What was the challenge/ problem that was addressed?
The program for promotion of youth entrepreneurship in rural areas has celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2022. The idea to initiate such a program appeared when statistics of entrepreneurship in rural areas started to decrease. It appeared that it was hard to start a successful business in rural area and it did not matter if the business related to agriculture or not. During these 10 years organizers have concluded that there is little knowledge or no knowledge at all about the meaning of the business plan or cost estimates. And this could be one of the reasons why good ideas just cannot be developed in long term, as there is lack of planning at the beginning phase of the business.
Lack of knowledge and basic entrepreneurship skills was just a part of the problem. Thought there were good business ideas, only a small part of them appeared to be successful at the end and turned into business. Considering that it was hard to start agricultural business as the agricultural land was and still is in high demand, it was clear that other forms of business which could be developed in rural areas should be supported. At that time Latvian Rural Advisory and Training Centre (LRATC) with the help of Rural Network decided to launch this program. To make sure that it succeeds, rural development advisors and entrepreneurship advisors were hired. As LRATC has 26 branch offices across the country, program for promotion of youth entrepreneurship in rural areas has country wide coverage. The main goal is to activate rural youth and increase their involvement in rural entrepreneurship and social life. One of the objectives is to educate young entrepreneurs to ensure that they have enough knowledge for starting the business in rural areas.
How did you solve the challenge/ problem?
According to the European Commission definition youth is from age 18 till 40. This is the age of the target group. The main precondition is that this business should be running or should be developed in rural areas.
Main activities of the program are:
To teach youth about idea generation process and analization, about business plan writing and project management.
To help youth to implement their ideas.
To organize business plan competion.
To provide possibility to network.
There are two parts of the activities – learning part and competition part.
LRATC advisors have developed learning programme for those who already have running business and they want to invent something new (e.g., new packaging, new product, new service) and for those who have only idea but do not know from where to start. LRATC are attracting speakers and those who are willing to share their experience to make the learning process for the participants as useful as possible at it is planned that after finishing learnings they are able to write own business plan. If by the end of the study part participant is ready to move forward with his/her idea, it is possible to apply for competition for young entrepreneurs.
During the competition phase participants are obliged to prepare their own business plan. At this point advisor can be of help, but just with advise as it is requested that business plan should be written by the idea owner him/herself. Advisors are halping with explaining and sharing their knowledge. Advisors attract mentors and other experts to make this first step for participants easier. But still, it is up to participant if he/she wants to use help of other experts. Since few years participant is asked to create a prototype of the product or model of the service which they would like to develop as business idea.
What is innovative in your practical case?
When the program started it was innovative process as such. But LRATC considers that innovation is the method how new business ideas in rural areas are being treated and developed. It is crucial to start by providing knowledge to young entrepreneurs and bringing different actors together. To facilitate the process of competition, LRATC has created network of mentors which consist of business practitioners, farmers, universities representatives, bank representatives etc. During the competition event called “mentor breakfast” is being organized so the participants can ask questions and gain ideas of how to proceed further with their idea.
Innovation according to participants is that they must write their business plan themselves as this helps to understand the cost positions and the way how the price of the product creates. Besides the mentor network, the jury is composed who are giving suggestions on what could be done to make the business idea more successful. Participants are saying that the most difficult part of the competition is to present your business idea in front of the jury. The difficulty is that they have not done it before. This is one of the topics which is being taught during the learning part. In addition to business plan presentation, participants must present the prototype of the product.
What are success factors in solving the problem?
One of the main success factors is the money prize winner gets at the end of the competition. Winner is not obliged to report how he/she has spent this prize.
One more success factor could be the continuity of the activity. This Program successfully runs already for ten years and during this time it has built some trust and good reputation.
Established mentor network and valuable experience with jury members who are interested in being part of the process from year to year.
Success is that it was possible to improve the learning plan, business plan templates etc. Program is agile to be changed and improved.
As far as LRATC know that participants of a specific year tend to network with each other even after the competition. There are cases when one business idea helps to other participants’ business idea, and they are collaborating.
Covid –19 has proved that all process can be done virtually, though group members are not as friendly and tend to network as those who had studied together.
Unexpected failures, if any.
The attraction of participants is job of the regional advisors. If the advisor is not motivated, it is hard to attract participants from all the country and especially from the border areas.t of the advisors are really interested in working with participants and are eager to offer them mentors’ help or their own help in understanding homeworks etc., but there are still advisors who consider this task as burdensome. Therefore, the readiness of competition participants from different regions differs.
Motivated advisor brings well prepared participants and thus they have better chances to win the competition.
Part of the Program can be organized as distance learning process. Nevertheless, results are better if learning is in presence. Face to face activities enhances networking and created supportive, involving and friendlier group. Distance learnings provides possibilities to young parents to participate in learning and competition. The Mentor network should be activated on daily basis. As soon as you let yourself fall into obliviation, it is hard to motivate them to involve again. You should pamper your mentors from time to time to make them feel needed and respected. The condition that competition participants have to provide prototypes of their products, services etc., is particularly important.
What role does the advisor or advisory service play within your practical case?
LRATC acts as facilitator of all the processes. A team of advisors not only attract participants but gives lessons, finds relevant presenters, maintains a mentor network, pursues participants to motivate them to prepare for the final competition better. Advisor is the main point among participants, mentor, jury, lecturers, and other involved stakeholders.
Can your approach be transferred and/or adapted for other innovation challenges and regions?
Contact details of contact person: Project manager Elīna Ozola – firstname.lastname@example.org