As part of the EU’s drive to support SMEs, the supranational organisation runs a programme entitled: Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs (EYE), which acts as a cross-border business exchange programme.
After successfully applying, Viviana Premazzi set to work on looking for potential host companies outside of the EU to contribute half of her time to, and landed on a New York-based company called RebelBase, an organisation that provides a project-building platform, allowing clients to innovate or replace inadequate systems with new solutions.
Together with the company, Viviana identified areas of common interest and set off to helping the organisation develop a module/builder for their platform on cultural diversity and inclusion, while also supporting the business development and investors relations department with her contacts in Europe and other countries.
Exciting as the journey sounds, Viviana is herself an entrepreneur: she is the Founder and Director at Global Mindset Development (GMD) Training and Consultancy Services Ltd., a firm that helps organisations to develop a global mindset, work effectively across cultures and promote inclusion and sense of belonging at the workplace. And, the idea underpinning the programme is that half of the time is spent working for the host organisation, RebelBase in this case, and the other half for your own company.
Therefore, while the opportunity to work for an organisation outside of Europe would provide endless value to her own entrepreneurial endeavours, as a Founder and Director, managing time between her own company which is operating in a completely different time zone and providing meaningful contributions to the host organisation is not a challenge to be taken lightly.
Viviana’s journey in New York was three-months long, ending in December. Here, she speaks to MaltaCEOs.mt about what motivated her to join, the lessons learnt and what she has taken home from the experience.
During and after the pandemic I felt stuck physically, but especially mentally. In my work as an entrepreneur and as a consultant, this can be problematic as you should be able to constantly innovate, be creative and keep up with the most updated trends of your field. So, I was desperately looking for development and mentorship opportunities.
I felt I needed to breathe some fresh air, to be in a new place with new energies and with new people who can challenge me and help me develop new ideas and projects. As part of my search for something new, I discovered the EYE programme, and saw that it is now a global programme focusing not just on Europe. EYE provides candidates the opportunity to go to places like Singapore, South Korea, Canada and the US. I saw I matched the criteria and started my application through Malta Enterprise, I was selected and I came to NYC.
My goal was to really be open to everything new that may have come from the experience: new contacts, new opportunities, new ideas, new challenges. I already lived in NYC in the past and I knew how much this city could give. This time, I was more aware, prepared and open so as to really be able to make the most of my time here, either through the EYE programme and/or through the city itself.
The way the EYE programme is structured is that a New Entrepreneur (myself) will work for the Host Entrepreneur (HE) while the HE will mentor the NE. Thanks to my broad international network, I have been helping them in business development, providing support in reaching out to new potential clients and markets as well as finding new investors and funding opportunities outside the US. For RebelBase, I am also working on a module (builder) for the platform specifically related to cultural awareness and intercultural communication.
On the other side, RebelBase’s methodology is based on learning by doing, so the idea is that I would have learned while working for them on their materials for clients and investors. Also, in terms of contacts development for my business, I mainly worked on building their network of contacts, sharing my network in Europe and the US. Indeed, I also expanded my network in the US thanks to the participation at events organized by the Italy-American Chamber of Commerce and Business Network International (BNI) of which I am a member in Malta.
First of all, this time has helped me build a stronger mindset and more meaningful connections through a global perspective. NYC and the entrepreneurial world here in general is very competitive and very aggressive. You need to be prepared and come in with a strong mindset to be able to remain truthful to yourself and your values. Moreover, GMD is a global business, but to serve individuals and companies around the world we need to keep ourselves updated on recent trends in terms of studies and theories in our field along with whatever our potential clients need. NYC being one of the most diverse places on earth was a great source of insights and ideas for it.
Thanks to the networking opportunities available in the city and the Italy-American Chamber of Commerce in NYC, I found myself among many entrepreneurs from all over the globe and I realised what I was already able to do by myself, starting from our little island.
The exchange also helped me realise the common challenges NEs and HEs go through when growing their business and scaling globally: how to reach new clients/markets; how to find the right investors/funds, how to make the business sustainable and profitable etc
Sometimes, you look at this big city or other companies, and from afar everything seems so perfect. When you come closer, you realise they’ve had their struggles and challenges just as you did, and you understand how much you’ve already done all by yourself!
Not healthy at all! Jokes apart, I was also able to concentrate most of my in-person commitments in Malta or other European countries before coming to NYC, and have restarted these commitments again in the new year.
Remote working also helped me a lot, because now training and consultancy are easily done online and we can work across time zones. I would say, however, that what really helped me not to feel overwhelmed was the amazing support of my team: Tiziana, Enrico and Andrea and all our GMD friends and partners. They were incredible and despite the distance and the time zone – as we are so used to working remotely as we live in at least three different countries anyway – we were able to carry out all the projects we have been working on, while also starting something new. I think this is really the best result for a founder and an entrepreneur, knowing that your company can go on without you being constantly present or micro-managing everything.
There is a world of sharks out there, I think this is really one of the most valuable lessons I learnt. I realised I have been living in a very protective environment, a bubble to a certain extent, being Malta and the EU. Sometimes we don’t realise how lucky we are, how many opportunities we have thanks to the EU and national funds (even if in my case I didn’t benefit from them so far except for this programme), how much support there is.
Being an entrepreneur is not an easy journey and if you want to scale globally, the game changes and you have to be ready and strong. It is so easy to give up your values, follow the most recent trends (even if they are good) but lose yourself in the process. And then, most importantly, as this is also what I teach and I train my clients on, I realised once again, first-hand, the importance of being culturally aware, culturally sensitive, recognising the cultural diversity, preventing the cultural shock, adjusting your communication and relationship style so to be more effective, using the global mindset.
Sayed Mohamed Mohamed Noor Sharaf has resigned from the two positions with immediate effect.
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