Tom Emeringer, teacher at Lycée Technique de Bonnevoie
The management of a mini-company is a very rewarding experience for the teacher. It is the opportunity to get out of everyday life and teach in another way. Indeed, the teacher plays the role of a coach who accompanies the students and not of a teacher who gives information in the form of a lecture. This is certainly a challenge for the teacher, because he must give up his role of "leader" and leave the decision-making power to his students, even if their choices are sometimes different from those of the teacher. The contact with the students is much more direct, since we work together with them for the success of the project. Moreover, participation in joint sales or attendance at other events, allows to see them in a setting other than that of the school environment.
The supervision of a mini-company allows the teacher to make his students discover the realities of professional life and market. Each project receives a direct feedback from potential customers, competing mini-companies or external experts. Students, but also the teacher, must demonstrate many skills: creativity, innovation, group management, …
Personally, I have already supervised almost a dozen mini-companies during my professional life. There have been very successful projects, but also companies that have encountered more difficulties. At the beginning of the year, you can sense which group can go further than others, either because of a very promising idea or a particularly motivated and united team. But it also happens that the first impression is misleading, and some teams implode while other projects develop dramatically.
In my early days, there were fewer than ten mini-companies at the national level, and the level was fine. In recent years, I have seen impressive growth not only in the number of participating companies, but especially in the individual level of projects. Students understand that this project does not just do the basics, but that you must actively look for excellence, in order to succeed.
One of the most important things for me has always been to introduce young people to the world of entrepreneurship and to show them how satisfying it can be to develop your own project and reap the rewards of your efforts. I was able to see the many enriching experiences that young people have been able to make, experiences they could not have done without the mini-company project.
I was even able to mentor students that continued their adventure after the dissolution of their mini-company and created, several years later, a real company based on the concept developed in class: Sweetways. Even if their company has not survived more than 2 years, due to several reasons, this is certainly a good example to show how a small idea can turn into a real professional project.
Another wonderful experience was the victory at the national competition with the mini-company Yammy in 2017. This gave us the opportunity to participate in the European final in Brussels, an unforgettable experience for students and teachers. We had very interesting discussions with participants from other countries. Although it was a competition, there was respect and mutual recognition among the participants. The level was very high, but I must say that our team did not have to hide, on the contrary. And teachers will certainly be able to benefit from this experience in the coming years.