According to German philosopher Immanuel Kant, all human knowledge begins with intuitions, proceeds from thence to concepts, and ends with ideas. Participants of the summer training on social entrepreneurship for youth and teenagers "SEI Youth. My first business" started with ideas. With the help of coaches, last summer 30 schoolchildren from different cities of the country designed concept plans for six business ideas. Now, after six months, we decided to analyze what and how they have managed to implement.
In early spring, almost everyone from the team gathered in Minsk to describe their achievements to the coaches and to each other, and to discuss the problems they faced while developing their business ideas. Out of the six projects conceived last summer, two have continued. The composition of the teams has changed, some ideas have been totally reworked, but, most importantly, their desire to start their own business in the future has not disappeared.
Idea No.1. Web-based vocational guidance platform for students
Original composition of the team: Yekaterina Lemeshevskaya, Yana Matsiuk, Polina Struchevskaya, Yury Chimbur, Veronika Kolesnikovich
|Yekaterina Lemeshevskaya (on the left)|
In the course of the training, teens from Pinsk came up with the idea to create a vocational guidance platform where graduates could be matched with professionals to choose their prospective career and the field of study. At the moment, the idea is no longer being developed and the team has disintegrated. However, the students describe how enthusiastic they were about the project immediately after the training.
|Polina Struchevskaya (second on the left) and Yury Chambur (on the right)|
Teenagers sought support from creators of the portal https://adukacyja.info/, who liked and praised the idea and promised to provide support to the extent of their capabilities. Unfortunately, the team did not have enough time and persistence to continue the project. An additional complication stemmed from the fact that the participants live and study in different cities.
The failure to realize the idea, according to the members of the team themselves, did not discourage them but helped them to analyze their mistakes and learn from them. Some members of the team do not rule out that in future they will resume the project to develop such a platform, especially considering that Belarus doesn’t have anything similar yet.
Idea No. 2. Height-adjustable mobile furniture
Original composition of the team: Tatskana Kapchuk, Darya Kozlova, Yelena Stefnyak, Yuliya Stefnyak.
|From left to right: Lena and Yulya Stefnyak at the training in Minsk on March 19, 2017.|
The next idea was to develop a prototype of a kitchen with electronic height control for people with disabilities, people of non-standard height or elderly people. It was also planned to set up a website on "Accessible Furniture", where one could find relevant information on where to order and how to make such furniture. In the end, sisters from Minsk Yulia and Yelena Stefnyak, supported by their mother and mentors, continue to develop the project within the framework of the 9-month social entrepreneurship school Biz4all. At the moment the girls are focused on creating a radio-controlled countertop.
This is one of the most successful and promising projects of the school. The girls have had to overcome a number of challenges on the way. We have already covered their business development history in a separate material. At the moment, all the components have already been procured and the mobile countertop is being assembled, which they will install and test at the Stefnyakov’s flat.
The young business ladies have already launched a website, where they are planning to exhibit only ready-made drawings. They will be in the public domain for some time. The tabletop design costs under 1000 euro, for example, in Sweden such modular furniture costs 5000-6000 euro.
"There were a lot of challenges in the course of the work”, says Lena, “but we met caring people at the right time, who helped us move forward. Recently, we have conducted a survey among teenagers with disability, and it turned out that only out of a hundred respondents, only two would be interested in purchasing such furniture. Of course, we were shocked that teenagers don’t even think about future. Now they get help on daily matters from parents, but it will not last forever. In order to change thinking of people around us, we have to start with ourselves, which is what we are doing".
During the peer-to-peer meeting within social entrepreneurship programme Biz4all
Idea No.3. Youth KALЯZORKI Streetwear brand
Original composition of the team: Inna Voloshina, Aleksandra Ilyina, Diana Krupskaya, Aleksandr Kudryavtsev, Diana Nalivayko, Mariya Plavinskaya, Angelina Starkova.
Another team who were actively engaged with their project after the training. After several months, three people were left out of the initial team: Aleksandra and Diana from Minsk, and Aleksandr, who studies in Gomel.
At the end of last year, the teenagers used MaeSens crowdfunding platform and private direct lenders to try and raise funds for their first fashion collection "To Be Called Human" based on stylized folk themes. They have made arrangements with a store where they were going to sell their products, found fabrics suppliers and a seamstress. However, because of disagreements in the team and their inability to maintain personal communication (the teenagers live and study in different cities), they failed to finish the job. At the moment, the team has two participants who plan to keep developing designer clothing, but without the folk motives.
Young designer Aleksandra Ilyina and Aleksandr Kudryavtsev
Idea No.4. Business recycling old things
Original composition of the team: Alina Zhuravskaya, Alina Kabeshova, Yulianna Kurankova, Mariya Kadyrova
Yulianna Kurankova presenting the rules of the training
Young entrepreneurs from this team came to the training with a finished social project, which they had implemented in the framework of their school in Orsha. Their idea was to make souvenirs from old unnecessary things (mainly from clothes): jewelry, pencil cases. After they returned to their hometown with new ideas, the teenagers did not start the project themselves but instead gave it to junior schoolchildren (8th-9th grade) to develop so that the project stayed in school, because they were going to graduate soon.
Another problem with this idea was that such products are not everyday items, these are souvenirs which people purchase on special occasions. However, members of the group stressed during their presentation that they wish to connect their lives with social entrepreneurship but they still need to grow up for that. They say that they need a clear realization what specifically they will do and how they can be useful for the society.
Idea No.5. Online platform to employ people with disability
Original composition of the team: Maksim Stepaniuk, Daniil Melnik, Kseniya Kireeva, Viktor Pospelov
Members of this team, representing Minsk and Vitebsk, decided to focus on helping people with disabilities and create an online platform for employment and training. But their further research in this direction showed that the idea is not in high demand in today’s Belarus and it is difficult to translate it to reality. The teenagers created a website design, analyzed possible ways of future platform development, but did not progress further than their plan on paper.
Maksim Stepaniuk (on the right)
Daniil Melnik (on the left)
However, during their presentation members of this group underscored that they received many additional useful skills: they began to think creatively, communicate with people more effectively, and learned to perform scrupulous analysis.
Active engagement of senior students in the framework of trainings and seminars allows young people to feel important, showcase their creativity and put their energy into an exciting and useful business. Perhaps not every participant of the training is going to become an entrepreneur in future, but the skills the received will definitely help them become successful in any field they choose.
Text by: Valerya Nikalaychyk
The material was prepared within the framework of the "Social Entrepreneurship Incubator", implemented by ODB Brussels in partnership with TNU Network University (Netherlands), Belarusian Youth Public Union "New Faces" and International Civil Association "Union of Belarusian of the world “Motherland", with support from the European Union.
The goal of the programme is to develop a package of social entrepreneurship training programmes in Russian using innovative international practices, as well as the experience of Belarusian diaspora representatives who have become successful entrepreneurs in European Union countries and the USA.