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The innovative spirit of Slovenian youth - My company project

On 8 May 2020, the 7th Student Company Fair took place. This year, it was held online. At the concluding event the panel presented prizes and awards to the best student companies.

Schoolgirls with a teacher. They've got a homemade product in their hands.

Students and professor from the Biotechnical Educational Centre Ljubljana. | Author podjetje Neki domač'ga

School year 2019/2020, 62 student companies from 19 Slovenian secondary schools were founded. Students were competing to win in various categories, including the best ‘I feel Slovenia’ product category, which was introduced for the first time this year. But by far the most coveted title was undoubtedly Student Company of the Year, as the winners qualify for the JA Europe Company of the Year Competition, where students compete against their peers from other European countries.

The diverse selection of products made by students within the My Company programme shows that Slovenian youth is inventive and eager for entrepreneurial experience.

For several years, the Institute for the Promotion of Youth Entrepreneurship has been offering practical training on entrepreneurial spirit and entrepreneurship in secondary schools under the global JA Company Programme of the Junior Achievement non-profit organisation. The programme enables young people to discover their entrepreneurial potential. During the school year, Slovenian students go through the entire process of creating a company. They begin by deciding on a business idea, followed by considering its possible realisation, making an overview of the competition, creating a business plan, selling shares and finally surviving in the market, which might just be the most difficult part.

As the guardian of the I feel Slovenia national brand, the Government Communication Office decided to participate in the My Company project.

The interest among young people was considerable, since 19 student companies decided to focus on the I feel Slovenia product category. The director of the Institute for the Promotion of Youth Entrepreneurship, Jožica Rejec, believes that this project is important because of the visibility and recognition of the I feel Slovenia national brand.

First place in the I feel Slovenia product category was awarded to the Slostick company

First place in the I feel Slovenia product category was awarded to the Slostick company. Two students from the Diocesan Classical Gymnasium and a student from Gymnasium Vič designed a wooden cord winder for headphones to prevent them from getting tangled up.

Slostick

Slostick. The wooden cord winder for headphones to prevent them from getting tangled up. | Author podjetje Slostick

The director of Slostick, Gašper Kovačič, says of his idea: "In October, I was on my way home from school after a training session. The weather wasn't very good, the classes that day had been difficult and tiring and I was also exhausted after training. I took my headphones from the pocket to relax a little, but they were all tangled up. I thought the last thing I needed at that moment was to have to untangle my headphones.

When I got home, I started browsing the internet for a product that would solve my problem. I didn't find one, and since I was still under the influence of the innovation camp that was held at our school, I decided to make the product myself."

With regard to the challenges the young entrepreneurs faced, he adds: "The biggest challenge was selling shares. It was difficult to convince our classmates and friends to invest some money in our product. It was difficult to convince them that this was a good idea in which it was worth investing. Nobody wanted to be the first person to invest."

Second place was awarded to the company Neki domač'ga

Second place was awarded to the company Neki domač'ga, founded by students from the Biotechnical Educational Centre Ljubljana.

Packaged crackers in a carton.

Crackers Neki domač'ga. | Author podjetje Neki domač'ga

The girls interviewed potential customers about the flavours they would prefer and decided to make crackers with four different tastes: the Carniolan sausage flavoured Kran'čan, the Tolmin cheese flavoured Tolmin'c, the pumpkin seed and shallot flavoured Prekmur'c and the rosemary and Piran salt flavoured Piran'čan.

They thus selected some excellent Slovenian flavours, that would appeal to the local market.

As the director of Neki domač'ga, Lara Tošić, says of their idea: "At the beginning of the year, we actually had no idea what our company would be making. As soon as our business professor Mirjam Gorenc told us we could participate in the I feel Slovenia category, we knew we wanted to make something with the flavours of traditional Slovenian dishes. After a few days of deliberation, we decided to make crackers."

Third place in the I feel Slovenia category was awarded to the Woodpecker company

Third place in the I feel Slovenia category was awarded to the Woodpecker company from Gymnasium Šentvid. Their goal was to substitute plastic whiteboard wipers for more environmentally friendly wooden ones.

Wooden whiteboard wiper.

Friendly wooden whiteboard wiper. | Author podjetje Woodpacker

The director of the company, Nataša Krapež, says of the importance of making connections during the project: "We wanted our company to focus not only on the environmental issue, but also on the social aspect. By connecting with other Slovenian companies, we received high-quality materials and services that we could test personally while also supporting local businesses."

According to Nataša Krapež, one of the most important qualities needed to become a successful businessperson is being organised, since, despite having a good idea, a company can be unsuccessful due to bad organisation. It is also essential that a good businessperson is creative and has initiative, because having both a good idea and a drive for success can get you very far.

The creator Gašper Kovačič of the teams winning product says: "It is made of natural scrap materials and is very durable. It could contribute to the visibility of Slovenia. Every tourist who buys our product would take it home and use it there. Such an unusual product would get people to ask about where they bought it, which would then start a conversation about the fact that they it came from Slovenia. We believe our product could thus contribute to the better global recognition of the country, and it’s clean, green image."

The director of the Institute for the Promotion of Youth Entrepreneurship, Jožica Rejec, concluded the event by telling the students:

"Everyone who completed the project is a winner. The competences you acquired, particularly your courage to try things and work in a team, will come in useful both in your everyday life and in your business ventures, whether working as a part of a company or on your own."