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SME Assembly 2017 – Delegate Feedback

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Welcome back! We hope you have all had a lovely holiday season and are ready to start the new year with us right here on the Portal. To start 2018, we decided to bring you the results of the SME Assembly 2017 delegate survey and find out what everyone really thought about their experience in Tallinn last November. Firstly the overwhelming feedback indicated that the SME Assembly was worth attending (94% of delegates agreed) and 97% of delegates said they would be participating next year, so we hope to be seeing some familiar faces in Graz this year!

Overall feedback

Attendees really enjoyed both the networking and learning opportunities, sighting the chance to meet experts, the quality of the speakers, interaction between different actors and stakeholders and the gained insights into new projects, as positive aspects of the location. Whilst we are interested in what was good, the Promoting Enterprise team are always looking for ways to improve so as to continue delivering high quality SME Assemblies. The two main improvements on which delegates commented were: the need for more networking time (both pre-arranged and facilitated) as well as increased opportunities for audience discussion within the sessions.

Sessions and content

This year the SME Assembly continued to offer a variety of plenary and policy sessions as well as specialised masterclasses and the entrepreneur expo. In terms of relevance and usefulness, the top plenary sessions were Ideas from Europe and E-Estonia, with over 50% of delegates indicating these sessions as ‘extremely useful’. The top two policy sessions, which received 53% and 51% ‘extremely useful’ ratings, were Single Market: New Barriers? and E-commerce. The top masterclasses, which were more niche and specialised in nature also received high ratings with 86% delegates saying ‘Ideas from Europe: 2 years on’ was either relevant and useful or extremely relevant and useful, closing followed by ‘An Hour of Code’, which was also rated relevant and useful or extremely relevant and useful by 85% of delegates.

Now that 2017 is behind us the preparations for this year’s SME Assembly 2018 in Graz, Austria are getting underway. Thank you to all the delegates who took the time to fill out the survey, your feedback is very important to us and helps to continually improve the SME Assembly!

So what is in store for this year? Follow the News Portal for the latest updates about everything to come and join us on the journey to the SME Assembly 2018…

MBA student survey on disadvantaged entrepreneurs reveals surprising results

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MBA students in Amsterdam and Brussels were asked for their views on the disadvantages faced by various groups of entrepreneurs: women entrepreneurs, disabled entrepreneurs, migrant entrepreneurs and others, with some surprising feedback.

Team of young casual business people collaborating on an online project using a digital touchpad tablet computer in a bright modern office space. Serie with light flares

On women entrepreneurs

Suzanne from Slovenia is a fashion major. “According to Eurostat, women account for around 60 % of MBA students and it’s even higher in my country, so right now the majority of young people entering business are women. Our real challenge is still the traditional bias against women in business but we have the same access to resources so I don’t see the problem.”

Houng, from Vietnam and planning on a business career in luxury goods, added, “Women are generally better educated than our male contemporaries, we have better interpersonal skills and have a lower feeling of entitlement. Perhaps it is males who are now ‘disadvantaged’.”

Hans from the Netherlands reluctantly agreed. “My experience is that women are generally better placed in terms of raising finance as there are so many lenders who only lend to women. And women are now entering every field, even those traditional male-orientated ones like construction. They’re competing on a level playing field.”

On being a foreigner

Marko from Estonia is planning on starting a business in the Netherlands. “The biggest challenge of all is the language. If you can’t read, write and speak the language then it is really difficult to cope with the official rules and regulations. In my own country this wouldn’t be a problem, but here I have to rely on my partner and her father.”

Arati from India finds the challenge is cultural. “Being a woman is not the issue but being Indian presents problems. With people my age they don’t care that I’m brown and culturally exotic, but when I have to talk to the government agencies I feel very excluded.”

Omar, who was born in Belgium of Moroccan parents, agreed. “There are still a lot of cultural and even racial issues with the older people. I come from Brussels and there is a large Moroccan community to support me but getting to see Belgium customers can be a real challenge, especially after the terrorist attacks.”

Adan, a Syrian who has been granted asylum in Belgium and is working his way through college, had a slightly different story. “I’m a refugee and there is very little support from the state, and the job I’ve got is the type the locals wouldn’t do but it means I have a competitive advantage. I don’t think I’ll be able to start a business here until I can speak French fluently but even then the locals don’t trust us and I get hassled all the time because I’m Syrian.”

On being disabled

Manon from Belgium uses a wheelchair after a car accident five years ago. “Wheelchair access is the biggest barrier to a business career. This is the first business school where I’ve had easy access and that means I can get the sort of education that I need to be successful. All new buildings have such access of course but I still can’t get into some offices. I don’t need special conditions except I do need things to be at my height.”

All the students had a common theme: being an entrepreneur is about doing what you can with what you have rather than expecting special treatment. The challenges and barriers they discussed were all surmountable and most were based on interpersonal behaviour rather than real difficulties. Of course, there are many other people who would disagree with them, and some interesting perspectives can be found at the following links.


United Nations University/Maastricht University 

The Guardian newspaper

Interview with Carolyn Downs of Lancaster University

The Prince’s Trust 

Photo credit: ©iStock/julie514

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