Student at Silesian University in Opava, School of Business Administration in Karviná
March 2018, Spring, 2 weeks spent in Germany in the beautiful town of Wildau with the perfect people from OPF Karviná and with the opportunity to meet many other students and teachers from 6 other European countries. And not only that. Deepening knowledge and skills in business and work in a multicultural team. I could not believe that I can get all of this through the ECMT + project. After successful completion of the selection process, we have started our intensive preparation. And let me tell you, it really was intensive, I had to dig deep and find many new skills. Together with our team of Czech students, we searched for the current gaps in the market, creating business ideas from which we have developed two in graphic form and taken with us to Germany. And that was only the beginning of our wild ride.
The first day of the program began with ice breaking and getting to know each other, presentation of the ideas of all 7 teams, subsequent division into multicultural teams and assignment of a coach who was guiding us. I hope it is clear from the description that the first day was quite demanding, positively challenging 🙂 And not just the first day. All of the days, the whole two weeks, were demanding, and especially illuminating. After familiarizing ourselves with the people in the team, first contradictory feelings and the initial planning of our idea, we have received a task to visit and discover Berlin or its surroundings, to find out whether there is an enterprise that is close to our idea. Based on these findings we could move further with our planning. It was a great surprise for me that the companies were very willing to show us everything and even do a brief interview with us. And even offered us a taste of their products. Despite the language barrier, the staff of these companies were very pleasant and inspirational. However, the biggest step out of my comfort zone occurred on the day we were sent to the magnificent city of Berlin with a clear task – to confront people, our potential customers, with our idea, find out their opinions and feelings about it. This made me scared! At first, it was incredibly challenging for me, to choose the right person who would probably be willing to talk to me and then literally talk to them. But after talking with two people, who have been nice, my unpleasant feeling was gone. On the contrary, there was plea and a desire to ask virtually everyone.
Photographer: Eva Pitrunová
Photographed from left: Eva Pitrunová, Natálya Bukviarová, Adéla Chromčáková, Michal Stoklasa
Market research was done, it was time to go into detailed planning and preparation of the presentation to investors. Due to the lack of time and increasing nervousness and stress in the team, our morale was not the best. But our coach was always available to us, giving us the motivation and energy to not give up. Unfortunately, after the first week, the coach had to leave, and another coach was assigned to us, who had different views than the first one, which caused several unpleasant situations. We had to change a lot of our plans at the last minute, which had a significant impact on our final preparations and presentations. The closer we were to the final term, the longer we spent preparing and reworking the strategies we had already proposed. During the increasing nervousness, it was a great lesson for me to perceive the needs and customs of other nationalities in the team.
Photographer: Eva Pitrunová
Photographed from left: Eva Pitrunová, Martin Czyž, Natália Bukviarová, Michal Stoklasa, Michal Doležal, Adéla Chromčáková, Dominik Schopf
The day before the presentation. Nervousness reaches its peak, a lot of work ahead of us. The evening is approaching, the presentation is not even 10% ready, oh well, working through the night and getting up early. That was our team agreement. We will not give up what we have started. Despite our fervour, we unfortunately did not manage to determine the roles ahead of the presentation, so it seemed very chaotic to investors. Based on feedback, we found out that we would not get any investors, as we had unclear financing, and we lacked plenty of details at each step. A great lesson was for us not only feedback from investors, but above all teamwork and better time distribution of individual steps.
Thanks to the ECMT + project and the intensive program, I have confirmed my strengths and weaknesses, trained my English in various situations, gained a lot of valuable experience, I have stepped out of my comfort zone several times, which helped me move forward immensely. I have also gained a lot of contacts and had the opportunity to get to know the capital of Germany.
Student at Silesian University in Opava, School of Business Administration in Karviná
I am a student of Public Economics and Administration, I never wanted to start a business or lead a company. I wanted to have my little cosy office, an official stamp and eight hours a day to work on developing spine scoliosis. However, I could not miss the chance to take part in the two-week intensive program in Germany. I knew it was not just about the two weeks spent in Wildau, but also the process of creating new ideas at our home university.
I keep my entire studies, from the nature of my field of studies, within the exact limits of the law and regulations. There are no exceptions, there is no will, there are no dreams. But all of a sudden I sailed from the austere port of the state bureaucracy to the open, wide ocean of creativity. The ocean, which has no width or depth, where we can fall and ascend as we wish. Do you want an ostrich? Keep an ostrich. Do you want to sell sugar wool? Just do it. Do you want to build a snowman? Come on let’s go and play. The only limitation is we ourselves.
ECMT + taught me how to achieve my own goals and at the same time to abandon my own goals. It is not just about being part of a team, you have to know when to stand up for your opinion. On the contrary, our opinion may often be our enemy, if you do not see behind your own words. I have never been a fake person. I say what I think and I do not use euphemisms, but this directness was my greatest weakness. This has changed due to IP. I am more empathetic and I can listen more. Sometimes it is easier to just sit, smile and nod your head. If we are in a business environment, we need to be more interested in what can be done than what can go wrong. At the beginning I wrote about my studies, and why do I mention teamwork now? If you are not a lone woodcutter in Alaska, you will work with colleagues. And maybe you will even have to lead a team of people. To lead them for one vision, to determine missions and to head towards success together. However this will never happen if you are not able to deal with people, often with people of different opinion, who have grown up in different socio-economic conditions, with other priorities and different work ethics. Strangely like these two weeks in February and March 2018.
Did we change the world? I do not know. More water has to pass by in the river so we can judge it. One thing is certain, that the ECMT+ program changes every participant. And I am convinced that this is for the better.
Lecturer entrepreneurship TQM personal finance at the advanced bachelor international management
Vives Kortrijk Belgium
Lecturer social entrepreneurship
Vives Kortijk Belgium
We had never been to Sofia Bulgaria before, among the few things we knew about was the wonderful exhibition about the gold of the Thracians. Bulgaria has 7.3 million inhabitants and has a GDP per capita of $ 8064. That is roughly one fifth of the GDP of countries like Belgium, Germany, Finland and France. Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007. According to official figures 12.5 per cent of the population is working abroad. This is the highest percentage in Europe. According to our partners in Sofia the real percentage is much higher. But there seems to be promising activity in Fintech.
The Cyrillic alphabet
I thought I would be lost with the Cyrillic alphabet. The Cyrillic alphabet was developed by a monk named St. Cyril – hence the name. For tourists it could be a major difficulty, but they are so kind to add Latin names in a smaller font under the Cyrillic name.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
We had to brush up our very limited history knowledge of Bulgaria. We remembered the name Alexander Nevsky. He rose to legendary status on account of his military victories over German and Swedish invaders while agreeing to pay tribute to the powerful Golden Horde. Metropolite Macarius canonized him as a saint of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1547.
Our role in Social Entrepreneurship
The innoventer center’s mission is: “In view of the common needs and challenges of the Balkan-Mediterranean area such as slow growth, weak competitiveness, low levels of entrepreneurship and a lack of innovative entrepreneurial training in the field of vocational training and non-formal learning, the project INNOVENTER combines strengths and opportunities of the partners to address these challenges by creation of a learning framework to promote social entrepreneurs competences and skills”
We were invited as observers for the INNOVENTER Social Entrepreneurship programme. We presented the Impact driven business model and links with Social Entrepreneurship. From our experience with the ECMT+ project we were able to contribute to the project.
We also made recommendations for the training programme and for the further development of the INNOVENTER programme. Afterwards we contributed further by collecting examples from Social Entrepreneurship for people with working disabilities, web-based data on Social Entrepreneurship and videos. We found an interesting toolkit that is useful for training for secondary schools and higher education. ECOOPE, a project co-funded by the European Union that intends to spread cooperative entrepreneurship as a viable tool for European youth, an online library of guides and resources on cooperative entrepreneurship teaching developed by the ECOOPE consortium.
The pack will prove useful to teachers and Professors (vocational training and guidance, secondary schools, University, Business Administration, Social Economy, Entrepreneurship…), co-operatives, future entrepreneurs and individuals interested in alternative ways of creating employment. It includes the following documents:
We recommend you visit the website and download the extremely useful material ECOOPE toolkit.
You can download all of them by clicking here: Complete Toolkit or
Ron Beirens (left) Jef Tavernier (right) observers for the workshop
More details in our next blog.
Ron Beirens and Jef Tavernier
Head of Internationalisation, ECMT+ project coordinator, Karelia University of Applied Sciences
Still today many higher education students and graduates somewhat lack of knowledge and skills to promote businesses and result driven work motivation, employ themselves into the regions and efficiently work in all the time more and more diverse teams. The transversal competences like creativity, initiative, tenacity, teamwork, understanding of risk and responsibility and resilience are more crucial in the future working life than ever. They are said to be the keys for successful working life changing our future in a good way at the times when we are dealing with big challenges like industry 4.0 and the raise of artificial intelligence.
The need of the transversal competence development is relevant in any field of higher education – it includes much more than business or economics: the need is multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary as the working life itself. All the higher education graduates, no matter what is their major or degree, do need these competences and their related skills. This is one of the main reasons behind our ECMT+ project where we collaboratively work to reach our goals.
To my mind, transversal competences are closely embedded into humanity and ability of encountering in one way or another. It is much more than business or profit or start-up creation, it is meeting the others equally, constructively and comprehensively. I see the transversal skills being mainly related to the intrapreneurship, which is needed everywhere. Even though entrepreneurship is considered to be a powerful driver of economic growth and job creation (see for example Entrepreneurship 2020); I think it is intrapreneurship that is seen as a key for employment and success in working life in any field. Actually, the intrapreneurship includes transversal competences and skills. Yet the definition between entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship are not solid or easy to define and making the distinctions is always a bit challenging (Lackéus 2015).
The current changes around Europe and more widely (economy, environment, demographics, consumer behaviour, IT, shared economy, robotics, crowd-sourcing, single market, and changes in societies, policy and opening of borders to name some) require new competences and therefore new ways of teaching, too. We need to support learning and also find more ways to make the learning outcomes visible for the students but also for ourselves.
For me it is crucial that the competences and skills we especially need to build are all related to humanity or at least human skills in one way or another. I would say our project is at the same time a great living lab for us to learn and develop ourselves as teachers and other professionals. We can ask ourselves, if we meet with the level of transversal competences and skills and if there would be any areas we would need to especially develop?
ECMT+ challenges us to meet with our tight timetables, big workloads elsewhere, limited project budget recourses, detailed follow-up processes and reporting – all at the same time with relatively ambitious project goals. In addition, we work in a very diverse group of experts ending up with a high number of individuals who are all great professionals in their fields. Even though most of us are highly experienced in many international arena even globally considered, too; this again calls for creativity, teamwork, tenacity, initiative and resilience. When there is a will, there is the result. I see our project as an interesting journey and believe in the end of the project we all have learned a lot!
Lecturer, Head of the Bachelor of Business Management & Entrepreneurship – Head of the Bachelor of Business Management with triple degree – Head of the English Bachelor of Business Management, VIVES University of Applied Sciences
To make students feel what it means to be an entrepreneur, we chose a practical Business Project instead of a theoretical bachelor’s thesis for the students of Business Management specialising in Business Management and Entrepreneurship. In this project, students are divided into groups, based on their profiles. The intention is to have different profiles that complement each other in one group.
At the start of the academic year, the students begin with a brainstorming process. It is the intention that they come up with an idea for a product or service in which they offer added value. So, as it were, they should not buy and sell soap and towels if they do not have a strong marketing story or a completely innovative twist.
Once the students have pinned their idea, they give a pitch to convince potential investors and fellow students. They also start conducting a market survey and developing a business plan. The students then look for funding from shareholders and (compulsorily) borrow a part of the money they need from the bank. During the first shareholders’ meeting, they present their plans to their shareholders. After that, they start buying and selling or sometimes also producing their product or service.
Doing business involves keeping correct records, keeping accounts (with internet-based accounting software) and, last but not least, doing good group work.
At the end of the academic year, students close their accounts and prepare an annual report in the same way as companies do every year. They hold a second general meeting in which they tell their shareholders how the project went and, of course, how much dividend they can pay.
The measure of success (read: good marks) is not really the amount of profit the students achieved but rather how creative the idea was, how well they executed their project (pitch, general meetings, business plan, annual plan, accounting), how flexibly they managed successes and setbacks, how they responded to the market and how well they worked together in a team.
When we question the students at the end of the project, they always agree on one thing: they have learned a great deal because they did not have to study course material, but they had to put into practice all the learning material from the past few years.
One important element of this project, from the educational perspective, is that each team has a coach available to answer questions, to provide feedback, and to follow them up all year round. There is also a confidential counsellor who the teams can turn to if there are personal problems or problems within the team that they would rather not discuss with the coach.
One example of a Creative Business Project last academic year was Chocomize Me. As Belgium is well known for its outstanding chocolate, this team decided to personalise chocolates with a QR-code. They aimed mostly for B2B sales, but also sold directly to the customers.
In their B2B sales, they mainly focused on companies that wanted to give a business gift. They sold the chocolates with a QR code embedded in them. When the business partner scans the QR code, a video or message from the company in question is shown. In B2C sales, they mainly sold to people who wanted to buy a gift for someone with a personal message.
The team was responsible for making or helping to make the films, linking them to the QR code, purchasing the chocolates and personalising the packaging with, among other things, the QR code, their own house style, and of course in the case of B2B the logo/information of the company.
This is how they presented their chocolates during the sales moments to private individuals.
Some other projects from last year included: a team making fancy bracelets with an own twist (Embrace It); a team that designed and produced an ice bucket in which you can hang your glasses (PersonIce); a team that made, together with a nutritionist and a caterer, healthy salads that were sold both to students and to companies (Salad Avenue); a team that sold sprays with fragrances that work on the mind (O’ de Moral); a team that sold special combinations of herbs for cooking (Epices Délices); a team that made and sold wallets made of water-repellent and non-crackable paper that take up very little space (In the Pock€t); a team that went in search of recipes for healthy muffins and then had them baked by a baker to sell them (Healthy Bite); a team that made popcorn with new flavours (‘t Poft); a team that completely personalised Eclairs – customers could choose both the filling and the toppings (Faux clair); a team that personalized tote bags with funny quotes or quotes chosen by customers (Tote.)
Through these projects, all students through these projects gain some idea of entrepreneurship. A minority chooses to start an independent activity after their studies, while most of them either continue their studies or go to work in a company. Some also prefer to first gain experience in a company and then start their own business later on.
These projects are an elaborated version of the Intensive Project we have in the ECMT+ project, only in this case the teams are not multicultural. Every project is a journey in which intrapreneurship and entrepreneurship are nourished and valued.
We wouldn’t go back to a theoretical bachelor’s thesis.