You are president of the IME (national network of business mentoring institutes dedicated to high-growth SMEs) and president of the Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry. From its beginnings, is the world of business creation yours?
Dominique Restino (DR). Yes, undeniably. In 1986, at the age of 24, I created my first company with two friends: a recruitment and temporary work agency with a network of agencies where 1,200 people worked a day. We sold it 20 years later with a turnover of 35 million euros. At the time, we didn’t say “I want to do entrepreneurship”. I had to make a living and I wanted to try. Since then, I have dedicated my career to the world of business and entrepreneurship, with the main mission of supporting young people leaving school to start.
How would you define your entrepreneurial spirit?
Benedicte Sanson (BS). I didn’t like being in an organization and depending on a hierarchy. I had a lot of ideas and I wanted to go fast. At the time, it was less easy to undertake and it took me a while to get started. I founded my first company on my own, Florescens, to help French VSEs find their market. I was immediately attracted to the world of VSEs and SMEs because what I cared about and still care about is seeing my impact in a concrete way and it’s easier to observe in small structures. Passionate about marketing, I realized that companies that didn’t have a marketing strategy would quickly become overwhelmed and with Florenscens, I embarked on this idea of helping VSEs structure their marketing approach.
How did their paths cross?
BS. I started with fear in my stomach because I was alone and without support, except for a few practical aspects. I was thinking about my way of doing this when Dominique Restino opened (in 2007) the Mentoring program at CCI Paris Ile-de-France, dedicated to companies with very high growth potential. Of course, I didn’t meet the criteria, but I wanted to meet him. It took nine months to get back to me, but when we met, we understood that we shared the same values. He told me about one of his projects: the one that would become Moovjee.
How did the idea to create Moovjee come about?
RD. I discovered mentoring in Quebec in 2005 and this supportive approach became my guideline. As a young elected member of the JRC Paris Ile-de-France, I quickly realized that 97% of French companies had less than 20 employees. I became convinced of the idea that in order to grow businesses it is necessary to grow entrepreneurs. Not in the technique, but in the “posture”, in the corporate culture that is the main axis of a company.
That’s what mentoring is to me. I considered raising to take over a business to be a real-life choice. With Bénédicte Sanson, we fully share this point of view. Our idea was to support these young people aged between 18 and 30 in acquisition or creation because there was real potential in these young people who were not valued enough. I knew that if I didn’t create something like this, I would regret it all my life, so we took our chances and Moovjee was born in 2009.
What are Moovjee’s founding values and key areas of support?
DR and BS. Youth is at the heart of our philosophy and Moovjee is based on a strong commitment to youth trust, benevolence and sharing. Youth is a country’s first natural wealth. For a country in the heart of the world, you need young people who know how to build their future. And every young person should be able to opt for entrepreneurship (creation or acquisition of a company) in their first professional life, regardless of their training and sector of activity.
In this philosophy, we guide our actions along three axes: personal support centered on a mentoring program, the promotion of youth entrepreneurship and the animation of a community with exchanges between generations.
What is mentoring and the relationship it generates?
BS. Mentoring is personal support of a confidential nature, provided by an experienced entrepreneur (the mentor) to a new entrepreneur (the mentee) or facing new challenges for one year. The mentor does not advise, but accompanies, motivates, helps to take a step back and promotes the development of the mentee’s know-how by questioning and opening the field of possibilities – with the aim of contributing to the growth of the entrepreneur and, therefore, of the company .
RD. The mentoring relationship is an interpersonal relationship of support, discussion and learning. In 2013, I created with the state the “Mentorship Letter for Entrepreneurs” where I explain the fundamentals of the relationship. The mentor and mentee are not in the same industry and engage in complete secrecy because it allows for real conversation. They choose each other even as we help build pairs. We have a mentor for a year because we have to delve into the subject before we fully surrender. And the basis of the relationship is trust and kindness. The experience that the mentor can provide is not passed on, it is shared.
When does entrepreneurial mentoring take place?
RD. Intervenes in the company’s development phase. In fact, mentees are start-ups that have already gone through the business creation phase and want to solidify the foundations of their business. The association’s main activity, mentoring entrepreneurs, serves Moovjee’s main objective: to support business creation among young people and develop job creation in France. Since the creation of Moovjee (a member of the Mentoring France Network that we founded with Bénédicte in 2014), 2,800 young people have been supported as part of the mentoring program.
What do you think is essential to better support these young people?
BS. It’s the way we look at this youth and how we consider it. These young people are our peers, and when they finish their studies, they don’t want to hear what they have to do. They have powerful ideas and understand the need to respond to their surroundings. You have to give them control, not try to influence them, but embrace what they are and want to do, considering that they are already entrepreneurs. Our only mission is to allow them to dare and give them the clues to increase their chances of success.
RD. We expanded our mentoring system when Moovjee was certified by the state as part of the “1 Youth, 1 Solution” system for the “1 Youth, 1 Mentor” project call. Thus, all young candidates can have free access to mentoring. Since this plan was launched in July 2021, they have massively responded to the call to multiply the number of young people supported by 6 each year.
As president of the CCI Paris Ile-de-France, how do you see the evolution of the business world?
DR. The CCI Paris Ile-de-France is a very specific organization and it is also a complete center with business schools, the Gobelins, the Ferrandi cooking school, the Attitudes Day digital school that we created with La Colline Factory. In all our training courses, we have created entrepreneurship modules aimed at helping young people to project themselves to create or take over a business, both with digital tools and in “posture”.
I see that there are young people who want to undertake. Young people no longer want to wait 10 years to find the job they love. They already have experience in companies (mainly through internships), which we had for less than 30 years. I also think there will be more development in manual and artisanal crafts where there are also many innovations with electronics, home automation, digital, connected objects…
What was your intention in founding the Moovjee Prize and what do you remember about this 2022 vintage?
BS. This Award aims to highlight this youth. Allow them exposure, to make themselves known. It is “the big party” of young entrepreneurs and we were the first to do it. This award also aims to make society aware of the fact that a 20-year-old young entrepreneur is a credible person. It is the entire economy and society that must have a different view of entrepreneurship.
RD. The 2022 Moovjee Prize winners clearly reflect young people’s desire to get involved. This year, our theme was “Let’s Change Angles, Let’s Change Perspectives with Young Entrepreneurs”. A strong theme chosen to promote the new path that young people open to us through their dynamism and vision. By sweeping away the past, by recycling the old, they innovate, improve the life of the neighbour, the neighbourhood, the region… Of the 350 candidates, 58% are based outside the Île-de-France and the projects are as creative as significant carriers. .
What are the current challenges for young entrepreneurs?
DR. They want impact and they no longer want to start a business to start a business. They also want to bring something else, a better life. Their difficulty today is that everything is going too fast. Speed and immediacy must be taken into account in an extremely significant way.
What message do you want to send today to young people who want to get started?
BS. I want to tell them “listen to yourself and dare to go the way you want without being influenced. You have to know how to listen to yourself and listen to your deep convictions.”
DR. Whether through a mentoring program or other support networks, don’t be alone. You have to be accompanied because a accompanied entrepreneur is more likely to succeed than someone alone.