Day 1 roundup: Global Youth Entrepreneurship Festival

Today was the first day of the Global Youth Entrepreneurship Festival, and what a day it was! Thanks to our amazing guest speakers, both from within and outside the YBI network, we picked up some fascinating insights on entrepreneurship through times of crisis and innovative solutions. Here’s a summary of the day’s events.

Did you miss Day 1? Sign up for Days 2 and 3 on the GYEF webpage!

Virtual session with Chad Littlefield

Chad’s ‘Virtual Connection Lab’ kicked off the start to the Festival. His high-energy session encouraged openness and sharing with multiple breakout rooms for participants to get to know each other on a personal level. His dynamic and energetic style included prompts and cards and helped break down barriers for those who didn’t know each other.

He also shared his top tips on how to keep yourself and others engaged when connecting away from the physical world, including the importance of body language, balancing your head and your heart and the use of props.

Keeping things upbeat, we also explored the positives of connecting virtually and the benefits of the new kind of interactions that wouldn’t be possible when meeting face to face.

Chad’s parting tip was to ‘always leave the party while it’s still fun!’ He certainly left his audience wanting more and this fun and informal session was the perfect way to start this year’s Global Festival of Youth Entrepreneurship.

Download free Connection tools from Chad’s website.

Welcome from Anita Tiessen and Ready, RESET, Reinvent!

YBI’s CEO Anita Tiessen then welcomed the network to our Global Festival, praising the resilience of our members in the face of the COVID-19 crisis. She highlighted that our work supporting young entrepreneurs is now more important than ever and stressed our commitment to making entrepreneurship accessible to everyone.

Ndungu Kahihu of CAP YEI in Kenya, one of our newest members, talked about how joining the YBI network has impacted his organisation. Ndungu values YBI not just as a network but as a family. Sharing experiences with other members and rooting for each other has really helped CAP YEI get through the crisis. Ndungu also highlighted the importance of our work, saying that for many young people, entrepreneurship is the only option right now.

Next, Mark Curtis, Global Head of Innovation and Thought Leadership at Accenture Interactive gave a presentation on ‘The Age of Relevance: 6 themes for the future.’ Mark shared their thinking that society is going through a crisis of relevance due to many factors such as globalisation, technology, loss of religion, rise of megacities and more. As a result, people strive to find ways to feel relevant. Mark says that if entrepreneurs can create a product or service that offers relevance, they will be successful. His top tip for any young person starting a business: don’t be afraid to fail and embrace it as learning!

Supporting young Mongolian Businesses during COVID

Amar Khatanbaatar, Programme Officer at Youth Business Mongolia (YBM) kicked off the third session of the day by explaining how the strict COVID-19 containment measures in Mongolia have affected the nation’s young entrepreneurs. A lack of technical and digital knowledge, combined with their businesses experiencing a downward trend in profit, meant many experienced challenges in forming response strategies when the crisis hit.

In response, YBM implemented a number of ‘coping mechanisms’ to better support entrepreneurs. They began delivering training kits to their local branches in different parts of Mongolia, particularly to remote areas. The local offices distributed these training materials to local entrepreneurs, who were able to work in the branches, which had all the correct measures in place to enforce social distancing. The branches were equipped with computers and internet access to provide important access to technology. YBM also began offering their online training sessions free of charge.

 “With any change we get risks, threats, fears, worries, but also opportunities,” said Amar as he concluded his session. “COVID-19 gave entrepreneurs an opportunity to move to digital transformation.”

Updating business records made simpler with MyDuka

Next, we heard from YBI member SOMO, based in Kenya, who shared with us an innovation to help entrepreneurs manage their businesses: MyDuka. MyDuka is a USSSD WhatsApp-based tool that enables entrepreneurs to submit data and automatically generate reports to manage their business. This includes inventory, expenses and sales data that can be inputted in real time. It allows entrepreneurs to monitor the progress of their business and to have a financial track record that they can share with microfinance institutions and banks.

Ninety-seven entrepreneurs in SOMO’s portfolio are currently using it and love it. The uptake has been relatively smooth. And it allows SOMO to support businesses and track impact in real time. They now hope to find partnerships and ways to scale MyDuka in East Africa.

Creating a 180-degree change to adapt to digital life                 

Like many other organisations, Habitat, our member in Turkey, had to adapt their services to the new challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. In record time, they moved many of their face-to-face services online, and with them they took the young entrepreneurs they support on a digital transformation journey.

Despite the initial problems they encountered, like many young people not having access to internet or having to give their own volunteers digital training, they used a series of digital tools to continue supporting their beneficiaries. Some of these successful tools were hackathons, online webinars, user research through their website, etc. which Habitat found helped them collaborate with more organisations and amplify their services. One of the many tips they provided to the YBI network was to define the criteria when recruiting the experts that will run any of your online sessions.

Visual recording of #GYEFest2020 first day by illustrator Eva Feuchter

Personal Canvas tool

In our next session, Ana Hernandez, Training Manager at Youth Business Spain, introduced a self-diagnosing tool for young entrepreneurs called Personal Canvas. Based on the strategic management tool Business Model Canvas, the Personal Canvas asks small business owners a series of questions about themselves to help them identify their strengths and challenges.

Ana’s methodology encourages young entrepreneurs to take action now. In what we often call VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) times, too many young people feel that this financial crisis is a bad time to set up a business or feel powerless under the adverse circumstances. One of the objectives of the Personal Canvas is to help the young entrepreneur analyse their current situation, think about their challenges and opportunities and create an action plan. Together with soft skills training, Ana says, we can help small business owners to overcome the crisis and thrive. We as organisations supporting young people just need to remember that ‘people are more important than businesses’ or, in other words, we can’t forget the person behind the business: we need to support them on a personal level too.

BeYourOwnBoss Educational programme

Our Dutch member Qredits then presented their BeYourOwnBoss educational programme, which was their winning entry to our second Innovation Challenge! The programme offers tools and a curriculum for teaching entrepreneurship skills in school. Qredits have designed and rolled out the programme in the Netherlands and have now made it internationally available. Some of our members, for example in Bolivia and Nigeria, have already expressed interest in the programme. Lotte van Dijk and Evelyne Oprel highlighted that Gen Z and Gen Y will greatly benefit from learning entrepreneurship skills early on. As the “COVID generation”, they are facing a daunting economic future and a difficult job market.

Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2020

The session to end the day was the highly anticipated Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

The three impressive finalists were all chosen by the judges as each of their businesses provide a product or service with clear benefits to their customers with the potential to produce new and innovative products differentiating themselves from competitors. It was important to the judges that all finalists’ businesses have a positive impact on their communities and the local economy. Lastly the young entrepreneurs demonstrated an ability to adapt and respond to the ongoing challenges of COVID-19, as well as having a business built on a sustainable model to develop and achieve long-term goals.

Huge congratulations to our winner and our two finalists.

The two finalists are:

Gregory Kimani from Kenya, who is supported by YBI member SOMO Africa. Gregory’s business, Mwengenye Greens, is a food security initiative providing an opportunity for urban residents to consume safe, fresh, nutritious and healthy meals. 

Carolina Sebastián Magallón from Spain, whose business Pop Up English is a translation services for businesses and is supported by YBI member Youth Business Spain.

There could only be one winner and the winner of the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2020 is Amruta Mangale from India (pictures above) who is supported by YBI member BYST.

Amruta’s business Hindavi Solution Private Ltd manufactures adhesive and glues and the judges were really impressed with her innovative approach to R&D, as well as its ability to be a truly disruptive force in the marketplace. On winning the award Amruta told us she never dreamt she’d get to stand in front of so many people and be honoured so early on in her entrepreneurial journey.

Amruta recognised that this has been a particularly difficult year for business owners and her advice to others was ‘to have patience, as this too shall pass.’ Sage words of advice to end the day!

It was great to see our friends, members, delivery partners and new faces today interact and engage with us and each other. Many of the sessions had to end when there were still a lot of questions that people wanted to ask. Please get in touch with Jo or Lucy at YBI with your questions to our speakers and we will make sure they all get passed on to be answered.

Other Articles

View all

Empowering the future


YBI launches Empower and Elevate Programme to support inclusive youth-led businesses that create jobs


Growing our global network of members to expand our impact on youth entrepreneurship