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How to win EEPA? Past winners reveal their recipe for a winning formula

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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!”
  • “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!”
  • “Focus your attention on strategy and results achieved.”
  • “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.”
  • “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.”
  • “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.”

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.

Positive discrimination for national SMEs – Portuguese EEPA winner supports national enterprise

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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.

Portugal: IAPMEI acknowledges SMEs as drivers of the national economy

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 0094_President of IAPMEI_Miguel Cruz

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.

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