Stepping into the working world as a fresh graduate is already a daunting prospect, especially for those wanting to start out as entrepreneurs. Today Promoting Enterprise presents an innovative Irish project designed to support these young and brave innovators.
EEPA Special Mention project IGNITE Graduate Business Innovation Programme from Ireland, is a 9 month business development programme designed to support recent graduates turn innovative product and service ideas into sustainable, scalable businesses and in doing so, develop critical entrepreneurial skills. This interview gives us an insight into their application journey, their advice for EEPA 2017 applicants and what to expect from the project team in future.
How did you first hear about the national competition and why did you decide to enter?
We heard about the competition via an email from Gillian Slattery, the Regional Development Executive at Enterprise Ireland. We had been running the programme since 2011 and the competition provided an excellent opportunity to see where we stood in comparison with similar programmes both nationally and internationally.
What was it like to receive a Special Mention?
It was very satisfying, we knew that we hadn’t been shortlisted for the main award so didn’t have any expectations. As a result it was a complete surprise.
How did winning immediately impact your work and what kind of response did you receive?
The award is very important as international 3rd party validation of what we are doing for funders, sponsors and others who have supported the programme. The award was very positively received by our Local Authorities – Cork City and County Councils and we received letters of congratulation from the President of the University and the Senior Vice President Academic and Registrar.
Why should others enter EEPA 2017? What advice would you give them?
It provided us with a valuable opportunity to step back and reflect on our project and we used the application process to provide a snapshot of the programme at that point in time. The Special Mention Award created a number of important opportunities to connect with others operating in the same space across Europe.
What are your plans for the future?
The plan is to double the programme over the next couple of years and to continue to develop the support offered to maximise the start-up success rate.
The SME Assembly is over, but the conversation continues
This month the focus is on the SME Assembly 2016, which took place from 23-25 November in Bratislava, Slovakia. With over 600 delegates and speakers from all over Europe and beyond, this year’s assembly was a great success and brought together a diverse audience committed to building an SME friendly Europe and sharing views on entrepreneurship, scale ups and startups.
The assembly played host to policy sessions, interactive open spaces, high-level roundtables, lectures, masterclasses and much more. The event also saw the crowning of this year’s prize-winning projects at the EEPA ceremony and gala dinner which took place on 24 November. Read the EEPA news section for more.
During the assembly we brought you live coverage from the event on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram! Daily roundup posts from the three days (1, 2 and 3) are also available for you to read on Promoting Enterprise.
Now that SME Assembly 2016 in Bratislava has come to an end, we can begin to look forward to the SME Assembly 2017 which will take us to Tallinn in Estonia. The preparations are already under way, we hope to see you there! Read more >>
SME Assembly 2016 in Bratislava is over but the collaboration continues. Here are a couple of first take-away recommendations from the conference:
- More creative approach to education, encouraging companies, the public sector and schools to work together and adapt traditional educational structures and teachers´ skills to the rapidly changing work environment.
- Entrepreneurship and digital education should be present in education from primary school level including both obligatory and elective subjects.
- Make public procurement more start-up and SME friendly.
- Develop a network of national scale-up advisors to help companies to grow.
- Establish a matchmaking platform between start-ups, scale-ups and corporates for networking and collaboration / funding opportunities
- Empower local and national ecosystems and build sustainable working relations among eco-players. The European ecosystem will follow consequently.
- Continue to remove existing barriers in Europe (IPR, free movement of data, access to finance etc.) so that European start-ups and SMEs think of Europe as their natural market.
- Failure forms part of every successful company, this needs to be embraced, openly discussed, and learnt from.
- Embrace the collaborative economy and alternative forms of financing, supporting businesses and public administration in the shift towards different ways of working.
- Learn from best examples on national level and scale them up in Europe
This is just one contributors list, do you have anything to add? Other points to share? The Online SME Assembly LinkedIn group is there for you to discuss, collaborate and share your input! If you missed out on the assembly or want a quick overview, be sure to read our daily posts and check out our social media.
SME Assembly Daily posts:
Primarily, scaling a business depends on two factors converging: the availability of additional funds to sustain a positive cash flow, and the existence of a market for your product.
Products and services fall into two categories: those that are needed to sustain a specific quality of life, and those that are not. There is usually a market for those that are needed and so people will buy, but for those products and services, no matter how desirable they may appear to be, that are best described as wants, the market is both smaller and much less certain, and people are more reluctant to buy. The wise entrepreneur will, of course, have conducted extensive market research to determine into which category their product or service fits and will have extended that research into the saleability of the product in the geographical market in which they want to operate. After all, strategic planning, especially marketing strategy, is about deciding what product to sell, at what price and in which market.
Europe is, essentially, a consumer market with strong overtones of ‘materialism.’ In marketing terms, a ‘consumer’ is a person who buys a good (product or service) that they may not need, uses it, and disposes of it often before the end of its useful life, and then buys again. A classic example of such a product is the smartphone. Most people have one and the majority of them are on their fifth or sixth model, even though the early models still work. ‘Materialism’ exists where the individuals value themselves and others based on the goods (products, services and, particularly, brands) that they own. Think about that smartphone again: Apple iPhones are one of the world’s most sought-after goods because they are Apple, not because they are measurably ‘better’ than other smartphones.
Okay, you have a wonderful new product, you’ve done the marketing research and the data points to there being a market for it. Now the question is whether that market is big enough and sufficiently sustainable for you to sell enough units to make a return on investment.
All goods have a ‘product life-cycle’ which tracks the unit sales from introduction through the growth phase where increasing unit sales are experienced, into a mature market and finally to declining sales. And here’s the bad news: no good (product, or service) has ever managed to avoid this cycle. Even the great Apple has experienced this and at the end of April 2016 they reported a 16 % decline in unit sales of the iPhone, with most major news media reporting that the outlook was for further falls throughout the year. Even their chief executive, Tim Cook, said that the smartphone market “is not currently growing.” For the iPhone, in particular, and smartphones, in general, the market is now saturated and it ceases to be sustainable.
Unit sales, not the value of sales, is what has to be tracked in a product life-cycle, and a wise entrepreneur will also track sales revenue per product and ‘profit’ per product.
Understanding the life-cycle provides clear guidance that the next product needs to be ‘introduced’ when the sales trend is slowing in terms of units sold, i.e. just before the ‘maturity’ part of the life-cycle. If there isn’t a new product ready to launch at that point, then both cash flow and profits will decline and the business will no longer be sustainable. The market for your wonderful new product may be enormous, but unless you build sustainability into your plan in the form of new products, then scaling up a business is likely to be the wrong strategy.