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A Helping Hand for Young Entrepreneurs in Albania

Helping young people to help themselves—this is the goal of business@school in Albania. Together with the aid organization Nehemiah Gateway, which has been active there for over ten years, b@s launched a pilot to foster participants' entrepreneurial spirit, courage, and confidence in their own abilities. At the beginning of the year, 16 students from the local Nehemiah Gateway School started the pilot in Buçimas, which consisted of a b@s competition in condensed form. With the help of eight business students from the nearby university, they worked with German b@s participants on their own business ideas and presented their first results at the workshop.

Frankfurt airport—the only place in Germany with a flight to Tirana that Thursday. Frankfurt was also where a group of seven people involved in business@school met to travel to Buçimas with the aim of helping and motivating Albanian students. They included business@school team members, alumni, teachers, and one coach. "Sharing experience and knowledge and passing it on to others is what brings business@school to life. I'm impressed by the eagerness of everyone here to do this, and to tangibly support local startup culture in Albania," said Dr. Babette Claas, Director business@school.

After the two-hour flight to Tirana, the group boarded a bus for the last 130 kilometers to the picturesque city of Pogradec on Lake Ohrid. The winding path through plains and mountains took over three hours. Suddenly, there they were. Nestled on the banks of the lake, the city glowed in soft sunshine. Nearby Buçimas, on the far eastern side of Albania, has a population of almost 20,000. Thanks to its proximity to the lake, the agrarian region is seeing a steady increase in tourism.

Spacious, modern, and well equipped

Considering how arduous the journey was, the campus of the workshop's hosts at Nehemiah University in Pogradec was all the more striking: Spacious, modern, and very well equipped. The warmth with which the group was welcomed was just as remarkable as the high level of the students' presentations. They had analyzed the businesses of the hotel Hymeti's Palace, the Kitchen Equipment Shop, the Caffè D'arte, and the hamburger shop "Pie Time." Subsequent visits to the respective businesses provided deeper insights. Then, starting the next day, the focus shifted to the development of original business ideas focused on local needs.

Business training as key to an independent life

The ideas: Building vacation homes in far-flung areas to support local tourism and give big-city visitors a place to unwind. Upgrading a run-down part of the city with an educational and sports center. Rejuvenating the urban landscape with a service to remove graffiti and install art by famous locals. And last but not least, starting an organic burger shop serving individually prepared, healthy fare.

"It was fascinating to watch the students progress and see how much they learned in the different phases," said Eliverta Muco. "That encouraged us to come back again after the pilot." 18-year-old Egi Pere agreed, "I really learned a lot. Now I know how to start my own business, and that's exactly what I want to do."

Peter Stumpf, a teacher from Mosbach, was already thinking ahead. "A school sponsorship could work well. Kids are basically curious. So a country they know nothing about is very interesting to them. Our students could forge the contact by sending b@s alumni to support teams in Albania as mentors with experience and tips. Getting to know each other better is the logical next step."