“That’s exactly what we need,” replied the dean of the Antwerp Management School (AMS) Paul Matthyssens enthusiastically when Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs volunteer Hugo Van de Cauter proposed that they cooperate towards the end of last year.
AMS has been arranging bursaries for students in the South since 2011. They are immersed here for one year in a Master’s of Management Innovation & Entrepreneurship, with the intention that they return to their own country afterwards and establish a business and create job opportunities. They are not left to their own devices: in addition to a bursary and an interest-free loan from the AMS fund, which is managed by the King Baudouin Foundation, they also receive intensive coaching from entrepreneurs in Belgium, such as Herman Van De Velde of the lingerie group of the same name or Bob Elsen of travel company Joker.
In addition to a bursary and an interest-free loan from the AMS fund, the students from the South also receive intensive coaching from Belgian business people.
No simple task
Fifteen students from all corners of the world, like Vietnam, India, South Africa, Peru and Uganda, have already benefited from such a bursary. “However, it has been noticed that these students often stay in Belgium because salaries are much higher here, or because things are not all roses at home. They ultimately do not create a business, because they find it hard to grow a local network, even though we hook them up with local union of self-employed entrepreneurs (UNIZO)”, explains Paul Matthyssens. “It is also no simple task to find financing for their business. Only three of them actually became entrepreneurs, while the other bursary students ended up with an employer. Of course, that is not the intention.”
When Hugo Van de Cauter shed light on how the Business to Business projects of Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs work, Matthyssens immediately saw a certain synergy with his bursary students. With the B2B projects Belgian entrepreneurs invest directly in new start-ups or existing businesses and they coach the local entrepreneurs by sharing their knowledge and experience. “What immediately struck me is the local nature of these projects, where young students can immediately quench their thirst for entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs has a powerful network in many countries via the local community or via the NGOs they work with. The chances of obtaining financing for such a project will also be much better,” says Matthyssens.
During their practical year after their master’s in Antwerp, the bursary students already work on shaping their business in their home country. They learn how to draw up a business plan, do market analysis and attract financing. This practical approach is a major plus. Even though they come from excellent universities that are screened in advance by AMS, the level of education is often still too ex cathedra. “Here they receive intensive coaching in a small group with international students and also work on their self-development. We teach them to take care of themselves, to integrate sustainability in their business practices and to handle future employees."
In the partnership with Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs the mentor will also be the business person who guides the project in the South, so that a bond is already established here. The selection of a project can occur in two ways. Hugo Van de Cauter: “It could be that we are looking for a manager for an existing project in somewhere like Uganda, for example. If we find a Ugandan student who wants to commit to this, we make sure he or she gets guidance. But students have their own idea for a business, we welcome that too, of course. If it is a good business case, we look for a Belgian entrepreneur who has an affinity for the country and/or the relevant sector and wants to invest in it.”
“Here they receive intensive coaching in a small group with international students and also work on their self-development”, says Paul Matthyssens.
Sustainability is the way to go
Matthyssens: “It is important to us that this bursary student has the opportunity to give life to his or her fresh ideas and creativity. But most importantly, we want to see a path of sustainability to entrepreneurship open up for him or her. In my view, the cooperation with Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs is truly win-win.”
“Our first bursary student we are going to put this partnership into practice with, is Winnie Kisakye from Uganda.” Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs and AMS are jointly going to put their thinking caps on at the beginning of September to find the most suitable project for this particularly ambitious woman.