Triggering a new generation of entrepreneurs: students breathe new life into EU entrepreneurship

20 octobre 2021 Pierre Perrin-Monlouis

Commission report on the success of mini-companies in Europe

What do “Angry Goat”, “Senior Entertainment Services”, “a vibrating pillow” and “Big Mammas” have in common? These are the names of firms or products produced by students (aged 14 to 18) running a mini-company at school. The student companies behind these and other products participated in the 16th Junior Achievement – Young Enterprise Europe[1] (JA-YE) Young Enterprise Europe Company of the Year Competition, held in Oslo, 28-31 July, 2005 (for examples of the mini-company products presented in Oslo, see annex I). The JA-YE Company Programme is recognised by the European Commission Enterprise Directorate General as a ‘Best Practice in Entrepreneurship Education’.

The new Commission report on the role of mini-companies looks at the different methods and providers of such programmes in secondary schools. It shows how concrete examples can be successfully implemented, and looks at possible obstacles and difficulties. Finally, it makes a number of concrete recommendations how to increase the implementation of these programmes.

This memo provides the following information taken from this report:

Why have mini-companies in schools?
Educational advantages of mini-companies
Mini-companies promote entrepreneurial drive
Statistics on mini-companies in secondary schools
Obstacles to the creation of mini-companies
Recommendations for promoting student company activities
Annex I – Some successful mini-companies
Annex II – Student company programmes in Member States
Why have mini-companies in schools?

We need to promote a more entrepreneurial culture in Europe: we need more innovation, more new firms and more entrepreneurs. The EU is not fully exploiting its entrepreneurial potential. According to the Eurobarometer, almost 60% of EU citizens have never considered setting up a business and 50% of Europeans agree that ‘one should not start a business when there is a risk of failure’ (compared with 33% in the US).

The best way of learning about entrepreneurship is through direct experience and practice-based activities. The objective of mini-companies run by students at school is that of developing a real economic activity on a small scale, or of realistically simulating the operations of firms.

The students form a mini-company, under the guidance of a teacher and volunteer business advisers. The students sell stock, elect officers, produce and market products or services, keep records, conduct stockholders’ meetings, and finally put the company into liquidation at the end of the school year (usually returning a profit). The programme gives students the opportunity to prepare for working life through the experience of running their own company.

Alternatively, mini-companies simulate in a realistic way the operations and challenges of a real company. Students work in a fictitious company and run all those business and administrative activities that are typical of a real company. Like a real company, the fictitious enterprise is organised in departments (marketing, sales, accounts, logistics, etc.).

Educational advantages of mini-companies

These activities allow students to acquire basic business skills, but also to develop personal qualities and transversal skills that have become increasingly important for all in order to live and work in the knowledge society. Through participation in mini-companies students develop enthusiasm and self-confidence, learn how to work in a team, become more willing to take responsibility and to use their initiative or develop their own ideas.

The growing success of mini- company methodology is due to:

The strong connection with businesses and with the local community, and the involvement of the private sector;
Flexibility and adaptability of these programmes to different types of education, and locally to different situations;
Enthusiasm and motivation generated in students (even those who lack motivation in more traditional subjects);
The potential, in terms of creativity, initiative and innovation that these activities are able to unlock in young people.
These programmes can be applied at all levels of education and in every type of school: in general secondary education as well as in vocational education. Student company programmes are implemented both as part of the curriculum and during normal school hours, and as after-school and out-of school activities.

Mini-companies are a very practical way of developing entrepreneurship, which has been selected as one of the key competences to be acquired during compulsory education and maintained and updated throughout life. An expert group established in the context of the Education and Training 2010 work programme[2] has included entrepreneurship into a framework of 8 key competences considered necessary for all citizens, because it supports other learning, initiative, independence and innovation in personal and social life as much as at work.

Mini-companies are a very practical way of developing entrepreneurship, which has been selected as one of the key competences to be acquired during compulsory education and maintained and updated throughout life.

An expert group established in the context of the Education and Training 2010 work programme[3] has included entrepreneurship into a framework of 8 key competences considered necessary for all citizens, because it supports other learning, initiative, independence and innovation in personal and social life as much as at work.

There is evidence: mini-companies promote entrepreneurial drive

Not enough research has been developed so far in Europe on the impact that participation in mini-company programmes has had on the future career of students. However, the limited evidence available so far shows clearly that these programmes promote the entrepreneurial drive of young people.

20% of participants create own company after school: For instance, a survey made in Norway shows that around 20% of respondents between the age of 25 and 34 that took part in one of these programmes have established their own company:

students who participated in a mini-company activity are 4 times more likely to create their own company later on
25% of all newly founded companies in the more disadvantaged regions are founded by ex-mini-company participants, representing a huge support to regional policy terms by creating local employment in economically disfavoured regions.
Table: How many have actually established their own business?

Age Swedish survey 1998 Norwegian survey 2002- Norwegian survey 2005-
Less than 21 4.0 % 0.0 % 0.0 %
21 – 24 6.0 % 6.8 % 14.8 %
25 – 28 12.0 % 17.1 % 10.4 %
29 or older 20.0 % 19.6 % 26.6 %

Survey results are almost the same in both Norway and Sweden. For instance:

89% of the teachers recommend the company program (CP) to their fellow teachers.
75% of the students answer that the CP has made the school year more interesting.
Among the students, the question about their satisfaction of the program material is the one getting best score.
70% articulate that the CP has strengthened friendship between the students
64% say that the CP has improved the relations between teachers and students.
The survey from 2005 shows that the rate of establishment has increased by 71% since the first survey in 2002 (from 9.7 % in 2002 to 16.6% in the 2005 survey), which means that students who follow the company program will nearly quadruple their chances of ending up running their own business than the average in the population in Norway and Sweden in general.

The survey estimates that former mini company students have created 2.850 additional businesses in Norway (i.e. more businesses than would have been created if there had been no entrepreneurial education at school). These additional companies have created more than 10.000 jobs.

Another comprehensive survey of over 10,000 secondary school students across Europe reveals that 77% who receive entrepreneurship training say they will consider starting up their own business when they reach adult age.

More information

Statistics on mini-companies in secondary school

An inventory of student company programmes in secondary school was carried out as part of this project. 82 programmes have been identified in the 24 countries participating in the study.

More than half of these programmes (52) are promoted by organisations that are members of some European network, notably Junior Achievement – Young Enterprise Europe (26 programmes) and EUROPEN (17 programmes).

The inventory reveals a certain balance between programmes based on companies selling real products (49) and those based on fictitious or virtual firms (33).

It is estimated that some 200,000 secondary school students take part in these programmes in the EU 25 and Norway every year.

Information available on participation shows a good gender balance. In most countries the number of secondary schools offering these programmes represents less than 15 % of the total.

Countries where these programmes are more widespread in secondary schools (it is estimated that between 40 and 50% of all secondary schools participate) are Ireland and the UK. After those two, there are countries where around 30% of secondary schools offer mini-company programmes (Belgium, Luxembourg, Norway).

During the 2003/04 school year, in most countries the rate of secondary school students involved in these activities was below 1% of the total. The countries with the estimated highest participation of students (above 2 %) were Ireland, Lithuania, Austria, the UK and Norway.

Table: Estimated percentage of schools participating in student company programmes

Belgium Czech Republic Denmark Germany Estonia France Ireland Latvia Lithuania Luxembourg Hungary Austria Poland Finland Sweden UK N orway
Estimated % of secondary schools involved in 2003/04 (lower + upper, all types of schools) 25-30 % 3-5 % 3-5 % 5-10 % 5-10 % 3-5 % 40-50 % 5-10 % 5-10 % 25-30 % 15-20 % 10-15 % 5-10 % 3-5% 10-15 % 40-50 % 30-40 % [4] Number of students participating in a selected sample of programmes during 2003/04 [5]. 6.489 6.375 1.271 10.532 504 4.432 13.656 685 2.450 168 5.470 16.300 19.913 1.199 10.050 45.982 45.592

Please see also annex II (Inventory of student company programmes in Member States)

Obstacles to the creation of mini-companies

Some of the main obstacles to a further expansion of these concepts are:

Legal and administrative barriers
In a number of countries, mini-company programmes face practical difficulties related to problems of a legal or bureaucratic nature. In fact, the legal status of student companies is not always clear, and ambiguities exist as regards administrative procedures, payment of taxes and VAT, insurance and liability, etc. Mini-companies should be rightly seen as a pedagogical tool and not be subject to the same administrative and fiscal burden of real companies, as this creates a serious impediment to their use by schools. In some countries these programmes cannot be officially recognised because the taxation law for companies does not allow an exception to be made for educational programmes.

The tight framework in which some schools operate (not enough flexibility)
Depending on countries and school types, schools do not always have the necessary autonomy (pedagogical, administrative, financial, etc.) to engage in extra-curricular activities and/or to link with the local community and with private actors such as businesses.

Very often, these programmes are promoted by NGOs and by other organisations external to the education system, and take place outside the official school curriculum. This means that additional financial resources are needed.

Lack of appreciation – and reward – for extra commitment by teachers
If extra commitment is not recognized and rewarded, this may lead to a lack of motivation to get involved in such activities. In this sense, having student company programmes formally included in the school curriculum can be of great importance.

Programmes require new teaching methods from teachers;
Running these programmes requires teachers to change their traditional pedagogical approach. While at the beginning the teacher will provide basic knowledge and explain key business terms to the students, his role will then move more towards that of a facilitator, adviser and silent observer.

e) Finding external advisers/volunteers

The development of links with the world of business, and the availability of mentors and advisers from local businesses, is a key to the success of mini-company programmes in schools.

f) Lack of acceptance by other teachers and headmasters of schools

Schools at all levels, starting from their headmasters and directors, should recognise the importance for young people of developing entrepreneurial attitudes and skills, and the effectiveness of mini-company programmes in this respect.

No support or endorsement from educational authorities.
One of the main obstacles highlighted by national experts is insufficient support from public authorities (particularly the Ministry of Education) in promoting student company programmes to schools, and a lack of recognition within curricula.

Recommendations for promoting student company activities

There are only a few countries where student company programmes are officially recognised or recommended within the national curriculum.

The promotion of student company activities should be increased, so as to allow all potentially interested students to access to these programmes. A set of recommendations are proposed – addressing all the actors concerned – on how to increase the presence of these methodologies in the education systems and their take-up by schools and students.

As concerns public authorities, these recommendations include:

Developing an overall strategy for entrepreneurship education in schools. Student company programmes should be highlighted as an important option within the established curricula.
Setting up regular co-operation between different ministries, business associations, non-governmental organizations, educational institutions, municipalities, with the objective of further promoting activities based on the student company methodology.
Cooperating with those organisations that are widely disseminating these programmes, and involve them in national plans for entrepreneurship education.
Endorsing, and actively promoting student company activities to schools and teachers.
Ensuring that legal and administrative barriers to the setting up and implementation of mini-companies are removed (e.g. obligation to pay TVA etc.).
Schools are invited to take up these programmes, as most of the skills to be acquired through participation in a student company have a cross-curricular dimension. Efforts that teachers and students devote to student companies, sometimes beyond their normal working or study hours, should be recognised as an official school task.

Business associations and companies are encouraged to become involved in these programmes as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility strategy. Their support can be financial or in kind (including providing advisers and mentors for mini-companies). Benefits for companies would include the possibility of hiring motivated young people with direct experience of enterprise, and with a set of skills related to creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation.
More information:

“Education and Training 2010” is a Commission work programme on the work on key competences and a more detailed definition on entrepreneurship

The Commission report “Mini-companies in secondary education”

Annex I Some successful mini-companies

Products of participants in the JA-YE European championship for student companies (Oslo, July 28–31, 2005)

Pine bird feeders: Avian Enterprise, from UK, design, manufacture and sell a large variety of innovative bird feeders ( )
Senior Entertainment Services from Belgium tried to give an answer to the question “What is likely to be one of the major challenges for the coming decades?” They decided to create a high quality entertainment service for senior citizens. The mission of the company was to bring a high quality of life to the elderly, bringing smiles and happiness to their faces and changing their boring and monotonous daily routines. A 45 minutes performance was offered for 125 €.

3Tarka, “Three Wise Men”, from Estonia created a desk-pad, which is covered with school-formulas of mathematics, physics and chemistry. The formulas are taken from various study materials, selected on the basis of the needs of students at lower and upper secondary school.

The Italian student company, SNAP JA, created LINUS, the vibrating pillow. It works like a normal alarm-clock (to set the wake-up time) but rather than the usual horrible ring, it gives out a soft vibration that spreads through the pillow. It is a combination of a digital alarm-clock and a wireless system. LINUS avoids an abrupt waking up and it does not disturb anyone else who is still sleeping. LINUS is also particularly useful for deaf people. ( )

Horseshoes exchanged more quickly: The Dutch company SEC-Gripp, invented an entirely new type of multifunctional equestrian tool to turn studs into horseshoes safely and easily replacing all tools that are currently in use for turning the studs in. SEC-gripp is a versatile tool developed especially for equestrian sports. It is a three-armed tool with a unique element on each arm. The studs were made from special hardened steel, to prevent wear and tear. The production of the 1000 sets was done in China.

Tired of washing your boat after fishing? Metal Solutions UB produces a cutting board, which is placed on the top of a tub, and a net that is also fastened on the tub. When gutting fish, all the blood and guts go into the tub instead of making a mess on the boat deck. After having gutted the fish, it is put into the fish keep-net which is then hung over the side of the boat thus washing away all the blood and bits and leaving you with clean fish and a clean boat. The considerable media attention in Norway led to so many orders that, at times, they had trouble keeping pace with demand.

Turning waste into jewellery: 8 school girls from Poland founded Big Mamma’s Store Company creating jewellery made from car-paint waste deposited on rods. The most fascinating part of their product is the production process. The time needed to coat a rod with a 2 centimetre coat is about 3 months. Afterwards, they are bent into shape by hand. Pieces are random shapes and sizes and the distribution of colours is accidental too. The result is a very fashionable product. The shape of the pendants, earrings or brooches is limited only by their imagination. The product itself, when ground and polished, is an attractive and interesting item. The products are very light (even the big ones) so they are also popular as key-fobs.

UCMe (you see me), a Swedish company was set to produce traffic reflectors for pedestrians. Their mission was based on changing attitudes towards safety behaviour for fellow pupils in traffic. “Our reflectors show what kind of mood you are in at any specific moment,” said 18 years old CEO Carin Lundgren. “Maybe you want to show the world that you are angry, happy, crazy or in love. Whatever you choose, you are always better protected as you become more visible in traffic.” UCMe sold 5.800 products across Sweden accumulating a profit of 3.380 € and a turnover of 7.907 €.

Latvian company Hemante has created bouquets of flower-shaped candy. “With this present for boys, you can eat and look good at the same time,” says company director Jana Jokovla.

Colorata, a company from Germany, created a self-developed painting book with motifs of the Oberallgau – an attractive tourist region in the Alps. Their offer, “colorata – colors the world”, a travelling guide painting book, is addressed particularly to the little guests. Their objective was to demonstrate the beauty and the attractions of their regions, so that the pictures remain in their memory. They see themselves as part of the region’s efforts to boost tourism and they are integrated into the tourist federation network, which secures a solid sales market and provides access to major customers such as hotels, restaurants and banks. Colorata was an international company, as from a turnover of 10.000 € one third was obtained from customers in neighbouring Austria.

Other participating products of mini-companies (national competition winners):

Austria: “Cookies” (cookery book), Bulgaria: “Milky Paradise” (yoghurt drink), Croatia: Olives d.d. (aromatized olive oil), Denmark: “Watch me” (Astronomical clock), Finland: “Efecto” (staff leasing company), France: “Vision” (strategic game), Hungary: “Elcomix 2004” (Fire-Signs, printed circuit boards, HiFi and amplifiers), Ireland: “Open Forum Production” (music agency), Malta: “Serendipity” (Wooden antiquity boxes), Romania: “Company of Young Entrepreneurs” (Smart watering pot).
More information:

See also the examples of mini companies in the Commission Report “Mini-companies in Secondary Education”, pages 40-41.

Annex II:

Inventory of student company programmes in secondary education identified according to the adopted definition (school year 2003/2004):

Name of programme Name of promoting organisation Level of applic. Information
Austria Junior Junior Österreich National

Practice Firm ACT National
Belgium Mini-entreprise asbl Les Jeunes Entreprises Regional

Mini-ondernemingen Vlajo (Vlaamse Jonge Ondernemingen) Regional

Practice Firm COFEP National

Vaardig Ondernemen en Ondernemende Vaardigheden Network For Training Entrepreneurship, Belgium Regional
Czech Rep. The Company Programme Junior Achievement Czech Republic National

Practice Firm Centre of Practice Firms (CEFIF) National
Denmark The Company Programme Young Enterprise Denmark National

European Business Games European Schoolnet National
SIMU Practice Firm Simu-Center National
Estonia The Company Programme Junior Achievement Estonia National
Finland The Company Programme Young Enterprise Finland National

Practice Firm Finnish Practice Enterprises Centre (FINPEC) National
France Mini-entreprises Fédération des associations Jeunes Entreprises FAJE, Académies d’Amiens, Lyon, Limoges, Clermont Ferrand et Versailles Regional; [email protected]

Création d’entreprise du secteur cafés – hôtels- restaurants AGPCE National [email protected]
Entreprendre au Lycée Académies Marseille et Nice, Guyane et Guadeloupe. Regional Entreprendr[email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]
Une entreprise dans votre lycée (La Basket-enterprise) Académie de Nantes Regional [email protected]
CCI des Jeunes Académie de Montpellier Regional [email protected]
Une entreprise dans votre lycée Académie de Rennes Regional [email protected]
Créons Ensemble Académie de Bordeaux Regional [email protected]
Graine de Boîte Académie d’Orleans-Tours Regional [email protected]
Challenge “Destination Entreprises” Association Destination Entreprises, Académies de Limoges et Martinique Regional [email protected]
Demain mon Entreprise CCI Versailles
Académie de Versailles Regional [email protected]
Mini-entreprises dans les collèges francs comptois MEDEF (Mouvement des entreprises de France), Académie de Besançon Regional [email protected]
Mini-entreprises: Centre des Jeunes Dirigeants Académie de Lille Regional [email protected]
Concours «Jeunes creéz en Auvergne» Mission Régionale pour la création d’Entreprise (MRCE), Académie de Clermont Ferrand Regional [email protected]
Concours « Entreprendre » Centre de ressources pour la création d’activités innovantes (PROMOTECH CEI), Académie de Nancy-Metz Regional [email protected]
Germany JUNIOR
Junge Unternehmer initiieren-organisieren-realisieren JUNIOR-Office (Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft)
(Junior Achievement Young Enterprise Germany) National

Achievers International Achievers International National
Schüler Unternehmen was! Deutsche Kinder- und Jugendstiftung National
busi[email protected] Boston Consulting National
Jugend gründet Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, Steinbeis-Transferzentrum an der Hochschule Pforzheim National
Start-Up Werkstatt Deutscher Sparkassen- und Giroverband, Stern; McKinsey National
Schul/Banker – Das Bankenplanspiel Bundesverband deutscher Banken National
Practice Firm Zentralstelle des Deutschen Übungsfirmenrings (ZÜF) National
Get up Wettbewerb “Schüler gründen Unternehmen” Gesellschaft zur Förderung neuer Technologien e.V.
Bildungswerk der Thüringer Wirtschaft e.V. Regional
(ended in 2004)
Jungunternehmerschule Wirtschaftsförderungsgesellschaft Güstrow mbH, Landkreis Güstrow, Unternehmerverband Norddeutschland, Region Güstrow, Ostsee-Sparkasse Rostock Regional
Ifex Wirtschaftsministerium Baden-Württemberg Regional
TheoPrax Fraunhofer-Institut für chemische Technologie Regional
Ideen machen Schule Hans Lindner Institut Regional
SCHUB – Schulen machen Betrieb Bildungswerk der Wirtschaft Mecklenburg-Vorpommern e.V. Regional
Hungary The Company Programme Junior Achievement Hungary National

Practice Firm National Institute of Vocational Education National
Ireland [6] “Get up and Go” Mini Company Programme Transition Year Programme, Second Level Support Service National

“Blast:Beat” Music Mini Company Programme Treasure Island Records National
Company Programme Junior Achievement Ireland National
Student Enterprise Awards City and County Enterprise Boards National
Young Entrepreneurs Scheme Young Entrepreneurs Scheme National

Italy Impresa in azione Junior Achievement Italia National

Imprese Formative Simulate Centrale di Simulazione National
Latvia Student Learning Company Junior Achievement Latvija National
Lithuania The Company Programme Junior Achievement Lithuania National

Virtual Firm SimuLith Centre National
Luxembourg Mini-entreprises Ministère de l’Education nationale National

Netherlands Mini-Ondernemingen Mini-Ondernemingen Nederland National

Practice Firm SimNet National
Norway Pupil companies
Youth companies Young Enterprise Norway National

Simu-companies SimuNor National
Poland Young Mini-Enterprise Fundacja Mlodziezowej Przedsiebiorczosci National

Managing Firm
Fundacja Mlodziezowej Przedsiebiorczosci National
September Package
Fundacja Malych i Srednich Przedsiebiorstw KOMANDOR National
Simulation Firms
Polish Centre of Simulation Firms – CENSYM National
Establish and Run a Company Centrum Edukacji Obywatelskiej National
Economics – every day Fundacja Mlodziezowej Przedsiebiorczosci Regional
School Laboratory of Entrepreneurship
Teachers’ Association of Entrepreneurship and Economic Education Regional
Practical School of Entrepreneurship Business Chamber of Podkarpacie Regional
Romania The Company Programme Junior Achievement Romania. National

Practice Firm ROCT (Romanian Coordination of Training firms) National
Slovakia The Company Programme Junior Achivement Slovakia National

Practice Firm SCCF – Slovak Center for Training Firms National;
Spain Practice Firm Fundación INFORM National

Empresa Solidaria Junior Achievement Spain

Empresa Joven Europea (EJE) Valnalón Ciudad Tecnológica Regional
Sweden Young Enterprise (Ung Företagsamhet) Young Enterprise Sweden National

Practice Firm Business Training Centre (BTC) National

Summerentrepreneur (Sommarlovsentreprenör) Open for business in the county of Västernorrland Regional
U.K. The Company Programme – Team Programme Young Enterprise UK National

Practice Firm EGNI (UK Central Office for Practice Companies and Virtual Firms) National

EBP – Education Business Partnerships NEBPN – The National Education Business Partnerships Network Local

[1] JA-YE Europe ( is a network of member nations across Europe, reaching 1.4 million students in 39 countries in 2004. Funded by businesses, institutions, foundations and individuals, JA-YE brings the public and private sectors together to provide young people in primary and secondary schools and early university with high quality education programmes to teach them about enterprise, entrepreneurship, business and economics in a practical way. [2] [3] [4] This percentage is calculated on the total number of primary and secondary schools, as there are mini-companies in primary school as well, and in the Norwegian system primary and lower secondary education are often combined. This percentage would probably be higher if only seen in relation with secondary school
[5] Figures from a selected sample of some of the most widespread programmes in each country, among those listed in the Inventory provided in Annex 1. [6] In Ireland, students involved in the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme ( and the Leaving Certificate Applied ( are generally involved in a programme of enterprise studies which may involve mini companies.
Photo of author
Trader & Analyste Financier
Fondateur de Rente et Patrimoine et à la tête du service Bourse Trading, il vous fait profiter de son expérience en trading grâce à ses analyses financières et décrypte pour vous les actualités des marchés. Son approche globale des marchés combine à la fois l'analyse technique et fondamentale.