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Helping young French entrepreneurs take their first business steps

Christine Shadé, keen to set up her business
Christine Shadé, keen to set up her business RFI

A survey carried out by the polling institute Vivavoice at the end of 2017 showed that 72 percent of those in the 16-20 age group think that starting a business in France is difficult. But the country is making a big effort to nurture its entrepreneurs.


At the Salon des Entrepreneurs in Paris this week many young businesspeople were in optimistic mood, busily networking and swapping advice.

Investors, banks and venture capitalists were there as well, on the lookout for future success stories.

Anne-Marie Durand-Tourigny of Moovjee, a not-for-profit group which organises mentoring for young entrepreneurs, says she thinks young people are becoming more confident about starting up a business, because they "have more support now".

Hers is one of numerous organistions which link successful entrepreneurs with hopefuls starting out. Mentors can introduce their protégés to potential clients, help them access funding, give them advice on future planning or simply encourage them.

'I'm really ambitious and I think I can do something more exciting'

Christine Shadé, a 23-year-old student from the French West Indian island of Guadeloupe, sees entrepreneurship as the choice for those with real ambition and drive

She says she learned after doing three internships in big companies that the corporate world was not for her and instead she wanted to create her own business.

She hopes to set up a laundry-cum-coffee shop in Paris in June.

She explains that she has had a lot of help already but has no illusions about what's ahead, believing that resilience will prove to be as important as passion and optimism.

Souleima Ben Temime, the co-founder of Moov O Brain, a smart steering system for electric wheelchairs, is equally focused and determined.

Currently doing a masters degree in embedded systems in medical equipment in Tunis, she is at the salon "to network for investment" and to gain visability for her prototype product.

Entrepreneurship ecosystem

Neither of these future businesswomen is among the thousands now studying entrepreneurship at business schools in France, but in recent years dozens of new courses have been created.

French business schools, among the highest-ranked in Europe, now run highly-prized courses in starting and running a business, after years of offering programmes clearly geared towards working in big corporations.

It's all part of a vibrant ecosystem that is now in place in France to try to foster entrepreneurship.

In the first months of his presidency, Emmanuel Macron invested considerable energy in encouraging French entrepreneurs particularly in the tech sector.

He was an enthusiastic cheerleader for Station F, the world's biggest start up campus, which opened in central Paris in 2017. And he actively tried to promote a new image of France as a "start up nation".

But has the Yellow Vest movement, and its accompanying violence tarnished the picture and put entrepreneurs off?

Christophe Lecourtier, BUSINESSFRANCE
Christophe Lecourtier, BUSINESSFRANCE RFI

Christophe Lecourtier of Business France, a government agency which aims to support business in France, says business leaders who met Macron recently at the "Choose France" summit in Versailles, were not over concerned by the movement.

"The main thing for them was: will the government continue to implement the reforms President Macron announced after being elected," he said, explaining that the response from Macron was clear: "I shall continue."

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