“By talking with the person who guides them, young creators can find their own solutions by themselves.”

An interview with Marie-Hélène Scheidecker (ADIE)

Marie-Hélène Scheidecker

“By talking with the person who guides them, young creators can find their own solutions by themselves.”

An interview with Marie-Hélène Scheidecker, in charge of volunteer support at the ADIE for the past six years

What does the support for young business creators consist in?
The young business creators whom I supervise in Seine-Saint-Denis (93) have already followed the course and tutoring dispensed by Créajeunes to build their project. Some of them will then apply for a loan from the ADIE to launch their business, which must be combined with some guidance.

While they did complete a business plan and a market study when studying with Créajeunes, young creators will have to face realities in the field which they had not anticipated. Sometimes, the project may be too ambitious, or customers that had been counted on will fail to deliver, or the cost of production is higher than expected. In such cases, young creators may be confronted with insurmountable financial difficulties. This is where assistance comes in, in order to avoid those difficulties.
 
During the first meeting, I ask them to explain the origin of their project and all of its aspects: concept, price, distribution, communication, company status etc. Together we highlight the issues to be addressed and we study all that in depth over time to find solutions. Yet I do not impose anything, it is up to them to act! I am not a teacher asking them for a test paper…
 

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How frequently do you meet with the young creators? Do you follow a specific programme or methodology?
We see each other frequently during the first year. The young creators make appointments on a regular basis, either with myself or with other, more specialised ADIE volunteers whom I have recommended: a chartered accountant for the right choice in company status, a lawyer for matters relating to commercial leases, etc.

After that initial year, the appointments become less frequent. I get in touch with the young creators several times a year. Some want to meet with me for an assessment of their progress or help in contacting prospective customers and in making sure the business is in tune with market demand… This kind of long-term support is crucial, for they need someone to talk to who can give them another perspective.  By talking with the person who guides them, they can find their own solutions by themselves. This means that the support which the ADIE provides is made-to-measure, customised; No framework has been set beforehand.

Could you give us a few specific examples of young entrepreneurs you are supervising?
They come in a great diversity of profiles: my first example is a young woman who coaches in personal growth psychology. Her difficulties stemmed mostly from her website, which was too crammed with information and not catchy enough. So we had four meetings exclusively devoted to the website, which was launched in time with the business (www.eurythmia.fr).

The second example (www.lynx-pictures.net) is a young man, a moviemaker who had applied for a microcredit to purchase equipment. I helped him with the administrative aspects: company registration, VAT recovery etc.
 
My third example is a young man from La Courneuve, a fishmonger with selling seafood platters online (http://baronbleu.fr). We worked on his website to improve a few points, as well as revising his approach to customers and looking at ways to attract new ones. I recommended that he take an additional sales course at the ADIE branch in Belleville.

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Another business which I am helping concerns a young man who wanted to run an 8-seater carshare night-time shuttle, where customers sign up on a website to book a return trip to a given party venue. Although he lives in Seine-Saint-Denis (93), he is developing his idea in Rennes, where he will be moving to soon. What he mostly needed was to be reassured and encouraged, even though his concept was very promising. I advised him to get in touch with a community manager to handle his reputation on social networks, and he found one through the Créajeunes network. His business has just been launched and is beginning to operate, and was also mentioned in several local press articles (www.captn-breizh.com).

My last example is a young woman who is creating a marketplace to sell African fashion and decoration products. Her website was good, but the business concept was not very clear: things like company status, forecast budget or legal protection were not up to scratch. So we are working together on those issues.
 
One needs a lot of investment to start one’s own business. Are young people able to stay motivated despite the many obstacles they run into?
Every young creator is highly motivated to successfully complete his project. It is very rewarding for them, just as it is for us to be guiding them. Many of the young people I supervise were students (HND, NVQ, 4 or 5 years university etc.), but few have taken business courses to prepare them for creating a business. Most have some experience as employees but they would rather develop their own project. Some continue working part-time so they can take the plunge with more peace of mind. If the business is unsuccessful after one or two years, it is still a positive thing to have tried. Everyone is allowed to fail! But actually, among the businesses which I have supervised, very few have closed down in the midterm. Most of them are still going. 

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Check out our special section:
Creating businesses in problem areas: a 10-year partnership with the ADIE