“Essential Tips for Designing Successful Entrepreneurship Education Programs” by Emil Levy

emil_levy_235pxHere are some essential tips on “How to design a successful entrepreneurship program” shared by Emil Levy (Program Manager of the Bulgarian Young Leaders Program) in the IIE’s (Institute of International Education) blog :


Base your program on experiential learning

As the program manager of the Summer Entrepreneurship Program (SEP), I focus the program’s curriculum on experiential and applied learning. During five intensive weeks of training, participants learn the steps involved in venture creation—from ideation to market research and competition assessment to feasibility analysis and sales— by working on their own business ideas.  Along the way, they are mentored and network with successful entrepreneurs, angel investors and venture capitalists. So, I and the rest of SEP’s faculty, staff and mentors are simply entrepreneurship learning enablers. We provide the right framework and design the right type of experiences, but the learning happens only when participants “get dirty” and start working on their ventures.

Emphasize the value of failure

As Northeastern University’s President, Joseph Aoun shared: “Real entrepreneurs wear their failures as badges of honor.” It is extremely important to make participants understand that in entrepreneurship, failure is a necessary evil. You can only move forward and succeed by taking calculated risks, experimenting, failing and learning from your mistakes. In fact, one of the required books for SEP is “The Lean Startup” by Eric Reis. The book stipulates that entrepreneurs should focus not on writing perfect business plans, but rather on finding ways to accelerate their learning and validate customer demand for their product or service. Accordingly, instead of focusing on perfecting a venture plan for their ideas in a purely academic setting, SEP participants are encouraged to come up with a Minimal Viable Product (MVP)—a far from perfect, but easily testable concept, service or product– and then test it with real potential customers.  As a result, participants experience a series of failures, but along the way they gain a lot of useful information, which helps them to continuously improve their service or product.

Create the right entrepreneurship ecosystem and community

In the case of SEP, a short term program for budding Bulgarian entrepreneurs who after their intensive five week training return to Bulgaria, creating a supportive entrepreneurship ecosystem meant keeping the SEP alumni working together. This is how the Association of the Bulgarian Leaders and Entrepreneurs (ABLE) was born. Entirely managed by program alumni, ABLE’s mission is to develop an active civil society and entrepreneurial culture in Bulgaria. So far, ABLE has launched the “Entrepreneur’s Library”—the first and only library dedicated to entrepreneurship in Bulgaria. More importantly, ABLE members organize monthly talks and mixers with Bulgarian entrepreneurs as they continue to support each other.

Set realistic expectations and be patient

To paraphrase conference speaker and social entrepreneur Kyle Westaway, in this era of smartphones, Facebook and Twitter, we are constantly distracted and constantly seeking immediate gratification and instant results—but really good ideas need time to mature and germinate before they are turned into exciting ventures. Exactly! Ideally, we want all of the participants in our entrepreneurship programs to launch successful businesses upon completion of their learning experience. However, building a successful venture takes time. Today, three years after we launched the program, SEP’s return on investment is clear—there are already several SEP alumni who have started their own ventures. For example, Dobromir Ivanov (SEP 2011) and Demir Tonchev (SEP 2010), who met at an ABLE event, founded Stigni.bg, the first online portal for comparing fares and booking bus travel in Bulgaria. Spasiyana Apostolova (SEP 2012) and her brother Dimitar just launchedBlocsocks, a social entrepreneurship venture, which aims to preserve Bulgarian customs by enabling elderly Bulgarians from impoverished rural communities to sell their unique handmade wool crafts globally. Moreover, Evelin Velev (SEP 2011) is one of the founders of Usefulatnight—a mobile application, which enables users to discover trendy night spots and cool locations in real time. Usefulatnight recently won 30,000 Euros from LAUNCHhub and is one of the start-ups selected for the LAUNCHhub incubator.Over the next three years, as the SEP alumni network continues to grow, I am confident that the number of companies started by SEP graduates will grow significantly.

How would you rate the proposed framework? Leave a comment and share this article to raise awareness about entrepreneurship in your country.

Courtesy to Mr. Emil Levy, IIE and the Association of Bulgarian Leaders & Entrepreneurs (ABLE)

The quoted article can be read here

Ivelina Hristova presents at a forum on Bulgarians’ career mobility

             On 24 November, 2012, our colleague Ivelina Hristova gave a presentation as part of an organized press conference discussing Bulgarians’ career mobility. The host of the event was Advent Group, a world leader in marketing and communications recognized for the organization of career forums under the name Access MBA and Masters Tour, which give meeting to students and young professionals with representatives of educational institutions, along with the provision of career consulting services. As part of ABLE, Ivelina talked about the attraction of bright minds back to Bulgaria, in the context of a brain gain project that she leads. She discussed such a strategy successfully realized by Ireland, and the implementation of a similar approach to the situation in Bulgaria.
The event took place in Grand Hotel Sofia, and as panellists also had Didier Stoessel, CEO of Nova Broadcasting Group; St?phane Delahaye, regional director of Havas Worldwide, Dr. Leslie Szamosi, academic director of the EMBA programme at City College -International Faculty of the University of Sheffield; Christophe Coutat, founder and CEO of Advent Group; Ani Dimitrova, director of corporate communications at Jobs.bg; Boyko Blagoev, representing the organization of Bulgarians with international experience Tuk-Tam and the career website Back2BG.
The events Access MBA and Access Masters for Bulgaria take place on 8 November, 2012, at the Sheraton hotel in Sofia. Represented will be prestigious educational institutions such as Durham Business School and Cass Business School from the UK, Esade Business School from Spain, SDA Bocconi from Italy and others. More information about the event can be found here: http://www.investor.bg/za-nachinaeshti/126/a/blizo-10-ot-bylgarskite-studenti-izbirat-da-uchat-v-chujbina,141957/

Bulgarian Entrepreneurship and Innovation Cluster

On 31th of October (2012) eight non-governmental organizations that work in the field of entrepreneurship founded the Bulgarian Entrepreneurship and Innovation Cluster (BEIC). BEIC exists to stimulate communication and collaboration, promote unity and further understanding of the Bulgarian entrepreneurship and innovation community.

Some of BEIC goals (described in the charter) are:

  • To lobby for the rights and interests of the community in front of appropriate national and international institutions
  • To provide both members and the public with a periodic overview of the state, structure and development of the Bulgarian entrepreneurship and innovation community

Among BEIC founders were:

ABLE was one of the founders as well.  The event took place in betahaus and host was Boyan Benev.

We want to congratulate all BEIC members for stepping into this historical moment! Together we will promote entrepreneurship culture in Bulgaria!



Gergana Markova – Personal Development

There will be a meeting with a guest lecturer Gergana Markova. The topic is

Personal development:  personal mission, vision, goal and goal making. 

When: 12.09.2012 (Wednesday)

Beginning: 19:00h.

Registration until: 18:45h.

Where: Sofia University, Harvard Hall;

Peter Shaw – Sustainable and Healthy Organizations

Parther, Corporate and Commercial Practice Group Head ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE FOR SUSTAINABLE AND HEALTHY ORGANIZATION – a lecture with questions and answers on creating and implementing the vision for the organisation – “Why does it exist? What are we trying to be or do and why? What motivates us?”; the professional experience of Mr. Shaw in the field of corporate law, company integration after merger or acquisition. http://www.maddocks.com.au/profile/59/peter-shaw

Where? – The America for Bulgaria  Hall in Sofia University – room 224, 15 Tzar Osvoboditel blvd.;

When? –  27 September (Thursday) 2012 at 19,00h;

–         Registration: 18,45h;