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How EFSI benefits SMEs in Europe - Finora Capital case study: Shiftworks (Estonia), events organisation


“We need to be sensitive to what’s happening in society, constantly on the lookout, picking up trends, reacting to them, and making them visible and understandable for our audience. We want to be one step ahead, asking ourselves what’s around the corner and how can we introduce this to the market?” says Helen Sildna, founder and CEO of Shiftworks.

Shiftworks is the company behind Tallinn Music Week (TMW), a festival held annually in the capital of Estonia since 2009. It has three main programmes: the music festival, conference and city festival. But what’s the goal behind this kind of festival?

“We felt that more could be done to promote the local scene and local talent in Estonia. We started with the music festival, showcasing local talent, and then came the conference part, to explore various topics and offer networking opportunities for actors in the sector. The city festival came later, focussing on design, arts, the food scene, city talks to discuss societal issues, shining the spotlight on parts of the city that are not so well-known. It became a tool to promote music and Tallinn in general. Festivals can be a very effective way to promote a city.”

Helen argues that at the heart of identity you will find integrity and pride. “What has good quality in our city? What is worth presenting to the world?” she asks. “The pride of citizens in relation to the content they create is at the core of the whole story, and it has important knock-on effects: People started caring about the content that we have right here in Tallinn. They take pride in it. And international press recognition helps to fuel that pride. We’ve seen the creative scene coming together, creating a new type of quality…“

The same has happened with another festival organised by Shiftworks, in Narva, the easternmost city in Estonia, plagued by declining industry, job-loss and societal challenges. “We saw that the Station Narva festival makes them all proud of their city, builds new pathways and helps to turn around the image of a post-soviet industrial challenged city to one of more opportunity. It connects the city’s youth to creative networks across the country and boosts the local economy. This generates hope and that has a snowball effect.”

To fuel its work, Shiftworks recently received support in the form of an EU-guaranteed loan from Finora Capital, backed by the EIF under the EU’s Investment Plan for Europe. The biggest challenge for festival organisers, as Helen explains, is bridging the cashflow gap: “Revenue comes after festival, but we need to be sustainable all-year round and pay for services up-front. Bridging this gap is what we needed a loan for.” She continues to describe how businesses in the cultural and creative sectors face difficulties accessing finance: “We don’t’ own real estate or anything considered a tangible asset in the eyes of a bank looking for collateral. That’s why we were thrilled about this opportunity.”

In keeping with the spirit of exploring how society is evolving, the 2021 edition of TMW will be all about connecting the local and global worlds. “The pandemic has affected our international connections and also the way we relate to our local ecosystems. We need to learn how to protect these local ecosystems but also not give up on important global collaborations. We want to explore that space this year,” Helen adds.

Company: Shiftworks (Estonia)

Type of business: Events organisation

EIF financing: Cultural & Creative Sectors Guarantee Facility (CCS), EFSI 

Financial intermediary: Finora Capital

For further information about EIF intermediaries in Estonia, please refer to: http://www.eif.org/what_we_do/where/ee


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