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The voice of experience: some wise words from 2020 YEC winner Sabine Kerssens

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We have already had some top tips from the winners of the 2018 editions of the SME Week Youth Essay Competition. Today, 2020 YEC winner Sabine Kerssens shares her wisdom, enabling this year’s entrants to benefit from her experience. If you are considering entering this year’s competition, perhaps Sabine can give you some inspiration, but make sure to submit your entry by the deadline of September 26.

Sabine impressed the competition jury with her ideas about the importance of cross-border collaboration and how learning from different cultures makes innovation more inclusive. Below, she has some tips on how to approach this year’s challenge and gives some advice to participants. Read on to see what she has to say!

How would you approach this year’s theme?

The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an immense challenge to achieve because the many stakeholders all have incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements. People adapt, our economy adapts, and innovative entrepreneurs are closest to the scene. When I wrote about innovations contributing to a sustainable energy future in the past, I had not anticipated the emergency we are in today.

However, our entrepreneurs are already out there and adapting. I hope future essay writers will write about that adaptability. This year’s theme has three key ingredients: European economies, high dependency, and fossil fuel energies. To steer away from an unsustainable economy, one of the three needs to change, or perhaps all three of them. So what is it that we can adapt? I would approach this year’s theme with my hopes for a fair economy, fair for us and for the planet. I would continue by thinking about what entrepreneurs could change to help achieve this. In addition, bonus question: What do these entrepreneurs need from policy makers to think, dream and build big?

Why should young people participate in this competition?

Dear future writers, you have a voice worth listening to. Please speak up! Sometimes the brightest ideas don’t make an impact simply because they are not heard by decision makers. You can imagine, that some ideas don’t leave their social bubble. Recently a campaign went viral, because “In the Netherlands, there are more CEOs called “Peter” than female CEOs”. Like this, the voices of Peters might seem louder than yours, even when they shouldn’t. What if this Peter hadn’t seen your latest TikTok on climate change? Can they really represent your community? Take this platform offered to you, to help spark innovative ideas today. I know it made a difference in how far my ideas traveled, I hope it will for you too (even if you’re called Peter).

Do you have any advice for the 2022 competitors?

Take your time. Read old essays, see what still sticks some days later. It might be their key message, the structure of their arguments, their tone of voice, or anything else. Practice what you think captures your idea best, and most of all: keep your audience in mind! Easy right? So just enter! We promise that we won’t grade you. You can’t fail this class. You can only learn from it. Cheesy, I know, but it’s true. Oh, and possibly you will win a great experience. Dream big!

This year’s challenge

This year the competition asks young people to think about the theme: Our European economies are highly dependent on fossil fuel energies. How can future young entrepreneurs contribute to a more sustainable economy?

Are you full of ideas on how to reduce our fossil fuel dependence and eager to share them with a Europe-wide audience? Then the SME Week Youth Essay Competition is an opportunity not to be missed! All you have to do is write a 2,500-word essay in English on the theme above and submit it here before the deadline of 26 September 2022.

The YEC jury will select three finalists to attend the SME Assembly in November, where they will present their essays to the 500+ delegates gathered at the assembly. The winning essay will then be selected in a public vote. The essays of all the finalists will be promoted across EU channels.

You can find more information on the previous editions of the YEC here. We will also follow with more advice and tips to help you with your entries, so make sure to visit the Promoting Enterprise News Portal regularly, and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts and subscribe to our newsletter.

Young voices, innovative ideas – Meet Youth Essay Competition winner Radu

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Time to meet the winner of the 2019 Youth Essay Competition…Radu Dumitrescu! Radu was chosen as the winner of the 2019 edition of the Youth Essay Competition during the finals which took place at the 2019 SME Assembly held in Helsinki, Finland.

In Radu’s speech that he submitted in Round 1, he demonstrated a keen understanding of the make-up of Europe’s economy, citing the traditional SME definition which goes up to 250 persons employed, as only being representative of 0.2% of the SMEs in Europe’s economy. He highlighted that a far greater number are micro enterprises, and thus are unable to influence through media connections or pressure governments on vital policy. Radu took a firm stance in his speech, presenting the Commissioner role as one that should support and advocate for all types of SMEs and encourage them to step outside of the box in order to foster a ‘Silicon Europe’ for 2030.

Read Radu’s speech here.

After successfully communicating his passion and drive during Round 1, the jury wanted to hear more of his ideas and chose him as one of their Top 10 submissions to compete in Round 2. In Round 2 Radu spoke of the paradox of the European Union, as both a daring project but constricted by regulation and jurisdiction. He touched upon the importance of incentives for SMEs and creating a nurturing environment for “the lungs of the European economy”, and ensuring “that they  grow, not perish”.

Read Radu’s second submission here.

What made you enter the SME Youth Essay Competition?

I entered the Youth Essay Competition in order to reignite a few ideas, namely that European business leaders deserve the respect of the Union. I wanted to advocate for a more united approach towards companies in Europe as part of my vision of a European Federation, and I wanted to make my voice heard. 

How did you feel when you found out that you were going to Helsinki?

I felt extremely excited! I had never been to Scandinavia, nor had any member of my immediate family, so my excitement was doubled by that of my parents. I have to admit that flying is a personal fear for me, but I couldn’t let that get in the way of this wonderful opportunity.

What was it like to be announced as the winner of the competition?

As I saw it, by the morning of the speech I had already won. I got to visit Finland and the magical atmosphere of Helsinki near Christmas and I had the opportunity to meet wonderful people from all around the continent, most of all my fellow finalists, with whom I made friends immediately. It was a complete surprise, and I was glad to be able to make my University, my fellow Young European Federalists and my family proud. 

What did you think about the SME Assembly 2019?

The SME Assembly was unlike anything I’ve ever attended. Maybe the only comparison I can think of is the European Week of Regions and Cities in Brussels, which I had the honour of attending in 2018. In Brussels and in Helsinki I felt the same energetic vibe, the same multilingual, multicultural environment that enriches Europe culturally – and economically – every day. The hotel was stunning as well, and everyone was helpful and friendly.

What was your main takeaway from the SME Assembly 2019?

My main takeaway from the Assembly was the confirmation of something I already intuitively knew – that Europe is populated by extraordinary business leaders, innovators, and that EU, through its representatives, DGs and agencies, is listening to them. It even listened to a 24-year old from Romania when it came to the future of business in Europe. It is fresh ideas – they are what businesses depend on, and the SME Assembly managed to gather so many of them.

What is next for you? Any exciting plans to share?

I am now pursuing a doctoral degree in the Faculty of Political Science at the University of Bucharest. I plan to read and write as much as I can and hopefully publish papers and even books within the field. That’s my dream. 

Congratulations Radu for winning the 2019 SME Week youth Essay Competition! Don’t forget to read our interviews with Radu’s fellow finalists Aureliano, Enzo and Estelle, to follow their journeys through the 2019 competition.

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