High school and college students discover entrepreneurship with “Option Startup” on campus

20 November 2018 By

Option Startup is a national event aimed at school students. For this 4th year, more than 15,000 young people, along with their teachers, discovered one of the 300 innovation sites and discussed ideas with startuppers.

By hosting such events, NEOMA BS wishes to encourage all students from the Reims and Rouen academies to get involved in entrepreneurship and thereby promote the idea of business creation for all. In the rooms made available, after the introduction of the startuppers, the presentation turns towards the approach and the day-to-day routine of these young entrepreneurs, some of whom are still students. “True enough, it’s difficult to balance everything,” admits Quentin Le Gall of Sauce Moutard, “but finally, it’s really a question of organisation. As I’m more efficient in the morning, I try to free up time at the start of the day.”

Applying theoretical concepts

By clarifying what distinguishes startups from more traditional companies – the potential for exponential growth – the startuppers quickly set the young pupils off on a startup creation simulation during an open discussion.

A quick exchange results in one idea: a sweet-kebab restaurant. “Everyone loves kebabs, and everyone loves chocolate!

The discussion in the room becomes more spontaneous and questions arise. Under the guidance of ThĂ©o Dumarski, co-founder of Frello, the reflection becomes more precise: “You say that everyone loves chocolate, but don’t you think that you should start by asking the people around you? And do you really think that your friends are the best advisors? Aren’t you worried that they’ll just go along with you and that their answers are biased? Wouldn’t it be more useful for your project to interview strangers?”

And without realizing, more advanced concepts such as scale, franchise networks, market research, strategies for setting up retail premises, project financing, etc. are all discussed.

For another age group, a class of secondary school students were fascinated by the ViBelt project and the belt designed by the project leader to facilitate mobility for the visually impaired.” Flora Davoult, Incubators Projects Manager at NEOMA Business School, explains “They came up with ways to improve the belt, thereby playing the role of an entrepreneur.”

Another crucial dimension for NEOMA BS in this project: “The school students’ backgrounds, whether privileged or modest, should not be a factor,” Flora Davoult points out. “We have to get rid of these stereotypes to ensure that enthusiastic and creative youngsters do not censor themselves. I’m convinced that this type of meeting contributes to achieving this goal.”

My life as a startupper

The young pupils present are intrigued by what led these young people, some only a few years older than themselves, to embark on an entrepreneurial adventure. “Isn’t it hard to find an idea? “Where do your brands names come from?”

The qualities needed to be an entrepreneur are also discussed: “a startupper’s skills are very much based on their personal qualities: their speed of execution, their ability to bring people together around their project, to analyse situations and above all to find answers to the problems they come up against,” lists the co-founder of Frello. “Not to mention the luck factor!”

“Another valuable quality for a startupper,” adds Justine, co-founder of L’Étiquette, “is the ability to be satisfied with every tiny success! And don’t forget the opportunities the project allows you to achieve: appearing on TV, radio, or even taking a selfie with the President of the Republic!

To complete the picture, the difficulties related to entrepreneurship are also discussed with the young audience. “Entrepreneurship is a life choice that requires many sacrifices. You have to know that this is a lifestyle that offers very little stability and just as few prospects for remuneration throughout the entire launch phase,” announces Justine AbĂ©cassi. Jules Bernard concludes with a huge smile, “For me, the launch of Alavance was a real pain!”

Do you have moments of weakness? Moments when you think you won’t make it? ” asks one high school student. With modesty and sincerity, entrepreneurs also evoke the phases of self-doubt and questioning they sometimes go through. “Sometimes I really, really question and doubt myself. I tell myself that it’s not my idea that’s rubbish, but me, and that there are too many things that I’ve never learned to do or can’t do… and since my days are one endless list of problems that I have to deal with, it’s sometimes really difficult to find your “mojo. You have to take yourself by the hand, because there’s no one behind you,” says the founder of L’Étiquette.

To illustrate the difficulty of the exercise, Jules Bernard d’Alavance suggests a very interesting metaphor: “You begin by jumping off a cliff, then you find yourself a parachute in mid-air and then see how you land”.

A story of a counter-donations

The startuppers present all have their own unique story and motivation and yet are also very similar. Quite often, a desire and an encounter are at the origin of their launch. “I’ve been really lucky to meet inspirational people who have been the driving force in my life, explains the co-founder of Sauce Moutard. “The idea of transmission is really important to me. it’s like passing on what was offered to me”

The few hours spent together fly by, but the time spent will undoubtedly pay off.

“I found this meeting very interesting. I really appreciated the personal experiences, because they made things really clear,” explains OcĂ©ane, a first-year High School pupil. Thomas, her classmate at the LycĂ©e Camille Saint Saens, is already thinking further ahead, “I’ve always wanted to start my own business. I’ve already started the process, so it was really useful for me to meet people like this today.”

 “I thought it was a good presentation. It was nice to see how they started out. It opens up doors and gives you a sense of ambition,” concludes Mathis

At their age it’s incredible to be interested in business, for me, when I was at high school, I wasn’t at this stage! says Julien Fichet, surprised. “There was a real exchange with the class; and for us too, it is an excellent practice in promoting the subject. It was an enjoyable exercise, but I almost feel like saying that it should be compulsory.”​