Calling Ukrainian entrepreneurs: the European exchange to kick-start your business journey

Calling Ukrainian entrepreneurs: the European exchange to kick-start your business journey
1. How can the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme help Ukrainian businesses?
2. Can I take part?
3. How does it work?
4. How do I apply?
5. How will I benefit?

Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs (EYE) is a European exchange programme which helps entrepreneurs start their own business! The programme matches new entrepreneurs from one country with experienced entrepreneurs in another European country for an exchange of up to six months.

The new entrepreneur benefits from on-the-job training to develop his or her entrepreneurial skills, gaining knowledge and experience on managing a small business by collaborating with the host entrepreneur.

The host entrepreneur benefits from fresh perspectives on his or her business and gets the opportunity to cooperate with foreign partners or learn about new markets.

Ukrainian entrepreneurs can apply as both new and host businesses.

The programme is open to new and host entrepreneurs from Ukraine, as well as the 27 EU Member States and other participating countries – Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iceland, Kosovo, Lichtenstein, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Norway, Serbia and Türkiye (for current participating countries please check the programme website).

Participation is not based on nationality, so third country nationals who are resident in Ukraine are also eligible to apply (as can Ukrainian nationals resident in another participating country).

To apply as a new entrepreneur, you need have started a business in the last three years or plan to set one up. In this case, you need to have a concrete project or business idea, reflected in a business plan.

To apply as a host entrepreneur, you need to have at least three years running an SME.

Despite the name of the programme, there is no age limit to apply for Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs (though you do need to be over 18), and your business can be in any sector of activity.

In October 2023, the European Commission launched an additional project aimed specifically at supporting new entrepreneurs from Ukraine. With a budget of €3 million, the project aims to recruit up to 430 new Ukrainian entrepreneurs in the next two years and match them with host entrepreneurs across Europe.

With the help of an intermediary organisation, new entrepreneurs are matched up with a host entrepreneur in another European country for an exchange that can last between one and six months. To provide entrepreneurs with more flexibility, the exchange can also be divided into slots of minimum one week each, spread over a maximum of 12 months.

Once the match is accepted by both parties, an activity plan is prepared, which includes objectives for the exchange, the business/work/learning plan, tasks and responsibilities.

Activities during the exchange can include:

  • shadowing and working with the host entrepreneur
  • market research and developing new business opportunities
  • project development, innovation and R&D
  • taking a fresh look at existing business operations
  • understanding SME finance
  • branding, sales and marketing of the host’s company.

The programme provides financial assistance for new entrepreneurs, which partly covers living costs during the visit and travel to and from the exchange.

The amount of funding varies depending on the country of the exchange (check the FAQs on the programme website for current country rates) and the actual period that the new entrepreneur spends abroad with the host entrepreneur. Host entrepreneurs do not receive any funding.

There is no deadline to register for the programme. Interested applicants can apply online at any time at the following page. On the registration form, you have to fill out personal and business details, as well as outlining your motivation, and what added value you can offer your host entrepreneur.

You will also need to select an intermediary organisation (there are ten of them in Ukraine, click here for details), which will act as your local contact point throughout the programme and help you to prepare for your exchange. The intermediary organisation will assesses your application, guide you through the matching phase, help you with your activity plan, and monitor and evaluate your exchange.

For more information about how to apply, read the programme’s step-by-step Registration Guide for new entrepreneurs and for host entrepreneurs.

Benefits for new entrepreneurs include the opportunity to:

  • Stay up to six months with a successful and experienced entrepreneur in another European country to gain business knowledge in a wide range of areas, such as marketing, financial accounting, customer relations or business finance;
  • Improve your entrepreneurial experience and chances of success during the business start-up phase;
  • Refine your business ideas or business plan;
  • Collaborate and develop cross-border business co-operation;
  • Gain insights into different cultural and organisational settings and understand how companies function in the European Union;
  • Improve your language skills;
  • Receive practical and financial assistance such as induction courses before the exchange, logistical and local support during the stay, and a grant covering the travel and subsistence costs during the stay abroad.

Benefits for host entrepreneurs include the opportunity to:

  • Work with an energetic and motivated new entrepreneur who can contribute to your business with innovative views, new skills and knowledge;
  • Benefit from a “fresh eye” on your business, and specialised knowledge that the new entrepreneur may have and that you do not master;
  • Act as a coach or mentor;
  • Learn about foreign markets, expand your business opportunities and engage in cross-border activities;
  • Network and build strong relationships, which can be useful for mutual consulting, business referrals, and for finding business partners abroad.

Most host entrepreneurs found the experience so valuable that they reapplied to host another new entrepreneur!

No application or participation fees are required from host entrepreneurs.

Since its launch in 2009, the scheme has has seen over 46,000 applications, with more than 23,000 entrepreneurs participating in close to 12,000 exchanges.

New entrepreneurs from Ukraine have completed 180 business exchanges under the programme, with 8 ongoing in March 2024. Click here to find out how 34-year-old Natalia Deineko spent six months collaborating with a beauty salon owner in Lithuania, starting her own business when she finished the exchange: “I’m very happy that I have participated in the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme. It taught me discipline. I had to strictly follow my own business plan and implement all its items.”

For more examples of successful exchanges involving Ukrainian entrepreneurs, go to the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs stories archive and select Ukraine.

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