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EYE exchange: getting the vision you need to start and run your own business

In partnership with The European Commission
EYE exchange: getting the vision you need to start and run your own business
By Paul Hackett
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Business Planet looks at a unique EU funded cross-border exchange programme which gives aspiring entrepreneurs the chance to learn from experienced small business owners in other parts of Europe.

Business Planet looks at a unique EU funded cross-border exchange programme which gives aspiring entrepreneurs the chance to learn from experienced small business owners.

Starting or running a small firm can be a lonely road, but what if there was a way to meet more established entrepreneurs that could help you on your journey? Thankfully, there is! The Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme (EYE) is a cross-border scheme that enables both budding and experienced entrepreneurs to share their skills and ideas to develop new markets.

The Dolce Vitta a la electric

Founded in late 2017, Italian SME Sagelio - that's oil and gas backwards - is building a network of electric car charging stations across the Puglia region. The company also rents electric cars giving customers the opportunity to enjoy and explore Italy's beautiful south eastern coast in a more eco-friendly way. Co-founder Giancarlo Ostuni refined his business plan after spending two months at a Dutch SME which builds charging units for electric vehicles. The exchange was possible under the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme.

"Thanks to the programme I was able to travel into the future, as the Dutch electric car industry is around 10 years ahead of the Italian one. Also I could live in another European capital and experience how it looks like to work in an established business in the sustainable mobility industry," Giancarlo explains.

"A win-win"

While Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs gave Giancarlo the skills he needed to start and run his own company, the exchange also benefited the host firm in the Netherlands.

"First of all, with me there they could have someone running market research on southern Italy, which never happened before. And now that we are an established business, all of our charging stations are theirs, so they found a new customer in us. A win-win."

Under the EYE programme aspiring entrepreneurs can get funding to travel and work with more experienced partners across the EU and several other European countries and territories.

So far 6000 business relationships have been created. The plan is to reach 10,000 exchanges by 2020.

Massimo Avantaggiato is from UNISCO Network Per Lo Sviluppo Locale, an intermediary organisation that helps to coordinate the EYE programme in Italy's south eastern Puglia region. Business Planet spoke to him to get more expert insight about the EYE programme.

What are the benefits for participants?

"First of all, we can talk about the cultural benefits, because you have the opportunity to exchange experience with people coming from other countries from other economic systems. From a technical point of view, new entrepreneurs, or aspiring entrepreneurs, they have the opportunity to learn on the job, to learn in practice from an experienced entrepreneur. The experienced entrepreneur, on their side, they have the opportunity to stay in touch with the fresh motivated new entrepreneur."

What is the satisfaction level? What kind of response have you had from those who take part in the programme?

"At a European level, national level and local level here in Puglia, we really register - as you can check on the website - we really register high motivation and satisfaction. The programme gives the opportunity to open new markets, to create a new relationship and to get a new experience.

What's been the economic impact?"

"Very positive and concrete impact. We’ve managed 68 relationships (in the Puglia region) among new entrepreneurs and host entrepreneurs, and almost all of them have created or developed their own business and jobs."

Who is eligible to take part in this programme ?

"We are talking about two main figures. New or aspiring entrepreneurs and experienced entrepreneurs. There is no age limit. There is no sector limits. The programme is directed towards SMEs, only SMEs, coming from one of the, still today, 28 member countries of the European Union, but also from how to say European territories. That means for example, Albania, Turkey or Moldova."

If I'm interested in taking part in this programme. How can I find out more?

''There's only one answer - the website. The programme is really a practical programme. It's all managed through the website. You can find first information. Second, the practical manual for building your application. And third, all the training activity, for building the relationship, and so on, are all managed through the website."

Useful facts

  • Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs is an EU cross-border programme facilitating the exchange of entrepreneurial and management experience.

  • The programme matches a newly established or potential entrepreneur with a well-experienced entrepreneur running an SME in another country.

  • The exchange is partially funded by the European Union under the COSME programme.

  • In the last five years, more than 6.000 pairs of entrepreneurs have benefitted from the programme. The plan is to reach 10,000 exchanges by 2020.

Useful links

Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs

EU support to entrepreneurs

COSME programme

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