 2023. The global community recognized that resilience, the ability to adapt to change and withstand disruptions, and frugality, the practice of doing more with less, were indispensable qualities in navigating these uncertain times.


The Role of MSMEs and Humane Entrepreneurship

Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) and the principles of Humane Entrepreneurship emerged as guiding lights in the journey to recovery. Deep-rooted in their local communities, MSMEs leveraged their connections to practice frugal innovation and seek complete recovery.


ICSB Predicted Top Trends of 2023

Despite the challenges, there were bright spots on the horizon. Here are some of the top trends that ICSB proposed that shaped 2023:

1- Digital Transformation Acceleration: The pandemic accelerated digital transformation efforts, with businesses embracing technology for remote work, e-commerce, and operational efficiency.

2- Sustainability and ESG: Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) considerations gained prominence, with businesses recognizing the importance of sustainability and social responsibility.

3- Resilient Supply Chains: Global supply chain vulnerabilities led to a shift toward more resilient and localized supply networks.

4- Entrepreneurship Ecosystems: Governments and organizations prioritized nurturing entrepreneurship ecosystems to support startups and small businesses, fostering innovation and economic growth.

5- Hybrid Work Models: The hybrid work model, combining remote and in-office work, became the norm, requiring businesses to adapt to this new reality.

6- Healthtech and Biotech Innovation: Rapid innovation in healthcare and biotechnology continued to address health challenges through telemedicine, digital health solutions, and biotech advancements.

7- Resurgence of Local Businesses: Consumers rallied behind local businesses, driving demand for unique products and personalized services.


A Glimpse into 2024

While predicting the future remains uncertain, certain principles will continue to guide us. Adaptability, innovation, and sustainability will remain paramount. As we move forward, the lessons learned in 2023 will shape our approach to an ever-evolving world. In embracing change and seizing emerging opportunities, businesses and individuals will chart a course toward a promising future. The resilience of MSMEs and the principles of Humane Entrepreneurship will continue to illuminate the path forward.

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Baku: From the Silk Road to the Entrepreneurship Road

Dr. Ayman ElTarabishy, President & CEO of ICSB and Deputy-Chair at GW School of Business, launched the inaugural plenary session of the SME World Forum Research Day at the esteemed ADA University in Baku, Azerbaijan on November 15, 2023, with a groundbreaking proposal. He introduced a revolutionary concept, marking the next evolution from the historic Silk Road to what he termed “The Entrepreneurship Road.” Dr. ElTarabishy emphasized the significance of honoring our past while boldly stepping into the future. He passionately argued that the Entrepreneurship Road represents this new journey, leading us toward uncharted territories and exciting possibilities.

The Evolution of Baku: Embracing Global Changes

Baku, a city steeped in history and once a crucial node on the ancient Silk Road, is transforming remarkably. It’s emerging as a guiding light on the newly minted “Entrepreneurship Road.” This metamorphosis represents far more than a mere renaming; it’s a deep-rooted shift in perspective, aligning with the ever-evolving global landscape and the myriad of opportunities it presents.

Where the Silk Road was synonymous with trade and the intertwining of diverse cultures, the Entrepreneurship Road encapsulates a more contemporary ethos. It embodies the dynamic and innovative spirit of today’s youth, poised to tackle the unique challenges of our planet. This new path reflects a world where entrepreneurial endeavors are not just about economic gains but also about addressing environmental concerns, social inequalities, and the sustainability of our world.

The Entrepreneurship Road, therefore, is not just a route but a journey towards a more resilient and equitable future. It’s a call to action for the young and old alike to innovate, collaborate, and create solutions for a better world. In Baku, this road is taking shape through initiatives that merge tradition with technology heritage with modernity, creating a model for cities worldwide to follow. With its focus on sustainable development and inclusive growth, this road is paving the way for future generations to thrive. 

Guided by the Stars: The 17 SDGs and ESG

Looking up at the vast night sky, we find a profound reminder that we are accompanied by guiding lights along the Entrepreneurship Road. These are celestial stars, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and vital principles such as Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria. These SDGs, from eradicating poverty to ensuring environmental sustainability, serve as beacons, illuminating our entrepreneurial path with purpose and direction.

Similarly, ESG criteria inject a sense of ethical responsibility into business practices, ensuring that companies are profitable and accountable for their environmental impact and social contributions. As entrepreneurs and innovators travel this road, these guiding stars provide a balanced approach, intertwining economic growth with sustainable and equitable practices.

Together, the SDGs and ESG criteria form a celestial map, helping us navigate the complexities of modern business and ensuring that our entrepreneurial pursuits align with the greater good. They remind us that our endeavors should contribute positively to the planet and its inhabitants, safeguarding resources and opportunities for future generations. As we venture down the Entrepreneurship Road, these goals and principles light our way, ensuring a journey that is not only successful but also sustainable and socially responsible. 

Centering on the Human: ICSB’s Vision

ICSB’s commitment to Humane Entrepreneurship forms the soil of the Entrepreneurship Road, centering on the human element in business. This concept extends beyond traditional business metrics, focusing on nurturing human potential and well-being. It’s a holistic approach where economic success is intertwined with social and environmental responsibility. The Entrepreneurship Road, underpinned by this philosophy, becomes a journey of economic growth, human development, and ethical business practices. Here, the success of entrepreneurial ventures is measured not only by their financial outcomes but also by their impact on people’s lives and the broader society. This road is charting a new course in business, where the ultimate goal is to create a sustainable, inclusive world that values human dignity and well-being at every step.

Sustainability and Circular Economy: Legacy for Future Generations

Sustainability and adopting circular economy principles are fundamental components of the Entrepreneurship Road, especially as it unfolds in Baku. This approach is not just about meeting the needs of the present; it’s a commitment to future generations. In embracing these sustainable practices, Baku sets a precedent for responsible and efficient resource utilization, ensuring that economic growth does not come at the expense of environmental health or social equity.

The circular economy model, which emphasizes resource reuse, recycling, and regeneration, is crucial in this journey. It challenges the traditional linear economy of “take-make-waste” and proposes a system where waste is minimized and resources are continuously cycled back into the economy. This reduces environmental impact and offers economic opportunities for new markets and job creation.

In Baku, integrating these principles into the Entrepreneurship Road is paving the way for a more resilient and sustainable urban development. It’s about creating a city where businesses thrive by innovating to enhance environmental stewardship and social well-being. 

Conclusion: A New Path Forward

The transition from the Silk Road to the Entrepreneurship Road represents a seamless and thrilling evolution in entrepreneurship. This shift marks not just a change in concept but an inspiring new direction, particularly for the youth. The Entrepreneurship Road is more than a mere pathway; it’s a destination with possibilities, shaping a future where young minds are at the forefront of innovation and progress. It’s a journey that emphasizes the importance of nurturing and focusing on the next generation, as they are the ones who will drive us forward on this exciting new road.

Written by:

Dr. Ayman ElTarabishy, President & CEO, ICSB

Contributions by:
Ambassador Oh Joon, Former Korean Ambassador to the UN and the 71st President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)

Winslow Sargeant, Immediate Past Chai, ICSB

Vicky Stylianou, Incoming Chair, ICSB, Executive General Manager, Institute of Public Accountants, Australia

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Small Business Horizon November 2023 Issue
AI Revolution and the Future Ahead

In the newest issue of Small Business Horizon Magazine (SBH), we are excited to present a fascinating feature that intersects the evolution of technology with the timeless appeal of music. Artificial intelligence has now reached the realm of cultural nostalgia, reviving the music of The Beatles and John Lennon for the ears of a modern audience.

Latest Magazine Issue: https://issuu.com/aymanelt/docs/sbhnovember2023

This technological masterpiece reflects an unprecedented collaboration between artificial intelligence and the arts. AI, having delved into the rich musical archives of The Beatles and Lennon, has emerged with a creation that marries the band’s and the artist’s signature elements with contemporary flair. By processing their intricate songwriting patterns, distinctive melodies, and harmonies, the AI has managed to produce a song that simultaneously harkens back to the Beatles’ and Lennon’s groundbreaking era and appeals to today’s listeners.

Our latest SBH magazine explores how this synthesis of AI and musical genius not only pays homage to John Lennon’s influential legacy but also signals a new era where technology redefines the boundaries of creative expression. As we reflect on Lennon’s impact, which transcended music and touched upon the themes of peace, love, and social consciousness, this AI endeavor is a powerful testament to his enduring influence.

Join us in this newest issue as SBH delves into innovative developments, celebrating how small businesses and the broader entrepreneurial ecosystem can draw inspiration from such cross-disciplinary innovations. Dr. Ayman El Tarabishy, our esteemed Editor and an advocate for small business dynamism, invites you to explore how the revolutionary spirit of figures like John Lennon continues to inspire and how it can inform the future of small business strategy and innovation.

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The United States 2023 Top Small Businesses

On October 19, 2023, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce held its first America’s Top Small Business gala to honor this year’s seven regional finalists, who were chosen from a pool of nearly 15,000 applicants, and also announced the grand prize winner, who took home the $25,000 cash prize! 

ICSB recognizes the U.S. Chamber initiative and congratulates all the finalists and winner.

The U.S. Chamber announced that our 2023 grand prize winner for America’s Top Small Business:

Winner: Elderly Instruments of Lansing, Michigan!

Elderly Instruments, our Great Lakes region finalist, is a family-owned music shop with a mission of being a welcoming musical haven where all people, regardless of their background or musical experience, can play and purchase affordable, quality fretted instruments and accessories at great prices.

Now on its second generation of leadership, Lillian Werbin, daughter of co-founder Stan Werbin, runs the establishment with a staff of nearly 40 full-time employees and remains dedicated to valuing not only her team but also her community, taking part in revitalizing Old Town Lansing and actively supporting both national and local nonprofit initiatives that lift the voices of the LGBTQ+ community and people of color within the bluegrass genre.

[Read more about Elderly Instruments here: Elderly Instruments Aims to Be a ‘Conservator of Musical Heritage’]

The U.S. Chamber also announced the finalists for America’s Top Small Business. The finalists showed exemplary levels of business leadership, ambition, and passion. To learn more about our finalists, check out their profiles below.

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Women in the Labor Market and MSMEs Day

In 2023, the International Council for Small Business (ICSB) declared a potent theme for Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) Day: “Galvanizing MSMEs Worldwide by Supporting Women and Youth Entrepreneurship and Resilient Supply Chains.” The emphasis was significantly placed on women, not merely as a subtheme but as a predominant discourse, unearthing their pivotal role in the global entrepreneurial landscape.

Some met this theme with resistance, questioning the spotlight on women as a significant focal point for MSMEs Day. However, with the recent commendation of Claudia Goldin, a Harvard University professor awarded the Nobel Prize in economics for her ground-breaking research into women’s income and employment, the discourse seems timely and pertinent. Goldin’s research, which analyzed over 200 years of US data, revealed that the gender pay gap could historically be attributed to differences in education and occupation. Yet, notably, the majority of current earnings disparities arise between men and women in identical works, amplifying post-childbirth.

Addressing the Challenges Faced by MSMEs Globally

The global working environment for entrepreneurs and MSMEs has been staggered by multiple simultaneous shocks and crises, including conflicts, commodity dependence, geopolitical tensions, and pandemics, inducing social and economic instability. This instability renders MSMEs, particularly those owned by women and youth, extremely vulnerable to escalating inflation and supply chain disruptions.

Despite the burgeoning percentage and overall number of business formations by women and youth worldwide, these enterprises often face limited access to affordable finance, capacity-building support, partnership networks, and global markets. These challenges often hinder their business growth, trapping many within informality or necessity entrepreneurship.

Policies and Support for MSMEs: A Step Towards Inclusive Development

Policies that bolster capacities and support the development of MSMEs and entrepreneurship for women and youth must be prioritized. By addressing challenges, lowering and removing barriers, and providing an environment conducive to the growth of women- and youth-owned businesses, we pave the way towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 1, 4, 5, 8, 9, and 10. Additionally, it honors the “leave no one behind” pledge of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its SDGs.

ICSB’s Vision Materializing: More Focus on Women Entrepreneurs

ICSB takes immense pride in witnessing the materialization of its 2023 efforts, as more focus is now being accorded to women entrepreneurs. Our initiative to highlight the importance of women in entrepreneurship was not merely to spark a conversation but to ignite a transformative change in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The recognition of Claudia Goldin’s work by the Nobel Prize serves as a testament to the urgent need to address, discuss, and find solutions to the gender disparities in the labor market. It aligns seamlessly with our mission and further validates our thematic choice for MSMEs Day in 2023.

The journey towards empowering women and youth in entrepreneurship, especially within the MSMEs sector, is pivotal for economic growth, societal advancement, and a better future. It is the collective responsibility of global organizations, policymakers, and individuals to continue this momentum, ensuring that the endeavors of entities like ICSB and individuals like Claudia Goldin pave the way for sustainable, inclusive progress worldwide.

by: Dr. Ayman ELTarabishy
President & CEO, ICSB
Deputy Chair, Dpt. of Mgt, W School of Business

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SMEs and Climate Change

SMEs and Climate Change

SMEs and Climate: The Unsung Heroes in the Battle for a Greener Tomorrow

The climate crisis is undeniably one of the most pressing challenges of our time. While much attention is given to the roles of governments and large corporations in addressing this issue, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) are emerging as pivotal players in the fight against global warming. Representing over 90% of businesses worldwide, SMEs are uniquely positioned to make a significant impact. Here’s how:

Historical Context:

Three decades ago, Bill McKibben, author of “The End of Nature,” was among the first to sound the alarm on artificial climate change. His writings in the New Yorker and his groundbreaking book laid the foundation for the global conversation on this pressing issue. Fast forward to the present, and the momentum continues with individuals like Kyle Pope, editor and publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review, and Mark Hertsgaard. They spearheaded “Covering Climate Now,” a global initiative encouraging news organizations to address climate change consistently. With the commitment of over 250 news outlets worldwide, this project underscores the urgency of sustained and impactful climate coverage.

The SME Challenge:

While SMEs have the potential to be significant players in the fight against climate change, several barriers often hold them back:

Time Constraints: SMEs, often running lean operations, might be unable to figure out sustainable practices’ complexities.

Lack of Knowledge: Many SMEs are unfamiliar with or uninterested in buying carbon credits, seeing it as an abstract concept rather than a tangible solution.

Regulation vs. Solution: SMEs typically prefer straightforward solutions over additional restrictions. They seek effective, easy-to-implement strategies rather than more bureaucratic hurdles.

Profitability: For many SMEs, sustainability needs to make business sense. They’re looking for profitable eco-friendly initiatives, not just another expense.

Operational Integration: SMEs often grapple with seamlessly integrating sustainable practices into their operations without disrupting their business model.

An Example: The Ripple Effect of Early Education on Sustainability:

One of the most profound examples of grassroots change in sustainability can be traced back to kindergarten and middle school programs. Early education initiatives that introduced recycling taught children the mechanics of sorting waste and instilled in them the values of environmental responsibility. Armed with newfound knowledge and a sense of purpose, these young students became ambassadors of change in their homes, urging parents to adopt recycling habits. As families began to embrace these practices, the ripple effect continued, influencing broader community behaviors and eventually reaching local businesses. It was, in essence, the younger generation that catalyzed this transformative shift. This phenomenon serves as a powerful testament to the influence of early education on societal habits and offers a promising blueprint for introducing climate change products and services. By targeting educational initiatives at a young age, we can hope to foster a generation that understands the importance of sustainable practices and actively champions them in every sphere of their lives.

The Potential of SMEs:

Flexibility and Innovation: SMEs possess an inherent agility that many more giant corporations lack. This allows them to swiftly adapt to new technologies and market demands, pioneering innovative green solutions.

Localized Impact: By adopting sustainable practices, SMEs can inspire change in their communities, influencing suppliers, competitors, customers, and beyond.

Green Products and Services: With the rising demand for sustainable products, SMEs have the opportunity to tap into this burgeoning market.

Energy Efficiency: Simple measures can significantly reduce an SME’s carbon footprint.

Sustainable Supply Chains: SMEs can amplify their positive environmental impact by making eco-conscious choices in their supply chains.

Employee Engagement: SMEs can foster a company culture that champions sustainability.

Advocacy and Awareness: SMEs can leverage their platforms to champion climate-friendly policies and raise environmental awareness.

Aligning with Global Goals:

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer a blueprint for global sustainability, and SMEs play a crucial role in realizing these objectives.

ICSB’s Emphasis on Climate:

The International Council for Small Business (ICSB) has long advocated for sustainable business practices, especially in the context of climate change. Recognizing the pivotal role that small businesses play in the global economy, ICSB has consistently emphasized the importance of climate action, not just as an environmental necessity but also as a business imperative.

One of the most notable ways ICSB has brought attention to this issue is through its “Top Ten Trends” publication. Year after year, climate change has featured prominently on this list, highlighting its significance and urging businesses, especially Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), to take proactive measures. This consistent emphasis serves as a clarion call for SMEs to recognize the imminent threats posed by climate change and to adapt their business models and practices accordingly.

Furthermore, the annual MSMEs Day, championed by ICSB, presents a golden opportunity to further the climate agenda. Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) Day is a celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit and a platform to discuss and promote sustainable business practices. By integrating climate-focused workshops, panels, and discussions into the MSMEs Day agenda, ICSB can further its mission of equipping businesses with the tools and knowledge they need to combat climate change.

ICSB’s collaboration with the STGC (Sustainable Tourism Global Center) initiative has also been instrumental in promoting sustainable business practices. The STGC initiative, in partnership with ICSB, works towards creating a more transparent and accountable global commerce ecosystem. By emphasizing the importance of sustainability, transparency, and ethical business practices, the STGC initiative, backed by ICSB, is paving the way for a greener and more responsible global business landscape.

In conclusion, ICSB’s unwavering commitment to climate action, its influential platforms like the “Top Ten Trends” and MSMEs Day, and collaborations like the STGC initiative position it as a leading force in the global movement towards a sustainable future.

In Conclusion:

While they may not have the vast resources of multinational corporations, SMEs have the agility, community influence, and innovative spirit to make substantial strides in addressing climate change. Their extensive and small actions contribute to a collective effort pushing us towards a more sustainable future.

In the climate narrative, SMEs are not just supporting characters but leading protagonists.

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