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You learn the most when you’re thrown into the deep-end

The JA Company Programme has had a great influence on me as a person. At first, I thought it was a stupid plan, I did not feel like doing the programme. Together with my fellow students we were just beginning our studies and had no idea what we’re starting. However, as the programme progressed, I became more and more interested in our own company and product! I even continued working on the company outside of school.

At the end of the year, the teacher asked me what I had learned from the programme. I think I learned a lot about entrepreneurship and myself because we were thrown into the deep-end.When learning by doing, the information and experience gained sticks for much longer. The programme has really enriched my education.

During the academic year, I learned to look at as many options as possible and not immediately think the first option is the best. Looking back, I think we focused too much on the consumer market and could have sold more products had we instead focused on B2B or business-to-business. Always think of more ways than just the first which pops into your mind!

One of the main skills I learned through the JA Company Programme is to thoroughly think through all the available options before making a decision. For example, after graduating I was offered a job and if it weren’t for the JA Company Programme I would have taken the opportunity right away. But, now I knew I had to look at more options than just the one.

Secondly, you need to be decisive. In real life, you don’t get months to make a decision. If you don’t decide quickly, you’ll miss opportunities: a great sales deal, a bargain when buying raw materials. If you wait for too long, the competition gets you.

My third lesson was to learn to live with the choices you make. The past is the past, the only thing you can actually influence – and something which is mostly in your own hands – is the future.

Being both an alumni and volunteer allows me to look at the mini-companies differently than my colleagues. I focus on scalability. There are multiple companies which can become successful start-ups. And that’s what we need: students with great ideas and a passion for entrepreneurship.

Moreover, I think it’s truly great that businesses and companies like Euroclear support entrepreneurship education! This way I have the opportunity to give back, paying back the great experience I had when I was a student.

During the Euroclear Investment Challenge, six of the best student companies visited our office in Amsterdam. Over the course of an afternoon, the students were challenged to think of the future of their company and how they would use a fictitious €100,000 investment. The students were encouraged to think of the bigger picture and look at the national, European or even international markets. Throughout the day they also received coaching by Euroclear volunteers - not so much in the form of suggestions, but by asking critical questions. If you ask the right questions, students will come up with brilliant ideas.

I also was able to join the students when they were pitching their mini-companies to a panel of judges. They were really good, one of the teams even convinced me to buy shares!

By Etienne da Costa (26), a JA Company Programme participant in 2010 and now working as a Euroclear Netherlands business mentor with Jong Ondernemen. 

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