Find out the 10 important things Alex learned at Spark Week, and see if the experiment worked.
The 17-year-old Alex Tudorache [a senior at Spiru Haret National College] accepted the BIZ challenge and for an entire week, he was one of the 40 young teenagers gathered from all around the country, at Spark Week Festival. Organised by EA – The Entrepreneurship Academy in collaboration with Transilvania Bank, Spark Week is the first Romanian festival fully dedicated to teaching teenagers everything there is to know about entrepreneurship.
1. I found a university, just like the ones in the Western Countries, here, in Romania.
Since I was a sophomore in high school, I knew I wasn’t going to study in Romania. When I think about pursuing a bachelor’s degree, I think about learning and not memorising facts just to get a good grade, a grade that is only highlighting the nights I’ve spent reading useless information, and not my intelligence. I’ve always dreamt of studying away so I could gain experience, learn from my mistakes, and have open-minded teachers that can help me pursue my dreams.
Spark Week felt like a summer camp that opened my eyes. The team from EA – The Entrepreneurship Academy proved that everything I was looking for in a university, exists here, in Bucharest, just 20 minutes away from my home! This entire experience showed me how a group of total strangers can transform into a family in less than a week, and how many new things you can learn from the people around you.
2. The word ”I” doesn’t exist in Entrepreneurship
Our schedule was divided into 6 different segments: Knowing, Exploring, Building, Testing, Doing and Celebrating, one segment for each of the remaining days.
On our first day, we had to understand each other’s personality, so we can split into teams easier. In the beginning, it was really hard for us to get along because the camp was full of people with strong personalities, but, along the way, we learned how to control ourselves, find the middle ground and split our tasks according to our abilities, so every each of us can work on what knows best.
Working with others always fascinated me, but I constantly felt that my ideas were better and I considered myself capable to handle everything on my own. After Raluca Raschip’s course [Team Coach @The Entrepreneurship Academy, Consumer Goods, and Retail Director] I realised I can’t succeed by myself, and in order to find the best solutions for a potential problem, I have to let people talk and hear their points of view out.
3. You have to be honest if you want to succeed.
During Spark Week, we heard the same words from every entrepreneur we’ve talked to “Be honest with the people around you”.
Just like Bogdan Mugescu [Development Director @FruFru] said: ”Being honest is how you maintain your business and your clients”. If a client feels cheated about your product or service, he won’t come back and will become a source of bad publicity.
At the same time, it is really important, to be honest with yourself, and if you wouldn’t buy your product or service, you shouldn’t sell it because you are wasting your time.
4. I’ve learned to shut up and listen
I like to talk a lot, usually, more than I need to, and people are not very happy about it because I end up interrupting everyone, and made them lose their ideas.
As I’ve already mentioned, before going to Spark Week, I thought I could do everything alone, and that my ideas were the best. It took me a while to realize that the others had also great ideas but I was to busy talking about mine that forgot to listen to theirs.
From what I’ve noticed, silent people tend to have the most ideas, and I have to shut up and let them express their point of view because I will never know when I’m going to lose a really important idea due to my impatience.
5. Sell the story, not the product
At Spark Week we had to think, build, test and put into practice a profitable business model. It was one of the most difficult challenges I’ve ever had. After a heated argument, I and my team decided to use the idea of a “Blind date with a book”. Basically, we were going to sell the story rather than the product.
We used our budget to purchase 100 books and we wrap them nicely. The buyer could decide what he wanted by reading a small note attached to the product that only contained the first sentence of the book. I was pleasantly surprised to see how many people are still reading books and how impressed were about our business concept.
In my opinion, The fact that we understood from Petrus Stuparu’s sales course [Head of team Culture practice & Partner @ Trend consult] how important it is to sell a story and not a product, gave us a huge advantage against the other teams and ranked us first. Yes, my team won the first Spark Week edition and I am very proud of it.
6. Work and have fun at the same time
Probably, this would be the second reason why my team won: we simply understood that we should have fun… while working.
In the last stage of the competition, each team received a mini-office, which turned into a workshop for the next two days. At the office, we held all our meetings and we became a family. At the office, we cried because we didn’t have any ideas and we laughed because we won. The office was the place where we worked and where we had the most fun we ever had during the entire experience.
7. Social media is a waste of time
Don’t get me wrong, I totally agree with having social media accounts for your businesses. I think it is a must for promoting your products or services, because, after all, we are living in a technology era, and where to promote your business better if not on platforms, where millions of people enter every day!
But, if you end up spending 8-9 hours a day on Instagram, just like I did before Spark Week, social media is no longer a good thing. In the camp, I learned how many beautiful things surround me and how much I lose if I’m on my phone 24/7. I also learned that “living your best life” can be possible just in real life, disconnected from everything that has to do with social networks. Talking with people around, hearing their stories and making memories with them without caring about the number of likes I have on my last post or how many people viewed my story.
8. Waking up at 7 a.m. is not as bad as it seems
Yes, I know, when the alarm clock wakes you up at 7 am, and you are used to waking up at 2 p.m., you feel like you are part of a horror movie. That’s how I felt when I had to wake up at 7 a.m. to go to the first day of Spark Week.
But since the camp ended, I can say that I wake up at 7 a.m. every day and I really enjoy it. I now have more energy and I can do in a day what I used to do in 10. The person who said “the early bird gets the worm“ was right.
9. Failure is a relative concept
One of the most important lessons I learned from Nicholas Morgan [Lead @ Innovation Nomad] was that failing is not bad, on the contrary, it’s a very good thing. The main idea behind his saying “fail fast, fail cheap, fail often” is that you can always start all over again and it’s never too late to succeed. When you fail you have the opportunity to improve your product faster and cheaper. You learn from your mistakes and mistakes make you stronger.
In the 4 hours we spent trying to sell our products, we were refused many times. It was quite difficult to get used to hearing the word “NO“ every 5 seconds, but in the end, I realised that not everybody will agree with my ideas and I should try until I will find the people willing to see my potential and my concepts.
10. We are the change
A very important thing I learned from Carmen Uscatu [Co-founder @Dăruiește Viață] is that you should not wait for someone else to take action, you have to express your point of view, fight for the things you believe in and be the change you want to see in the world.
At Spark Week I realised that my generation is full of creative people with immense potential, and I truly hope that, after some years, I will have the opportunity to work with some of them.
So don’t forget: Take action, fail as often as possible, have fun while working, wake up at 7 am, shut up and listen, sell the story [but do it in an honest way], less Instagram and more teamwork, Don’t eliminate the option of studying in Romania, and until I see you at the second edition of Spark Week, don’t forget that…. The glasses are in the top right cabinet.
Source: @Revista Biz; Photo: @EA – The Entrepreneurship Academy