Business Planet this week is in the ancient city of Klaipeda in Lithuania, looking at an EU program to help entrepreneurs.
Today it is the dream of many people to set up their own business.
And there is an exchange program dedicated to helping you get started … it’s called ‘Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs’.
Its objective: To help business people refine ideas and develop skills with other entrepreneurs.
Founded in 2005 Velobic was initially one shop, then a second was added. But soon, the owners realized the business was too seasonal and resolved to diversify. They decided to get into the bike courier and messenger game.
In 2009, one of the owners, Rimvydas Butkus, spent three months at a bike courier firm in the Austrian city of Graz. He wanted to test the idea and put together a solid business plan.
He outlines what he gained from the experience:
“I learned how to target customers, who would use this service, doctors, dentists, small printers … I acquired all the ‘know how’ to manage this type of business, and it also helped me learn more about the cycling culture in Western Europe”.
With the experience gained from the Austrian exchange, the company has increased its revenue by 10% every year, and plans to hire new riders over the coming weeks. They are the first, and so far, only, company to offer this service in Klaipeda.
Rimvydas Butkus outlines the advantages to the firms who use his new service:
“The main advantage for our customers is we can move quickly, and the bikes are environmentally friendly and, of course, quiet”.
To date, more than 3,200 people have participated in an Erasmus exchange program. It runs in 37 countries, mainly European. Each individual exchange lasts from 1 to 6 months and the European Commission pays part of the cost.
For a new entrepreneur, Erasmus is an opportunity to test his or her idea in real life, and to begin to develop a network of contacts.
Here in Lithuania the scheme is run by Saretas. The managing director and local contact is Reda Nausedaite.
She explains, that despite its title, Erasmus is for someone of any age:
“This program is not only for young people. You have to be a new entrepreneur with a great idea – with a new business approach -, or you can have already started the company, [it must be less than] three years [old]”.
For the hosts, the satisfaction level is high. Almost all say they would welcome another exchange.
Reda Nausedaite again :
“They get a new fresh mind on board. So they [the exchangee] might support their [the host’s] organization, they might support new ideas, invent new things … They work as a team”.
Rimvydas Butkus says he took a lot from the program:
“For me, the key to success is to think globally and act locally, to launch the business with zest, and use the experience gained during my stay in Austria”.