Entrepreneurs of the future
The “Entrepreneurs of the Future” program has been announced at the latest Amazon Academy in Germany.
The Association of German Entrepreneurs (VdU), "Women in Digital" (WiDi) and Amazon are launching the second "Entrepreneurs of the Future - Locally and Around the World" program, this time exclusively for female entrepreneurs. In the first round, 23 small businesses began to develop their e-commerce and export plans with the help of coaches. They started to successfully export, establish brands, and create new jobs.
VdU President Stephanie Bschorr, WiDi founder Tijen Onaran and Dr. Markus Schöberl, who is responsible for Seller Services in Germany at Amazon, explain the objectives of the second round of the program and how it works.
Markus Schöberl, in the second round of "Female Entrepreneurs of the Future", you are exclusively inviting women entrepreneurs to participate - why?
Schöberl: In the first round, two of the four winners were female-run companies: the "Windelmanufaktur" from Dresden and "Madame Jordan" - a Berlin producer of baby carriers. That piqued our curiosity, because we had the impression that the achievements of female entrepreneurs are still not sufficiently recognized. This resulted in the idea of launching the second round of the program exclusively for women entrepreneurs - hence the title "Female Entrepreneurs of the Future". I think women are perfectly prepared for entrepreneurship in the digital age, where creative ideas and maximum customer orientation are important.
Last time the participants were mentored by coaches - all of whom were e-commerce experts. What about this time?
Schöberl: The first round has shown: The participants appreciated exchanging ideas with someone who has faced similar challenges. We are continuing that approach. For example, we have been able to secure the support of Anna Nordlander, e-commerce expert of "The Friendly Swede", the online retailer for sports and outdoor items. Or Peter Höschl, who was already part of the first round of the program, who is also an e-commerce specialist and operates the e-commerce outlet shopanbieter.de. Patrick and Karin Hallinger are also experts when it comes to interaction of offline and online trading. Together with many other coaches, they will mentor the candidates for six months, from the initial planning stage to executing their plans for export, brand development and entering the online trade.
Ms Bschorr, as an entrepreneur and as president of the VdU - do you agree with Mr Schöberl that the achievements of women entrepreneurs are not visible enough?
Bschorr: We have been working on this for many years, but we have only come so far at this stage. Therefore, yes, I agree! I am very grateful that we are now working together to encourage and empower female entrepreneurs, and to help them receive more recognition for their achievements. Women entrepreneurs are just as determined, focused and willing to experiment, as male entrepreneurs. However, there is a lack of female role models - especially in the digital economy - who can inspire other women to follow in their footsteps - and that is exactly what we want to achieve with the program.
How did you take that into account when designing the program?
Bschorr: The exchange with fellow participants and the coaches is at the core of the program. In addition to mentoring by their respective coaches, the participants regularly attend online training sessions. These are opportunities to learn from each other and to inspire each other. Further input comes from the coaches - whether it is on selecting suitable distribution channels, sound cost calculations or effective marketing. Whatever the individual challenge, the coach will help find a solution.
Ms Onaran, you are the founder of 'Women in Digital', a network for women entrepreneurs in the digital economy, and therefore it puts you in the public spotlight. How does your experience contribute to the program?
Onaran: "Women in Digital" is working to increase the visibility of female role models across all channels. That is why the program "Female Entrepreneurs of the Future" is accompanied by interviews with the participants and coaches, training videos and lots of social media for the whole course of the program. We know that we will unearth many exciting success stories and that the entrepreneurs will benefit from the interest in their achievements. You have to make noise to be heard!
This round of the program encourages female entrepreneurs to take advantage of the opportunities of digitization. What do you think from a female perspective?
Onaran: First of all, the same applies to men and women: Let’s not be too timid about digitization; everyone knows at this stage that the "future" will happen, no matter whether you are on-board or not. It is all about taking opportunities. Programs such as "Female Entrepreneurs of the Future" help expand traditional business models and extend them into the digital world. Whether there is a specifically female take on that - I don’t really think so. But what I know for sure is that it would certainly not hurt if more women entrepreneurs were successful in their digital efforts; and I suspect that there is still a lot of digital potential, in female entrepreneurs in particular, waiting to be unlocked.
Who is the program aimed at exactly? And how to participate?
Bschorr: The program is aimed at female CEOs and female business owners with less than 20 employees who are planning to launch their online business or expand their existing online activities. It does not matter whether they are retailers, manufacturers or brand owners. And it does not matter which area of the industry they are active in. More information about the application process can be found at amazon.de/unternehmerinnenderzukunft. The application takes only one A4 page but it is important that applicants describe the individual challenges they want to address.
Onaran: Anything that slows down female entrepreneurs on their way to digital success. For some, it may be a question of how to present products online professionally, using high-quality images and concise product texts. For others, international logistics may be a challenge - how to do packaging, fees, etc work in other countries? And others may want to focus more on digital marketing, including optimization for search engines. Our goal is to provide custom-mentoring for every project.
How is "Female Entrepreneurs of the Future" going to work in practice?
Schöberl: This is not about leaning back, this is challenging entrepreneurial work - down to the smallest detail, always keeping the customer in mind. We are not providing abstract advice. If necessary, the coaches will work line by line through the participants’ action plans. We want the "Female Entrepreneurs of the Future" to make a real difference - and participants to truly accelerate their development during the program, starting with their initial planning, going all the way to implementation of new measures. Going back to one of Tijen's examples: If a participant wants to use international logistics to export her goods, her brief will be to actually lay the foundations and start selling internationally within the program’s duration. This also requires commitment by the participants - taking part in the digital economy is a matter of attitude: It is about balanced risk-taking, 100% customer focus, quick movements, and experimentation. "Just do it" was the motto of the first round, and we are continuing that. Sure, it also requires courage: Many are selling in their hometown one day, and to customers in the US the next – that is not easy to achieve. But it's worth it! Anyone who wants to get involved and take a big step forward is the right fit for "Female Entrepreneurs of the Future".
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