The Youth Entrepreneurship Summer Program (YESP) 2017 has just come to a close. The two-week competition and training programme was held for the first time this summer in Tunis, Tunisia, in partnership with Cogite Coworking Space and Injaz Tunisia. A total of 25 trainers, mentors, and lecturers brought the event together.

Over 250 young Tunisians applied to the programme, which consisted of a diverse range of trainings; workshops, such as ‘Business Modelling’ and ‘Leadership in a Dynamic Environment’; inspirational speaker sessions; personal mentoring; and a business competition. With so much to learn and with great prizes for the winners of the business competition, the application turnout was unsurprisingly high. Of these 250, only a fifth could be selected to attend the initial phase of trainings.

The first 3-day session plunged into entrepreneurship concepts, through interactive workshops such as ‘Innovation Camp’ and ‘Steer Your Career’. The ‘Innovation Camp’ session, led by Injaz, presented participants with a real-life problem and tasked them with coming up with an innovative solution using the Business Model Canvas method.

“I am very proud to have been a part of this programme. It has inspired me enormously”

Forty participants were selected to join the second phase, which divided attendees into groups of 3-5 people, who were tasked with developing a viable business idea within 3 days. Groups received practical training on how to pitch, utilise social networks, and access finance. One idea was to create a comparison platform to compare services offered by Tunisian banks. Another proposed a platform to provide access to documents and university courses. Finally, the groups pitched their ideas to a jury who evaluated their process and business idea. The six best performing groups were invited to progress to the final round.

The final phase of the programme offered participants personal mentoring and a final chance to pitch group business ideas before a panel of expert judges. The winning idea was the brain-child of Alaa, Olfa, Soumaya and Mejdi, who proposed a catering company called Healthy and Bnin Company, selling ‘nutritious and healthy food’ to Tunisians seeking to change their eating habits.

The winners each received a one month free membership to Cogite Coworking Space and tablets provided for by SPARK. The runner-up group, who pitched a handicraft business with bags and accessories created from a unique Tunisian plant called “Halfa”, won 6 months of free access to Cogite events and an internship with Injaz Tunisia. However, all participants seemed to take away positive outlooks on the programme: “I had the chance to meet so many new people. The programme was rich in trainings on soft skills, something that is missing in our academic curriculum” explained Monjed, a participant and student at ISCAE. “I am very proud to have been a part of this programme. It has inspired me enormously.”