What is the recipe for success? What is the secret? How can you make sure your project is one of the next European Enterprise Promotion Award (EEPA) winners? EEPA is an opportunity for public bodies and public-private partnerships from across the EU Member States, (as well as Iceland, Serbia and Turkey) to put forward their most imaginative and successful initiatives that support entrepreneurship and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Each country selects their top national winners to compete at European level across five different categories.
Today Promoting Enterprise brings you advice from the best of the best, past EEPA winners. Ready to discover the answers? Read on…
Why should you enter EEPA?
Many of the past winners have mentioned that one of the key benefits of entering EEPA is that it provides “a valuable opportunity to step back and reflect”, as “you can’t always focus on what you did well yesterday…the analysis is important and it gives you a chance to make your learning journey visible so that others can learn from it.”
Not only does it allow for reflection but it provides an opportunity to meet with other pioneering initiatives from across Europe, as “participating in a competition is a real opportunity to meet and share with initiatives and people…learning from their experiences is very enriching”. Some winners also mentioned the increased internal learning and contact saying that “entering EEPA gives a unique opportunity to exchange experiences and contacts with colleagues, experts and other stakeholders, drawing focus to the relevant questions and impact SME development”.
All the winners agreed that winning, in the words of one winner “the most rigorous and professionally run enterprise award in the world”, was quite an experience. Ultimately this award “provides recognition from a higher recognised entity like the European Commission”, which for many has led to exciting national and international developments for their projects.
Finally very importantly “you should enter because it is fun! The whole process requires a lot of work and you need to invest the necessary time, but once that part is done you can really enjoy the experience of being in the competition.”
What should you bear in mind when you apply?
So how did this variety of winners come out on top in each of their respective categories? Each winner has their own story to tell which you can read here, but read some of the tips they wanted to share with the potential winners of the future:
- “Apply and share as much as possible!”
- Lyon Ville de l’Entrepreneuriat, Category 1 Winner 2016
- “It is important to evaluate whether a project has the following: quality, results, strong partnership, and replicability. Our advice would be that if your project has all of the above, then you should definitely compete!”
- PME Leader, Category 3 Winner 2016
- “Focus your attention on strategy and results achieved.”
- City of Torino, Category 3 Winner 2012
- “A good idea, a quality product, enthusiasm, detailed planning, active stakeholder involvement and teamwork were the key to our success. Our recommendation to future competitors would be to make sure to find their own distinctive formula.”
- Lime Trees and Honey Bees, Category 5 Winner 2016
- “Develop a pitch and make it interesting and inspirational for others. Inspiration is a very important part of EEPA work, it is what makes a project stand out.”
- Rotterdam Business Case, Category 6 Winner 2016
- “You should not be scared to point out things that you learnt from and definitely take help from others, don’t do it all on your own.”
- Entrepreneurial West Hisingen, Grand Jury Prize Winner 2016
Interested in finding out more about EEPA? Are you going to apply and compete for a European title? Be sure to contact your national coordinator for more information and check when your national deadline is. Hurry up because the deadlines are approaching!
Have a look here to read about the SME Assembly 2017 during which the EEPA finals and awards ceremony will be held.
Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) can be sources of employment and innovation in a national economy, yet conditions are not always favourable when these enterprises compete against larger competitors. The winner of Category 3 (Improving the Business Environment) at the European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA) 2016, strives to create these conditions and an SME supportive environment. The Leader SME programme is a mechanism to qualify enterprises that aims to highlight the merits of the most successful national SMEs by creating conditions to strengthen their market reputation and fast-track access to funding. The goal is to promote growth strategies and consolidate their competitiveness.
How did you first hear about the national competition and why did you decide to enter?
We first heard about the competition through several public and private entities that promote and encourage participation in the competition throughout Portugal, and applied using our public/private partnership. We felt that our project was a good and strong example of what EEPA represents. Our results from previous years were also very successful, so we thought that our project had good replication potential and could serve as a European example.
How did you go about preparing your application?
The preparation of an EEPA application is quite “heavy” in terms of the work involved. We did not prepare something special for EEPA, but instead created a working group for the preparation of the application as soon as the period of application was announced.
What was it like to win the award?
It was a surprise, considering the quality of other applications. However, we felt that we had a very good chance in this competition, since we were strongly convinced of the quality of our application. Just being included in the shortlist gave as a sense of achievement! Winning the competition was very important to us, and it was an extraordinary feeling: a reward for the work done, and concrete proof that we are on the right track.
How did winning the award immediately impact your work and what kind of response did you receive?
Winning the award helped us not only externally, the increased visibility helped with publicity and will also help us in the future, but also internally. Internally the win helped to solidify our relationships with partners and make us a stronger network. It also resulted in overall better general knowledge of the objectives and better understanding of the technicalities of the project. The response was great and made us feel like we have an increased sense of responsibility, now we just have to maintain and increase the impact of the project. Whilst it was fantastic to represent our project, it was also very satisfying to be able to represent Portugal.
Can you already see a long-term impact or do you have any expectations?
Yes. Considering the results of the initiative, and the relevance of the award, we think that the partners will be able to approach companies more easily in order to tighten the network links and increase the impact of the SME Leader initiative.
Why should others enter EEPA 2017? What advice would you give them?
It is important to evaluate whether a project has the following: quality, results, strong partnership, and replicability. Our advice would be that if your project has all of the above, then you should definitely compete! The preparation for EEPA stimulates evaluation, strengthens partnership, and gives visibility, all of which can only help strengthen your project.
What are your plans for the future?
Our project has the potential to increase the level and scope of impact on the companies, through a tightening of the network. We hope to raise awareness and increase knowledge about the companies considered to be SME Leaders, and disseminate their best practices to help others achieve the same leader status. Our whole project is about helping SMEs get access to finance, whether it be through creating the right conditions or helping them comply with requisites, in terms of the future we want to keep doing just that and increase the number of enterprises that we help and who can benefit.
The Portuguese Agency for Competitiveness and Innovation (IAPMEI) held a public event in Lisbon on September 8 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA). The Portuguese national EEPA winners for 2016, selected from 50 top-quality national applications, were also announced at the event.
From left to right side, Jury member, Deputy of the President of Republic, Awarded and the Minister for Economy
The event, which was chaired by IAPMEI President Miguel Cruz, was attended by 150 participants, including representatives from the EEPA candidates, a deputy of the president of the Portuguese Republic, a member of the European Commission Representation in Portugal and other stakeholders. Portuguese Economy Minister Manuel Caldeira Cabral and Secretary the State for Industry João Vasconcelos also attended this session, highlighting the importance for Portugal of the international recognition provided by EEPA and its role in promoting entrepreneurship in Portugal.
Speaking at the event, Miguel Cruz noted that by joining this European Commission initiative, IAPMEI aimed at sharing good practices as drivers of entrepreneurial activity and competitiveness. The IAPMEI president said that, bearing in mind that Portugal was the country that received more applications at the national level in the current edition, most of them of high quality, these results were in line with the high performance of entrepreneurship in Portugal. He added that the results demonstrated a mobilising capacity and the ability to foster a scale effect that was key in helping to create a more competitive country.
IAPMEI welcomed participants with a video on “Innovation, entrepreneurship, development with a view to creating more jobs, better quality of life, more competitiveness, more growth: these are the objectives of the European Enterprise Promotion Awards”:
This video includes testimonials from representatives of Portuguese projects that have been awarded at EU level:
Lisbon Micro-Entrepreneurship (2015): This award was very important for Lisbon Micro-Entrepreneurship, providing huge national and international visibility. It has allowed new partnerships for development. I strongly recommend applying for the EEPA. Margarida Figueiredo and Maribel Ferreira.
AMS – Thinking Ahead (2014): We managed to make a society which became more cost effective in the Iberian Peninsula. The greatest impact was visibility. Paulo Santos.
FAZ – Ideas of Portuguese Origin (2014): The award gave us more visibility, more contacts with national and international enterprises and replicability, namely with Greece. We invite all the companies and organisations that believe in their work to apply for EEPA. Luis Jerónimo.
The sexiest industry in Europe (2013): It is giving results and this for us is highly rewarding. Paulo Gonçalves.
Douro Boys (2012): It was very important that the Douro Boys project was awarded very high visibility not achieved up to that point. Francisco Olazabal.
On the spot Firm (2007): It is worth mentioning the effort that was made to submit the application in order to give visibility at internal and external levels to good quality projects, as it was with On the spot Firm. Maria Manuel Leitão Marques.
The Jury Members and candidates
Many countries held national Awards ceremonies to celebrate their national entries, below is an example from Portugal.
The President of the Board of IAPMEI, Professor Miguel Cruz, chaired a Ceremony to announce the 44 national applications in Portugal in July.
The session aimed to:
- Recognise and thank the commitment of all candidates
- Promote the visibility of the entries and projects, each candidate also received a participation certificate.
- Announce and reward the best projects by category and the runners up.
- Promote and share good practice and promote the European Enterprise Promotion Awards.
By joining this European Commission initiative, IAPMEI aims to promote and share “good practice”. It also aims to widen the visibility of initiatives that work as drivers of entrepreneurial activity in a range of ways, demonstrating the capacity and potential which is key in helping Portugal to become a more competitive country, IAPMEI’s President said.
Miguel Cruz added that due to the investment and growth challenges faced, a growth must rely on the diversification and sophistication of products and services, on markets’ diversification and on a strong trademark.
The session was attended by more than 90 participants, with a large representation of EEPA candidates, and to whom certificates of participation in the “EEPA 2015” were issued.
IAPMEI has been the National Coordinator for the European Enterprise Promotion Awards since its first edition (2006). Thanks to an integrated action plan, a good cooperation with stakeholders and a pro-active demand, IAPMEI succeeds in involving the participation of SMEs and stakeholders committed to sharing good practices resulting in higher levels of competitiveness and entrepreneurship. Throughout the nine editions of the EEPA, IAPMEI has distinguished approximately one hundred projects in Portugal.
The ‘PME Excelência’ (SME Excellence) is a recognition of excellence created by the IAPMEI (the Portuguese Agency for Competitiveness and Innovation), in partnership with ‘Turismo de Portugal’ and a group of nine banks, aiming to reward the best entrepreneurial performances within the different sectors of activity. It distinguishes the SMEs that are drivers of the national economy, enhancing their visibility and publicly recognising them.
In line with the ‘Think Small First – a Small Business Act for Europe’ (an instrument of EU 2020), the PME Excelência initiative has honoured 1,845 SMEs (67% more than 2013).
According to Professor Miguel Cruz, the President of IAPMEI, this increase stems mainly from the performance of Portuguese SMEs, in which their growing innovative capacity and market diversification reflect higher levels of competitiveness and internationalisation.
The increase in the number of ‘PME Excelência’ also reveals a strong involvement of the banking sector, enhancing the value and importance of this prize in recognising the quality and soundness of the companies awarded.
Most (60%) ‘excellent’ SMEs are exporters and they employ 38 staff on average. Most are located in the districts of Porto, Lisbon, Aveiro and Braga. These SMEs are mainly from the industrial sector (36%) but also from the commercial (29%) and tourism sectors (13%), among others.
According to Aquiles de Barros, President of the Board of Directors of Castelbel, a manufacturer of fine toiletry soaps and one of the companies that received a prize, the company reached ‘the best results ever’ in 2013, and the unit established at Castelo da Maia had an ‘unforeseen’ invoicing turnover in 2014. Sales increased by 40%: from €3.8 million to €5.3 million. Their expectation was to reach €4 million.
Apart from the need of enlarging its premises, Castelbel had to reinforce the number of staff by 50%, from 76 at the end of 2013 to 114, by the end of last year. The number is impressive when compared with the 9 employees hired when the company first launched in 1999.
Each country participates in European SME Week in a way relevant to its own small and medium-sized enterprise community, so we interviewed Helena Moura, National Coordinator for Portugal, to find out more.
How does the Week work in Portugal? Which organisations are involved?
Since 2009, IAPMEI, the Portuguese Agency for SME and Innovation has run SME Week in Portugal. The organisation has helped different organisations work together to execute and promote all aspects of SME Week.
How do you promote European SME Week?
- We do a range of different things to promote SME Week in Portugal:
- IAPMEI included information about SME Week in the Enterprise Europe Network in Portugal newsletter and the Enterprise Europe Network reaching 28,000 subscribers.
- We announced SME Week at various conferences, seminars, meetings and sent personalised emails to a huge number of stakeholders.
- We also have a permanent info desk where people can find out more about SME Week
What did you learn from last year’s events?
In order to get the best results, we regularly carry out interim assessments to make sure that we are always learning, so we can improve throughout the process.
And finally, what impact does European SME Week have in Portugal?
SME Week plays a crucial role in the work we do to promote SMEs in Portugal. It encourages key stakeholders and entrepreneurs to engage with and support SMEs. Portugal is one of the most active countries in promoting entrepreneurship and small business.