Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs
Did you ever think of starting a business?
But how does the programme seem in real life?
Angela Pereira Alves who participated in the programme shares her story with us. For her everything started 3 years ago when after going back in City College Birmingham to study fashion she decided to start her own sustainable fashion business called Dew Organic Clothing. She wanted to create a brand that would produce clothing using organic and ethically produced fabrics. That way she wants to raise awareness of the impact of the clothing industry on the planet and the people that participate in the production process.
Realising the need to gain more knowledge on how to start a business she took part in training run by Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and this is when she found out about the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs. The organisation that registered her interest and managed the exchange was EISC Ltd, a consultancy helping businesses interested in growing, supporting them to develop their activities in the UK and abroad. Her initial thoughts were that she would learn the do’s and don’ts of running a business from experienced entrepreneurs and get involved in processes from marketing to managing finances and cash flows. Also, she was interested in understanding the dynamics of running a shop, for covering the future prospective of operating her own shop one day.
For the next step she focused her search on finding a business with a strong consideration for sustainability, which was a priority for her. The business she ended up finding was a boutique in Malta called “Prints of Wales/Souvenirs That Don’t Suck”, which was offering modern gifts and souvenirs created by designers. The host entrepreneur Christopher was very supportive of her goals and agreed on including her on a large scope of tasks, but always allowing her to manage her own projects at the same time. Early on from the first week she was fully integrated and involved in various activities. Over the 6 month period of the programme, she focused mainly on developing a marketing strategy and social media campaign, managed the day-to-day running of the shop and provided a tailor-made customer service experience.
Angela rated the overall experience as very positive for her not only professionally but also personally. Besides working and learning she had the chance to discover a new country, with more than 7000 years of history and many World Heritage sites. She integrated by doing business with the locals and created a bond with them beyond the simple contact that is developed when travelling for example. Specifically she mentions “You get a real insight of the social and economical environment of the place and create relationships on a different level.”
At last she highlights, “the whole process from registering to successfully completing the exchange did not always go smoothly” and she kindly suggested a list of things to keep in mind for new participants.
Here are her top tips:
- Register with an Intermediary Organisation (IO)
This is the first step (after writing your business plan of course). The EYE website provides a list of IOs. You don’t have to choose an IO close to the area of your business's location, you can choose any on the list provided. Contacting a few of them and asking about available funding is always the best way to select one.
- Check the EYE online platform
Once registered with an IO you will get access to the website's platform. If you are a new entrepreneur the database should be your first point of contact, unless you have a potential host already. The search can help to filter your options through type of activity, country or even language spoken.
- Actively search for a Host
Finding a host is the difficult part. Depending on the sector of activity, the choice of potential hosts can be limited. However, it is fine to find a host who might not have registered yet with the programme and urge them to do so in their country, as long has they meet the criteria. Then they can ask for guidance and support from your own IO.
- Think carefully about the country for your exchange
There are a few considerations to keep in mind when choosing the country but the first one is the language. This can be a big obstacle when doing business as well being really involved in the day to day activities. To maximise your chances choose a country where you have a fairly decent level of language fluency or select a business dealing essentially with foreign clients in the language you are confident in. Remember though, it is never to late to master a new language.
- Plan your stay before leaving
Make sure you have accommodation sorted at least for the first few weeks to give yourself time to find a more permanent place to stay (depending on how long your exchange is for). The grant given covers the basic needs however, as Angela discovered in Malta, some neighbourhoods are more expensive than others and the price of an accommodation can therefore easily be twice as much. Your host entrepreneur can arrange for you to share a flat as moving into your own flat might not be financially viable. In general you should look out for all the necessary information about the location you are traveling to so you can reduce your relocation shock.
- Currency and money matters
The grant is paid into your bank account every month on the day you started the exchange and is paid in euros. If you have a bank account in the UK the amount will be converted into pounds. In case your selected country that has euro as currency to avoid conversion rate fees, you can either use an account in the euro area or use a prepaid online account that allows instant currency exchange in different countries. The last month of your stay however you will only receive the grant after finishing and both the host and new entrepreneur have to submit a feedback questionnaire. So make sure you plan ahead for this as well!
If you are interested in participating as a host entrepreneur or a new entrepreneur make sure you check the leaflets giving all the necessary programme details and start your application here. More general information about the programme could be found on the programme's website.