#31 Third meeting of the AER Youth Regional Network in Paris (France)

YOUth can do it!

By: Filip Jurzyk

If you are creative, innovative, self-confident and committed to your business idea, don’t hesitate to become an entrepreneur. And it is possible even if you’re… eleven years old! A group of twenty participants from the AER Youth Regional Network meeting worked together on the topic of entrepreneurship to exchange good regional practices and indicate the obstacles that young entrepreneurs encounter.

When you think of a round table on youth entrepreneurship, your imagination tells a story of a big room, a PowerPoint presentation and a group of sleepy young people listening to boring speeches… Now stop, rewind and imagine it once again. This time just bear in mind that it was a meeting of people who can shape the future European economy. In fact, the meeting started with a creative exercise. “Please divide into four groups and craft products out of the colourful blocks of plasticine”, said Fabienne Baise, the round table moderator working for the Belgian organization “Les jeunes enterprises”.

“But what exactly should we make out of it?”, the people asked. “ I leave it up to you! Just try to make something innovative. Then you should name it, value and try to sell it to others”, Fabienne advised. Thus the brain storm started and its result was surprisingly attractive. One of the groups presented a micro-power plant that could produce energy for the whole of France and cost “only” one billion euro. Then we had a tiny green anchor designed to keep two bags in one hand with a price of only three euro. The third group, called EuroMagic, had a magic wand named “youth stick” that could create anything a youth entrepreneur has in mind. The last product, shaped like Mickey Mouse, was so innovative, that no one really understood what it was made for.

Entrepreneurship road show

After this ice-breaking exercise, Fabienne passed on to the more serious part of meeting, which was about sharing the good practices from regions represented by the round table participants. In the agricultural Georgian region Ajaria farmers are being taught by experts how to apply for bank loans and implement new technologies. In the Italian region of Piemonte a program called “Start Cup” allows young people to present their ideas for a firm. The regional council provides legal support and money for starting up the business if the plan is smart and profitable. Then, if the company survives the competition of the free market, the beneficent has to pay back the debt. Otherwise, he doesn’t have to.

Another good practice comes from the island of Madeira in Portugal. It is called the “Road Show for Entrepreneurship” and includes trainings as well as contests for the best business project made by high school students. The winning applicants receive prizes to encourage them to become an entrepreneur. The Madeira local government also helps with the so-called incubation. If a start-up needs office space, it can register in a building designated for new companies and work there up to three years for free.

Finally, there is a kind of “Rotary Club” in Belgium that organizes trainings and meetings with experienced entrepreneurs. But it was Switzerland that caught the biggest approbation of the participants. They have a project that allows elder retired entrepreneurs and workers to share their professional experience with young beginners.

Network

Among the improvements to be made so that the spirit of entrepreneurship spreads among young Europeans, the round table participants came up with the following ideas: they should take part in entrepreneurship networks, encourage young people to search for information about starting a company and increase the knowledge exchange with the private sector. The speakers also emphasized that there is a significant role for the private sector in teaching young people how to make a business.

And the final conclusions for upcoming entrepreneurs were: remember that you should first have an idea and then search for funds – if the project is good, you will find money for it. Don’t neglect collecting new contacts, work on your network whenever you can. And last but not least, be creative, clever and never give up. Youth really can do it!

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