The youth exchange Bees Inspired: A Hive for Female Entrepreneurs was a beautiful journey that brought 40 women and 1 man together for 11 days. In the beginning, each of us arrived at the venue with her (or his) own perspective on the benefits and challenges of being a female entrepreneur, and at the end we all left with a sense of accomplishment – we had enriched our knowledge on the topic; we had had loads of fun; and we had made new friendships.
While designing the youth exchange programme, we, the Bees Empowered team, figured out that it would be very inspiring if we got to hear the stories of several successful female entrepreneurs from The Netherlands. What’s better than meeting real life examples and using their first hand experience? Being a female entrepreneur, or any entrepreneur actually, can be a really lonely and challenging process at times. Hearing the successful story of someone who has already been where you are right now can be the very thing you need that will inspire you to take action.
We picked the topics for the successful female entrepreneurs’ talks based on the biggest challenges female entrepreneurs face. Our demanding participants deserved nothing less than the best stories and most relevant tips to learn from. We did some online research and talked to female entrepreneurs we know and we discovered that women often:
- want to have a business that somehow has a social impact;
- don’t know how to find their passion;
- ignore their inner voice and biggest dreams because they don’t seem worthy enough;
- are afraid to take the leap and start up their own business;
- don’t know where to begin from;
- break their commitment and quit, when things get difficult;
- think they are not good/skilled enough.
Having these findings in mind, we approached 4 inspiring women and invited them to give a talk at the youth exchange. Luckily, all 4 said yes!
Anke has founded Breekjaar – a gap year experience for youth in high school to find who they are. Breekjaar has 3 locations in The Netherlands now and is a crowdfunded initiative. Anke is an experienced workshop facilitator. She gave a speech about overcoming fears and shared her personal story: taking herself and her dreams seriously, she got inspired her to start up Breekjaar. The girls also heard how she crowdfunded it and where her journey has brought her today.
Irene is the founder of De Kunstfabriek. She gives art workshops to refugee children and asylum seekers in their host locations. She is a social entrepreneur at heart, and a skillful artist who aims to design a better world. In her story Irene identified the necessary skills which you need as an entrepreneur and she also talked about what resources you need to start up your project.
Yuva was our next speaker who told us how she managed to combine science, communication & PR and design into her current business. Yuva was a successful researcher/PhD graduate, who quit her academic career, and driven by her passion for arts & design, she set up her own communication agency called Art4Science. Yuva struck us with her warm personality and humble way of telling her story about how she makes her life choices and follows her dreams. Everybody remembered the story of Yuva and the shaky airplane flight when she decided to go for what she loves – Yuva made it look so easy to be a total beginner!
Then we had Zlatina who enchanted us with her great story about commitment. She is a Trainer, Facilitator and Coach, who has various interests – from science and math, through innovation and startups, to dancing. Her vibe was great, and she is in love with people and life! During her inspiring talk, she reassured many of us in the room that nowadays it is absolutely normal to have many interests and explore different occupations, and this does not speak of lack of commitment. Instead, you can be committed to finding the very best thing for you.
After the stories were told, we continued with 3 rounds of coaching sessions: the participants could present their ideas to any of the inspiring role-models and got their feedback and ideas.
This day turned out truly inspiring and Bees Empowered would like to thank Anke, Yuva, Irene & Zlatina for their commitment, spending their Sunday together with us in Ommen and helping the girls develop their business ideas even further!
This blog post reflects some of the experiences of the participants of Bees Inspired: A Hive for Female Entrepreneurs, which was a 10-day youth exchange that took place in The Netherlands from 18 till 27 January 2017. It gathered 42 participants from 7 different countries and empowered them to learn from each other about female entrepreneurship. The project is funded by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union.