Three years ago, Startups.be engaged in a European initiative dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship for first-time entrepreneurs and for those who are experienced and would enjoy getting fresh insights into their businesses. The journey has come to an end, but what a ride it was!
We, as a team, learned a great deal about how to work together with a consortium of partners scattered across Europe, and also about our limitations, focus and scope. Our partners included entrepreneurial hubs, incubators and youth organisations: Tetuan Valley from Spain, Civitta from Lithuania, Tech Hub Riga, Power of Youth from the UK and Beta-i from Lisbon. A great working relationship was developed throughout the years and we are happy to collaborate with so many like-minded people.
The journey has come to an end, as of 31 January we will no longer act as intermediary. Thus, it is the right moment to recount the amazing entrepreneurs we got the chance to work together with and their success stories.
Our host and new entrepreneurs came from all walks of life which made a colourful portfolio of entrepreneurial matches. After facilitating dozens of entrepreneurs to move abroad for a short adventure or receive a new one in Belgium, it is hard to highlight a few, but we will give it a try.
"Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs is a stepping-stone to beginning your own business story"
Zebrabook, a Belgian company creating personalized children book was an enthusiastic host entrepreneur guiding young entrepreneurs in their journey. They found the perfect match in a Serbian wannapreneur, Milica, who packed her suitcase and joined them for a couple of months.
Milica shares her impressions and lessons learned from participating in EYE: "Being a part of project management in ZebraBook gave me a great opportunity to clearly understand childrens` industry market, branding process and marketing strategies. Laetitia was a terrific mentor who helped me build confidence and sharpen my entrepreneurial skills."
She continues: "Going through objectives such as the UK market research, influencer marketing development and order management process prepared me for my own challenges and this is why I consider Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs as a stepping-stone to beginning your own business story. I was lucky to work with Laetitia, experience the process of book personalization and deepen my passion."
Laetitia remembers this time, saying that the EYE project has lots of benefits for both Host and New Entrepreneur because, most of all, it contributes to each other’s growth. She says: "Milica is a pleasure to work with. She was exceptionally enthusiastic about the project, using a fresh approach when delivering visual solutions and it was very helpful for the different points of view I needed. But moreover, she took initiative. Her executive mindset is mixed with an interesting long-term vision. I gave her some insights about new market approach, making a network of new clients and partners, project managing and multi-tasking."
"Catching the attention of De Tijd"
Dominique’s background in the Erasmus programme (the one for students to study abroad) and embeddedness in the European youth policy field led him to start thinking about his own business as a consultant. Thanks to the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme, he could test and validate his ideas in real time with a successful startup company in the UK. His story was a great success, which also caught the attention of De Tijd.
Another story derives from the Ghent, Belgium -Dublin, Ireland axis where Jenny, a seasoned community builder with a lot of event experience decided to explore the event business from a different point of view.
Jenny found an experienced entrepreneur with a great understanding how to create top notch events which are financially viable. He was ready to share his expertise with Jenny, which by the end of the programme, lead Jenny to launch her own business: EventJenny. We wish her best of luck in the exhilarating journey of entrepreneurship!
"This Erasmus programme was a great opportunity to broaden my network internationally."
This is the way Jenny remembers her EYE journey: "Ireland was an easy country with English as a main language. Silviu, my host, helped me a lot by sharing his business experience and asking me tough questions. It definitely gave me a better base to get my own company off the ground."
Brussels is not short of experienced, multilingual, expat entrepreneurs who are eager to host newcomers in the EU bubble. Juan Manuel Revuelta is a well-known figure in the European innovation field, so he happily offered his help to an aspiring entrepreneur from Spain.
“Juan is very glad about his host. The host entrepreneur is doing a great effort adapting the mentoring to Juan’s startup (his startup is a technological innovation, a bit unusual startup). The host has introduced Juan to many different local, national and international companies and institutions based in Brussels and a few ones abroad. Also, thanks to the host, Juan has participated as speaker in several events, mainly entrepreneur events.”
From university to Berlin’s startup scene
Sometimes a deep dive into what entrepreneurship is all about is the greatest experience a young person with a business idea could wish for. It happened to Sarah, who after graduation from school, decided to start building her company immediately. Her drive and courage and the help of her mentor made her through the challenges of pinning down the basics of a sustainable company and refine her business model.
Sarah says that EYE gave her the chance to develop and understand entrepreneurship in a natural learning environment. She adds: "My exchange in Berlin has been an experience full of real-life lessons in working relationships, starting a company and understanding the technology behind my product. I had the opportunity to express my creative sides effectively and there was much guidance provided by the program and my mentor to have the stay be a very organized yet stress-free experience. I am happy to have been part of Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs and would recommend the exchange for anyone interested in starting their own business!"
This is the way Nathan, Sarah's host entrepreneur, remembers it: "I viewed the Erasmus program as a way of giving back to another entrepreneur primarily, and I think the program was a success. As an experienced entrepreneur, I don't often realize how much I've learned and changed until someone new to the field comes along with questions and ideas that I forgot I used to have. Sarah came into the program with a fairly good knowledge of her field, but only a vague idea of how it could be a business and what that business would actually sell. Going through this process has been challenging for both of us, but ultimately rewarding and successful."
Last, but not at least
Someone from the neighbours, quite literally, as Victor started in the BeCode school at BeCentral. That’s how he learned about the programme and seized the opportunity to venture out in Amsterdam.
As he puts is: “My stay was really great, both professionally and socially. Work was really great. I very quickly got accepted by my colleagues and they made me feel very welcome. At first I helped to review some code, to update it and to maintain it. This introduced me to their coding standards. Once I had successfully completed those, I moved on to my personal projects. In these projects I had to write all of the code myself and evaluate the possible frameworks we could use. Socially, I also had a great time and I made some personal developments. During all of my stay, I actively stepped out of my comfort zone. Generally, I made some positive developments as a person, both professionally and socially. I learned a lot about myself, about programming and about managing startups.”
In conclusion, we leave the programme with having our expectations met and with an open spirit to find new partnerships to strengthen our European coverage and ability to help young entrepreneurs fulfil their potential. Are you interested? Check the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs website for further information.