Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs
For the last few months our team has had some new and fresh thinking from Petra – an Erasmus intern from Slovenia. We wanted to tell you what this ‘Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs’ programme is and how did the process actually go. Let’s hear it from Petra herself.
EYE in a nutshell
Since my time as an ‘Erasmus Young Entrepreneur’ in Finland is coming to an end, I decided to share some details of what it takes to become a part of this programme.
Let’s first look at the official definition.
Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs (EYE) is a cross-border exchange programme that gives new or aspiring entrepreneurs the chance to learn from experienced entrepreneurs running small businesses in other participating countries.
I first heard about this programme three years ago when a Slovenian entrepreneurship accelerator Ustvarjalnik as a Host Entrepreneur (HE) accepted a girl from Macedonia to a six month long entrepreneurial training. Same as me, she didn’t have a company in mind yet, but she had a plan to learn how think tanks work and establish one in her hometown, Skopje.
I clicked the button “Apply now” in January 2015.
Mostly because I wanted to learn how to start a business and how the processes in a young, but growing B2B company look like. The biggest obstacle in my way to become an entrepreneur was lack of self-confidence and skills. Besides obtaining these two, EYE also gave me an insight into different cultural and organisational settings and a chance to see how companies function in a foreign country.
Many people report improved language skills but I would say my biggest learnings are offline communications skills*. In these three months here at booncon I visited quite a few startup events, presented some ideas to the team and even sat behind the registration desk at Creative Mornings Helsinki! Oh, and in addition I have learned a lot about all the great media channels the booncon team introduced to me – podcasts, blogs, websites, books…
*In 1984 a New York Times Survey on Social Anxiety placed death third in the list of people’s biggest fears. The top two responses were walking into a room full of strangers and speaking in public.
The EYE application is available online. The process is well guided and if you have documents like your CV and your Business Plan prepared, it shouldn’t take you more than half an hour to finish.
In the first part you only fill out your personal info. The second part is focused on motivation – why you wish to participate in this programme, how should your stay abroad help you develop your business, which added value can you provide to your HE and so on. Here you also upload your CV and Business plan and tell about your working experiences.
The business plan is a minimum of 10 pages long document (mine ended on page 22) where you explain your business idea, present a market analysis, find out who your main competitors are, describe the organisation and key management team members and prepare the financial plan for the next five years. I wrote about a responsive application for trying on glasses. My markets were Middle Europe and Scandinavia, competitors online stores with similar functionalities. At the beginning there would be only two team members and my financial plan promised a 25 % growth every year.
Remember that preparing the business plan will take the most of your time and it’s very likely that you will need to correct it a few times.
In the third step you specify the languages you feel comfortable working in and after that the business sectors. I chose two sectors, Advertising, promotion, printing, media and related products and services and IT, office and communication equipment, services and supplies. It happened that booncon chose the same.
In the following steps after this, you fill in your geographical preferences, duration and period of the exchange and select a local Intermediary Organisation (IO). I advise you to send an email to the office when submitting the application – explain them about yourself, tell them you are a serious candidate and ask them about the realistic dates of the exchange. My initial plan got postponed for almost two months!
Once you get into your online application you can choose between many companies on the list. I picked booncon and the following day they accepted my request 🙂
View of the application and acceptance process.
What comes after all the parties confirm your choice is the Relationship Building Agreement. Here you describe your planned objectives, work/learning project, activity plan and expected outcome. The activity plan, where you state your plans for every week of the exchange is the most important part of the document so prepare it carefully together with your HE. Mine included topics like business process in a startup, getting first clients, discovering the Finnish market, visual communications…
When it gets approved by several people you are almost there. Visit your agency, drink a coffee, sign the contract, buy the ticket and fly! 🙂
Once you are on exchange you have to send an Intermediary report to your organisation twice a month. There you describe what you have achieved in the selected time slot, if there were any adherences to the work plan, what are your next goals and maybe some remarks. Things must go according to the plan but if they don’t go you can still write it down and explain why it changed.
You are also receiving a monthly financial aid that varies on the country of the exchange. It covers the expenses for accommodation and travel on the period of the exchange, but does not cover worked hours.
The host entrepreneur is obligated to ensure the high quality of the learning experience and overall working relationship. In exchange he gets an energetic and motivated NE who can contribute to his business with innovative views, new skills and knowledge. He gets to learn about foreign markets, expands his business opportunities and engages in cross-border activities.
Of course, the Host Entrepreneur is also dedicating some time to plan tasks and the workload for the NE. I received a challenge package with varying tasks to complete relating to my activity plan.
The large majority of host entrepreneurs enjoyed the experience so much that they decided to host other new entrepreneurs afterwards!
By being in the database the host entrepreneur also gets a chance to interact with entrepreneurs from other participating countries and gets an opportunity to collaborate with them.
At the end of the relationship you present a final report, summing up all the activities carried out throughout the entire exchange. To prove your exchange you should deliver boarding passes and some transport/food bills to your IO when you return home.
You can read more about EYE in my introductory blog and you can apply for this great EU programme at the official website. I would highly recommend it to everyone with great ideas or a young startup, and is ready to spend 1 to 6 months abroad, learning and experiencing in a new environment.
If you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact me!
booncon is about how to enjoy your work.