In August of last year, Belarusian Youth Non-Governmental Organization "New Faces" and Belgian non-profit organization "ODB Brussels" organized the first social entrepreneurship training for young people and teenagers "SEI Youth: My First Business". The one-week course brought together thirty teenagers from Orsha, Pinsk, Mozyr and other Belarusian cities. In March 2017, they met again for a two-day training in Minsk.
An overcast rainy March morning was brightened up by smiles on the familiar faces of teenagers and coaches. Secondary and high school students, as well as a number of second-year university students, came to the country's capital to report on the progress with projects they had developed in the summer school, on their successes and failures which had taught them to learn from their mistakes and move forward. Listening to their mature reasoning, it it hard to believe that many of them are still at school and are already thinking about creating their own businesses.
Olga Kapachenia, coordinator of programme for teenagers "SEI Youth My First Business", says that immediately after the summer school ended, there was no plan to organize additional meetings with the participants. "However, upon reflection we decided to get together to analyse our work”, says Olga. “We really wanted to know where they succeeded and where didn’t, to discuss the format of the second school to launch this summer. We also plan to invite coaches who will organize short meetings to identify the kids’ natural talents and realize their full potential. It is very important for graduates".
Olga Kapachenia, business coach
Teenagers' business experience
In the summer school, students were divided into teams and developed about six social projects. Their task was to settle on a business idea they can work on after they graduate from school.
Not all of them achieved everything they wanted, but everyone shared the unique experiences they got during the training, described how their communication and business skills improved. Many of them learned to work with deadlines, and, most importantly, the teenagers expressed the desire to start their own businesses and develop them actively in the Belarusian environment.
Participants of the training
Some projects continued after the event, which makes the organizers very happy. According to Olga Kapachenia, while no one expected that the teenagers will start their own businesses straight after the summer school, they tried their absolute best, working really hard every day of the training from early morning until late at night. There were no complaints, even though the programme was intense and complex.
Aliaksandra Ilyina from Minsk with her team developed an idea for a youth street wear brand "Kalяzorki". The idea was to produce stylish and modern clothes with national ornaments for the mass market. Aliaksandra says that she wanted to go the the USA for a study programme, but got accepted to college and they did not give permission for the trip. When she came across an announcement about a social entrepreneurship course for young people, she immediately filled in an application.
Aliaksandra Ilyina, in the centre
"Right away I had an idea for a social business in designing and making clothes: this is what I like and what I’m studying for”, says Aliaksandra. “Together with a team of guys we wanted to create fashion mass market clothing, translating Belarusian folk culture and history into design. At the moment, there are two people left in the project, and the whole concept has changed slightly. It is no longer about creating a social enterprise now, but a designer studio instead. It is unlikely that at my age I would be able to shape an idea and start pursuing my dream. The social entrepreneurship school gave me a unique experience, which now helps me constantly in my daily life”.
Sisters Yuliya and Yelena Stefnyak originally developed an idea to create comfortable modular furniture for disabled people. In the end, their idea transformed into creating kitchen furniture, and the girls are already assembling a table top. Yuliya says that they faced many challenges on the way, situations when they wanted to give up, but support from mentors, the drive to move forward and achieve their goal did not allow them to surrender. They have done a lot already, but the most difficult and challenging tasks lie ahead still
Even the teens who failed to develop their ideas underscore that for them it was not just a business training but a great opportunity to look into themselves, recharge their batteries and chart the way forward for the future".
Yuliya and Lena Stefnyak (in the centre) with a student of "SEI Youth. My First Business" and Yauheniy Boika, their mentor
New meeting — new knowledge
In addition to performing evaluation, the two-day training also gave the teenagers an opportunity to learn. The organizers invited Dzmitry Klimkovich, a successful social entrepreneur and director of “Essential Capital”, to speak in front of the kids. In August of last year Dzmitry in cooperation with the Moskovsky District Territorial Social Service Centre set up a social enterprise called “Printing Laboratory”. The laboratory offers copying, scanning and photo printing services, and employs disabled people.
Dzmitry Klimkovich, social entrepreneur
Successful social businesses are inspiring, but it is important to identify one's natural talents to understand where exactly to go and what to do. Yauheniy Boika, partner at BiBox, was there to help teenagers do that. He shared that some time ago he developed a proprietary methodology to identify individual inclinations and put them to good use. “Everything happens through visualization and immersion in childhood memories”, explains Yauheniy. “Children always do what they really like, what they are keen on. During the training we will help participants dive back into their childhood – especially given that it is not much of a stretch for them – and will try to identify activities they really enjoyed. Based on the results of the visualization exercise we will write a short story, which will help them understand which job to choose, what to do in life not to burn out too quickly. It is also relevant for social entrepreneurship and to business in general, as young people often get very enthusiastic about new ideas but lose the drive very quickly. When you go along your own, carefully selected path, this occurs much less frequently".
Yauheniy Boika, partner at BiBox
Mikhail Lyah, a certified business coach, helped the teenagers develop their communication skills. Among other things, he taught the kids a number of gestures to help them communicate better and get what they want.
Mikhail Lyah, business coach
Plans for a productive future
In May, New Faces and ODB Brussels, organizers of "SEI Youth. My First Business", are planning to take on participants for the new season. Some of the 2016 graduates will act as mentors for the newcomers at peer-to-peer education sessions. Find more photos here and here.
Text by: Valerya Nikalaychyk
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 EU countries and the USA.
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.