The year 2015 was dedicated almost entirely to implementing a very complex project that brought so many opportunities to young entrepreneurs from 13 Romanian counties. The “Start UP Smart” project helped 42 winners of our business plan competition to turn their ideas into action. The project received a generous grant from the European Commission’s Human Resources Development Program and had a duration of 10 months (instead of 36 months as it is usual for a strategic project). Together with a highly competitive team with members from SMART Development Center, Young Entrepreneurs Association from the South – East Region of Romania and the Development Consulting Group, we succeeded to bring the following results to the local communities of Galati, Braila, Buzau, Vrancea, Tulcea, Constanta, Arges, Prahova, Ialomita, Calarasi, Giurgiu, Teleorman and Dambovita:
- We organized and delivered 18 training courses in entrepreneurship to 400 participants. They received certificates recognized by the Romanian Ministry of Education and the Romanian Ministry of Labour. Also, each participant that was selected among over 1,000 applicants, received a small stipend of approximately USD 400 each.
- We then organized a regional business plan competition and selected 42 entrepreneurs among over 110 applicants to receive seed funding of approximately USD 20,000 each. They established 42 new companies and started implementing their business ideas.
- In the second semester of 2015, we started fighting the European Union and the Romanian bureaucracy to make the payments to the start-up businesses that were being implemented by our beneficiaries. The money came in the second half of December and were transferred to our beneficiaries’ accounts in the final days of the project, generating serious problems regarding the scheduled investments. However, our entrepreneurs managed to overcome the financial hurdles maintaining a good relationship with suppliers. This came as a confirmation that we made a good selection during the business contest and the courses that we organized really paid off!
- We also established, from scratch, a business incubator in the city of Galati. This place will serve as a resource center for our entrepreneurs, to grow their businesses and keep their employees.
- We also organized two business schools to further develop the skills of our 42 entrepreneurs, to make sure they respect the bureaucracy and get a more advanced training in entrepreneurship.
- We then established a network of regional entrepreneurs. Networking is essential to having business success, so it will serve as a resource to find reliable partners, to encourage other young people to become entrepreneurs and to generate success stories.
- We also organized eight mentorship sessions in Galati, where our start-up entrepreneurs learned from seasoned entrepreneurs about tips and tricks from the real life.
- Finally, at the business incubator, we offered comprehensive support to start-up companies in the form of consulting regarding new funding opportunities, support to launch new businesses and networking.
I do hope that the next program called “Creative Romania” will allow projects to last 36 months and the working system of the Human Resources Development Program will become more humane!