Over 200 students gathered in Brussels last week to celebrate the top JA companies from across Europe. This year, 37 student-teams competed as part of JA Europe’s flagship JA Company Programme, which gives them the opportunity to set up and run a real business. King Philippe of Belgium, EU Commissioners Marianne Thyssen and Tibor Navracsics, Belgian Ministers Alexander De Croo and Willy Borsus, as well as foreign dignitaries and various business volunteers were among those who attended the stand exhibition of the student companies, all keen to show their support.
Participants of the European Entrepreneurship Education Summit also came to see the students in action, both events being held simultaneously in Brussels.
Estonia’s contestants Festera scooped the main award of the JA Europe Company of the Year Competition 2017. This award – presented before 700 people at the Gala Award Ceremony on 12 July – honours the student company that demonstrates the best approach to communication, teamwork, problem-solving, objective-setting, personnel management, product development, customer focus, marketing and financial results.
Festera showcased an innovative business concept with a strong environmental angle that particularily impressed the jury. Their creation, the Festera biobox, is an indoor trash can that recycles organic waste. It can turn a household’s entire food waste output into humus in less than two months, thereby reducing a family’s ecological footprint by more than 5 percent.
Barak Pridor, Managing Partner at Saban Ventures, an Israeli venture capital firm, was one of the 10 judges in the jury. He explained to The Brussels Times that initiatives and events like these go a long way in helping to bridge the gap between education and entrepreneurship in practice. He added that he was very impressed with the passion and entrepreneurial spirit shown by all the participating teams, and in particular also the enthusiasm and consideration by the students for wider social impacts and benefits that their projects could bring about, not only financial results.
Caroline Jenner, CEO of JA Europe said that “this is where it is possible to truly see the R.O.I of entrepreneurship education. This is the “final exam” for competence, motivation and confidence. But it’s also where we see the impact of the learning environment on teachers, on mentors and on parents”.
Last school year, the JA Company Programme counted over 300 000 participating students across 40 countries in Europe. Through the process of learning to run a company from top to bottom, JA Company Programme students create and market real products and services. The success of the programme is largely down to the wide support from business volunteers, acting as mentors, offering expert advice to the students. The goal is to close the gap between classroom theory and real-world challenges, via partnerships between education and business.
The Brussels Times