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How to create an effective workshop to help entrepreneurs

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Profile picture for user Eleonore Huon Merceur
by Eleonore Huon Merceur
Entrepreneurship is a crazy ride. New entrepreneurs often find themselves working alone, lacking the ideas, tools, skills, and contacts necessary for success. At makesense, we created the format of the Challenge Solving workshop to help them blossom.  Recently we held one such workshop with sustainable fashion entrepreneurs as part of the shemakes project. Here are the four steps to organize a successful challenge solving workshop for entrepreneurs.
1/ start early

Our first tip is to pick entrepreneurs with early stage projects so you can help them better. For our shemakes event we worked with Yushing and Sophie. They both had a specific challenge to overcome which we took the time to frame with them.

Yushing’s challenge was to promote her line of vegan paper and linen accessories, “Shing”. Sophie needed to build a business model for her third place project called “Labifelom” - a new space in Lyon centered on fashion's environmental impact, providing DIY activities for children and adults. A good challenge should be narrow enough to bring concrete solutions, but wide enough to stay open to several unlocking possibilities. You should also consider objectives and constraints that need to be indicated while finding workable solutions.

2/ Great Mentors

The second crucial ingredient for a great workshop is to pick great mentors. A mentor is someone who can “unlock” your entrepreneurs: mentors should work in the same sector or have a skill-related job position, and be motivated to help entrepreneurs.

We recruited a team of 6 mentors: 

3/ Experienced Facilitators

We mixed in our third ingredient: facilitators (in other words: us). Facilitators lead the workshop and facilitate collective intelligence.

We prepared an engaging introduction with ice-breakers so that all participants could get to know each other, followed by a pitch of our entrepreneur’s projects and challenges. This moment is particularly interesting for the innovators as it develops their oral skills and self-confidence.

After the introduction, we opened a safe and creative  brainstorming space in order to unlock ideas. This is a key step of the workshop, when entrepreneurs can access many ideas and opportunities. For instance, Sophie obtained contacts of a potential project partner, and discovered new revenue models. Yushing realized that before promoting her brand, she had to define a strong brand purpose. As facilitators, we also helped mentors grow thanks to the workshop. The six mentors feel they improved their skills in project coaching, their creativity, and expanded their network. 

4/ Prepare the right environment

The cherry on the top of the cake for our shemakes Challenge Solving Workshop is the venue that hosted us. It took place at La Caserne, an accelerator of ethical fashion projects in Paris. An airy and light space with room to spread out is key, but it was also helpful in this case to pick a venue that already hosts a like-minded business. The participating entrepreneurs got the opportunity to pitch their projects in front of La Caserne’s team, who kept in touch with them after the workshop. Both entrepreneurs gained visibility through La Caserne’s social media posts. 

 

This challenge solving workshop was a great opportunity for Yushing and Sophie to get feedback about their projects, while the activity also acts as a model for future workshops dedicated to enabling female entrepreneurship in the T&C sector.