The SME Week Youth Essay Competition opened for the fifth time in 2020 to ask the youth of Europe for their opinions and solutions to the following:
What do SMEs need to become sustainable and resilient, in the context of COVID-19 and other global challenges? How can EU policy best aid entrepreneurs?
On Promoting Enterprise, we have already had the pleasure of interviewing two of our talented finalists: Pablo Pastor Vidal  and Georgina Whiteman . Make sure to read their interviews and get inspired by their submissions!
Today we have the pleasure of interviewing the 2020 winner, Sabine Kerssens , who along with the other two finalists made it all the way to the SME Assembly 2020 to present her essay and ideas to hundreds of delegates. She first impressed the jury with her ideas around the importance of cross-border collaboration and how learning from different cultures allows innovations to be inclusive. Sabine then went on to win the live vote at the SME Assembly after presenting her ideas.
We asked Sabine about her experience entering the competition, attending the SME Assembly 2020 and being selected as the 2020 winner.
What made you enter the SME Youth Essay Competition?
Practicing something that you would like to be better at is always a good idea, and the great thing is: you don’t need to win to learn something. As an engineer, writing an essay for a European Commission competition was not an obvious thing to do. Nevertheless, I wanted people to hear my ideas and I knew that being eloquent could help me in this. So I set my fears aside, and I practiced a new way of making an impact, through writing and submitting my ideas. So, to all the young change makers out there: participate in events like this to make sure that you give yourself the chance to find your strengths and make your voice heard in different ways. You can do it!
What was it like to be announced as the winner of the competition?
I’m so honoured that people took the time to vote, listen and enjoy my message. In my essay I advocate for a single startup scaleup market, because I believe there’s a lot to win if innovation by startups is holistically supported on an EU level. Putting a new idea out there, an idea that requires change, is unpredictable. When my name was called and I realised that I had won and that my ideas had captured the attention of the audience, I just felt adrenaline rushing through my body. I hope that with my essay, and through this competition that my ideas can be a spark for change.
What did you think about the SME Assembly 2020?
Through the youth essay competition, the finalists shared the stage with some of the most fascinating speakers within and beyond the European Union. It was inspiring and uplifting to learn from the engaging sessions. Though I would always wish for an in-person meeting, as I’m very keen to meet and thank all the people that were behind the screens (literally), I was incredibly impressed by the professionalism of the organisation and the overall impact of the event.
What was your main takeaway from the SME Assembly 2020?
The youth don’t see the corona crisis as something separate from the climate crisis. Therefore, both challenges were a reoccurring theme in this year’s competition. Throughout the Assembly, I saw a want to do things differently in the future, specifically to “build back better”. By bringing the youth, innovators and global leaders on stage together you don’t have to wait for the future.
What is next for you? Any exciting plans to share?
I work with a non-profit to help Dutch startups and scaleups rise with the best talent, markets, technology and capital by 2023. My goal is to make the journey for innovators to scale internationally data-driven. The aim is for risk-taking change makers to be able to rely on and accelerate through the knowledge and experience of generations. If you have ideas or thoughts on the single startup scaleup market, on what innovators need or on what I should be doing after 2023: please reach out via LinkedIn!
Congratulations Sabine! If you would like to watch Sabine’s winning presentation at the SME Assembly you can catch up on our YouTube channel, and don’t forget to read her submission  and learn about her ideas for the single startup scaleup market.
Watch the SME Assembly 2020 highlights: