Business Planet heads to Belgium to see how one entrepreneur has built a stable company thanks to the skills she learnt through a unique European exchange programme.
Belgium is a world leader when it comes to breeding and training horses. It was the reason why Susanna Cremaschi, originally from Italy, came moved here. Having worked with horses for 15 years, she felt it was time to start her own company. However, to do that, she needed more technical experience. Through the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme, she was able to work with Frantz Ducci, an experienced horse breeder and trainer.
"Thanks to this programme I have become better acquainted with the characteristics of horse breeding and training here in Belgium, which are very different from Italy, and I have improved my English and French a lot,” she says.
A leg up in business
The EYE programme supports newly established or aspiring entrepreneurs by matching them with experienced business owners. The goal is to groom them so they have the right skills and know-how to run a top business. But what about the host entrepreneur? What do they get out of the exchange?
“It has the potential to open up new markets abroad,” explains Frantz, adding: “So, everything Susanna learnt here she can share with future clients, with her current clients, with her contacts in Italy, who will feel much more comfortable to come and try horses, and in turn increase my business potential.”
No sector or age limitation
The exchange allows new entrepreneurs to spend up to six months with an SME in another country. Crucially, there restrictions when it comes to sector or age. The focus is entrepreneurial experience not how old you are. Since 2009, more than 9000 business partnerships have been created.
Marco Iacuitto is the Managing Director of the Belgian-Italian Chamber of Commerce, one of the many intermediary organisations that help to coordinate the exchange across Europe. He says the ambition now is to take EYE’s success forward by expanding the programme geographically.
“We are going global, building on the success of the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme. New entrepreneurs can now travel to Singapore, Israel and the US to explore the local entrepreneurial cultures of these countries.”
While those new destinations are currently on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is still possible to take part in an exchange, either by working remotely or travelling within Europe.
“The programme is continuing and we are supporting new entrepreneurs to establish remote exchanges with the host entrepreneur, better prepare their exchange, but still new entrepreneurs can travel to other European countries as long as they respect the health measures in place,” says Marco.
Since going it alone, Susanna’s business has got off to a flying start. This year she’s already sold three horses. So what tips do our respective entrepreneurs have for others thinking of launching their own company?
“It’s about having a good business plan, but also at the same time having an excellent capacity to adapt, explains Susanna.
Frantz adds: ”Find an entrepreneur who is proactive in their field; listen to the news and people."
Marco Iacuitto is the Managing Director at the Belgian-Italian Chamber of Commerce. Business Planet spoke to him to find out more about what the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneur programme entails.
What's so unique about Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs and how does it help aspiring entrepreneurs?
“Erasmus for young entrepreneurs, in my opinion, is so unique because since 2009, it contributes to the development of a European entrepreneurial culture. Any aspiring entrepreneurs can start a collaboration from one up to six months with experienced entrepreneurs in one of the European countries participating in the programme. They can learn how to run a company. They can understand the business environment of the country. They can receive insights from their mentor on how to expand their network, their client network, and maybe they can also acquire a business partner when the exchange is over. In addition, they receive a monthly financial support from 500 to 1100 euros depending on the country. And they are supported by the intermediary organisation, that is to say, organisation that are active in the business development.”
When you select participants, what are you looking for exactly and how do you match them with the host entrepreneur?
“For new and aspiring entrepreneurs it is very important the quality of the business plan, of the business idea or the project they have. But personally, I think that also the motivation and commitment play a big role when it comes to the selection of participants.”
And who is eligible to take part in this programme?
In the programme we welcome, on one side, the new or aspiring entrepreneurs - that is to say, candidates are firmly planning to start their company or already have a company within three years. And on the other side, we have the host entrepreneur - that is to say, owners or managers of small or medium sized company with an experience of more than three years in running the company. What is very important for the programme. There is no limitation of age and business sector.
And if I'm interested in taking part in the programme, how can I find out more?
Very simple. You take a look to the website of the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneur. You can find any useful information about eligibility, participation, registration, and still, if you do not find all the information you are searching for, please contact an intermediary organisation in your country and you will be guided the whole procedure of the programme.
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.
Since the start of the programme, more than 9.000 pairs of entrepreneurs have benefited from it.
The programme continues in spite of the coronavirus crisis and the travelling restrictions and can take form of remote coaching (online, phone).