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The bloom of Junior Enterprises

di Annitra i leoni Wu

Back in 1967, the first junior enterprise in France named Junior ESSEC was established. Today, the European confederation of junior enterprises JADE counts more than 20.000 student members in 15 countries under 280 young associations. Recently, the movement also took its first steps in North America and in China. The global phenomenon of junior enterprise that has been spreading throughout the last three decades has revolutionized the traditional business model, bringing together university and career.  In times when unemployment figures are soaring during the economic downturn, obsolete businesses are disappearing. The emergence of junior enterprises has indeed facilitated the transition from traditional employment to the new wave of outsourcing.

[spoiler title=”What is exactly a junior enterprise?”]

A junior enterprise is a local NPO entirely managed by students, who offer consulting services to the market in regard to their field of studies. It combines the distinctive features of both a student association and a consulting firm, connecting the university world to that of business. By doing professional project work and managing small to medium sized firms, the students add practical know-how to their theoretical skills and experience entrepreneurship at an early stage in their careers. Junior enterprises proactively seek for support from the university and some are indeed legally affiliated to institutions of higher education.

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[spoiler title=”What makes junior companies so healthy in such a difficult economic environment?”]

First of all, these associations have lower social charges due to their “special” status which allows them to offer rates up to 4 times lower than those requested by a traditional provider. Secondly, the microstructure and quality of association allow junior enterprises to be responsive, flexible and capable of offering personalized services, thus to differentiate themselves from large consulting firms. In a time of recession, every business is looking to save money by evaluating alternative options for outsourcing projects. Outsourcing is cost effective and avoids the issues related to long-term contracts that often constitute indolent employment policies.

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[spoiler title=”Any JE in proximity to Bocconi?”]

Bringing Milan and especially the university campus to a focus, the junior enterprise JEME founded in 1988 deserves wide acknowledgment. The keys to its success are passion, network and growth, which all blend into the company’s motto “training as remuneration”.  In fact, the organization strives to boost the associates’ personal progress through trainings on project management, business calls, brainstorming or contacting clients, via direct participation to projects. In addition, these are held by JEME Alumni, partners, professionals and university professors on a periodical basis. The result is surprisingly fruitful: a cluster of soft skills and in-field expertise that nobody can reach during the university experience.

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[spoiler title=”What does JEME do?”]

Its core consulting activity is structured into 3 macro areas, namely Marketing & strategy, Finance and Organization & IT systems. JEME grants a high level of satisfaction to its customers through a working method that encompasses every aspect of the project development. An initial assessment of the customer’s needs is put forward, followed by the definition of the team and the appointment of the project manager. During the entire elaboration period, there is a constant flow of information between the client and the team such that any progress or unforeseen contingency is communicated to both parties. Collective brainstorming and individual exertion give birth to a 360 degrees overview about the range of potential solutions to the case. The presentation and feedback are then delivered to the customer.

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[spoiler title=”Immersion in JEME.”]

Since my recruitment to the JEME team, I have been experiencing an entrepreneurial reality parallel to my university career that has cleared out the aura of mystery that usually surrounds student associations. What most surprised me is JEME’s Board of Directors, consisting of 5 inspiring individuals, highly specialized in their organizational roles. For instance, the president Luca Capuano studies Financial Administration and Control while the treasurer Andrea Paladini is a 3rd year student of Finance. Unlike other organizations, the Board in JEME functions on a principal of rotation, thus the top management level is extremely dynamic.  The coordination of tasks occurs mainly during the weekly general meeting at the Javotte residence, where every associate gives an overview on the state of advancement of his assigned project. Daily, formal and internal communication and interaction also take place on the web platform MangoApps. Coming into contact with the concrete business reality, I have begun to train rationality and criticality, and furthermore to evaluate the areas of work that best suit my natural inclinations.

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[spoiler title=”What’s on JEME’s agenda?”]

One of the most impactful events organized by JEME with the sustain of other junior enterprises’ is Call-Mi for Ideas.  In view of Milan’s EXPO 2015, the association is organizing Thematic Tables for business projects that are still in the embryonic phase, with the intent to encourage brilliant ideas. JEME desires to offer all its know-how and experience to young individuals in a mind-set of long-term collaboration. The ideas should be in compliance with the themes of Food, Urban life and Mobility, and Health. The 3 best projects will be awarded a program of mentorship, designed to support the winners from start-up to self-sufficiency, that is the capacity to raise funds. In addition, Milan’s Chamber of Commerce will be involved to engage the economic and entrepreneurial system into the opportunities offered by the EXPO 2015.

Today, on the edge of its 25th birthday, JEME Bocconi has earned a nation wide reputation, having at the core of its mission innovation, expertise, dynamism and continuous enhancement. To celebrate its anniversary, JEME is organizing the Summer JADE Meeting in Milan, to invite junior enterprises of different countries to celebrate together and confront each other on the entrepreneurial field. This is a great challenge to JEME and also an exceptional opportunity to bring together the most brilliant entrepreneurs into Bocconi’s Campus, where the meeting will be held. Surely, the SJM will confer a major international tone to the city of Milan.

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The bloom of junior enterprises is a phenomenon that cannot be passed unobserved. Indeed, the peculiar expansion of this network of student associations in times of severe economic crisis has marked the history of business evolution. According to the Chinese, “crisis” means on one hand “danger”, and on the other “opportunity”.  Junior enterprises have clearly shown the capacity to adapt to this recession by offering consulting services of extraordinary price to quality ratio. The concept of junior enterprise is diffusing across the globe at an unprecedented rate, and it surely deserves recognition and admiration.

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anni.wu@studbocconi.it

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