It is time to meet the winner of the 2018 SME Week Youth Essay Competition…Marija Elena Borg! Marija impressed first the jury with her essay on the links between innovation and the holistic growth of organisations, and then went on to win the audience vote when she presented her essay at the SME Assembly 2018 in Graz.
Marija is from Malta and is currently the EU Funding Executive of the Malta Business Bureau, which is the EU Advisory Office of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry and the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association. Since 2015, she has managed multiple EU-funded projects and events largely linked to education and skills development. Her frequent participation in workshops and training courses has allowed her to work in multicultural settings and develop a great interest in the field of entrepreneurship and innovation. In 2017, Marija Elena also graduated with a Master’s Degree in European Politics, Economics and Law at the University of Malta.
Read on to find out more about her competition experience and what she thought of the SME Assembly 2018.
What made you enter the SME Youth Essay Competition?
I have always believed that innovation – in its holistic sense – is the gateway to creating a smart and sustainable future. Therefore, when I came across the competition advert on the Promoting Enterprise News Portal, I decided to put pen to paper and give this opportunity my best shot!
What did you think of the SME Assembly 2018?
This year’s edition of the SME Assembly provided an excellent learning and networking platform for European entrepreneurs and policy-makers. The organisation of a variety of activities, including business tours, matchmaking sessions, debates and participatory workshops, sparked the interest of attendees and prompted their active participation.
My highlight of the SME Assembly was the Mentoring Workshop, during which experienced entrepreneurs spoke about promoting start-up mentoring. Considering that in comparison to other continents such as North America, entrepreneurs in Europe seem to be more reluctant to enter into a mentor-mentee relationship, this workshop showcased real success stories, proving that mentoring can be equally rewarding for both parties.
The theme of this year’s SME Assembly was to ‘Connect. Share. Innovate’, what does that mean to you?
My interpretation of this year’s theme is rather simple: The best way to enable innovation (be it within a private or public organisation) is through promoting interaction between peers that will in turn facilitate the exchange of ideas, thoughts and experiences.
As I explained in my own essay, people are the primary cause of innovation. It is therefore the ‘duty’ of business owners or officials in management positions to ensure that their organisation maintains an appropriate work environment which directly empowers employees and motivates them to work and increase the rate of product or process innovation in the workplace.
What did it feel like to win the competition?
Surreal! Considering the work that was put into compiling the essay and pitching it to the SME Assembly participants, it felt incredible and fulfilling to be recognised as the winner of this year’s competition. I was also amazed by the feedback received following the announcement of the final result – numerous entrepreneurs applauded my proposed practical approach to innovation.
I would like to take this opportunity to give a shout out to Joakim Davidsson and Ngaio Olsen-Stahl, who also delivered excellent presentations in Graz!
What is next for you? Any exciting plans to share?
So many things to do, so little time! My current plan is to keep learning as much as possible and developing my areas of interest, which include skills development, youth activism, public speaking and project writing/management.
Naturally, I also look forward to being part of next year’s edition of the SME Assembly in Finland!