Training Tomorrow’s Leader-Entrepreneurs through the ESSEC EMBA’s Entrepreneurial Projects

Training Tomorrow’s Leader-Entrepreneurs through the ESSEC EMBA’s Entrepreneurial Projects


Organized in a weekend format for working professionals, the ESSEC EMBA is an 18-month program that privileges entrepreneurship and innovation. It aims to provide a boost for qualified candidates who want to acquire new skills, launch a business or grow as a leader. One of the program’s key features? The opportunity to develop an entrepreneurial project.

This entrepreneurial project, or EP, is a team project designed to promote innovation. Through the creation of a new business or the development of a product or market in an existing company, the EP allows participants to grow their team-based skills and to learn about entrepreneurship first-hand, while creating real value for companies. Perhaps more importantly, it allows participants to apply theory in the real world, and to put their new skills to work. To support participants in their entrepreneurial endeavors, ESSEC makes available its own incubator, ESSEC Ventures.

Incubation is an opportunity to access a very rich ecosystem that can allow your project to grow and to get off the ground,

in the words of Jean Garrec and Jean Cuiné, whose project, Bioadhesive Ophthalmics - Biophta, was successfully incubated. Not all EP’s meet the criteria for incubation, but if they do, the incubation period is 6 months.

Inline with the Enlightening Entrepreneurship pillar of ESSEC’s Rise Strategy, the Entrepreneurial Project “trains leader-entrepreneurs capable of tackling challenges in an ever-changing world.” In that spirit, the EP is not a consulting project, nor is it a purely academic exercise. It’s a real opportunity to be a leader; to identify and solve an existing problem. It’s hard work, an intense but rewarding experience fostering intra- and entrepreneurship. In the words of ESSEC EMBA Academic director Steven Seggie, the EP gives participants

the opportunity to develop into leaders, CEOs, or as we like to call them, Chief experiment officers.

The process begins with ideas. In a cohort of 45 participants, there are generally about 16 or so ideas to start with. These ideas are, in other words, problems that exist and opportunities to create functional solutions. For the purposes of an EP, the idea can be a startup idea; an idea for a new business within a firm; or a growth strategy for an existing firm. According to EMBA Class of 2021 alumna Angela Dupont, the idea must “bridge a gap,” which in her case was to help business owners with cash management. Participants pitch their ideas, or problems, to their cohort: why they’re important and how they can be solved, and then EP teams of 4 or 5 are formed based on matching interests or skills. A mentor, either an ESSEC professor or alumnus/alumna, an entrepreneur, or other industry professional, is assigned to each group and the work begins. At the end of the timeline, each group produces a project report and presents their work.

When it comes to the EP project mentor, their role can be broken down into several functions. First of all, they guide participants on their entrepreneurial journeys. They also coach, motivate and push participants, helping them recognize the small wins along the way. Mentors also help participants get unstuck when obstacles arise. How do they choose which project to mentor? Frank Sullivan, for example, Managing Director at C Digital Studio in London and Lisbon and ESSEC project mentor, explains that he looks for four main things in an EP: clarity of outcomes, complementary skills within a team, a desire to learn and go beyond one’s comfort zone, and grit or persistence. In his experience, this is the foundation of what’s required for a successful entrepreneurial journey.

Some Entrepreneurial Projects become viable businesses, with or without being incubated; some launch and fail, some launch and succeed. Regardless, throughout the EP trajectory, participants get the chance to be creative, to push themselves and to test out all that they learn in their courses. Another bonus, according to Angela Dupont, is meeting “wonderful people” who are “potential future business partners,” which can lead the way to immeasurable success in the future. Designed to promote innovation and leadership development, the ESSEC Entrepreneurial Project is a unique program experience providing real-world, hands-on opportunities to think big and make a difference, helping to shape the leaders of tomorrow.

For more information about ESSEC EMBA programs, click here

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