“The Taub Young Entrepreneurship Program taught me to problem solve and be creative with my tasks in a way I had never experienced before. Winning is on the list of achievements I’m most proud of so far in life.”
For Clara Laoui, taking part in World ORT’s Taub Young Entrepreneurship Program (YEP) has already proven to be a life-changing opportunity.
The 16-year-old was part of the team from the Scuola Della Comunita Ebraica in Milan which finished joint first in the 2019-20 YEP competition earlier this year.
ORT’s flagship annual program for promoting business innovation and encouraging collaboration sees small groups of students aged 14-16 being guided through a 30-week course and being tasked with designing a product to solve a social problem.
They develop their knowledge, skills and understanding of business and technology – culminating in a global final at which they present their projects to a panel of judges in front of a live audience of their peers.
YEP’s lead sponsor is Robert Taub, a serial entrepreneur and philanthropist who has brought his 35 years of experience in starting businesses to benefit ORT students worldwide.
The Milan team’s innovative shipping and delivery project – JASK, which stands for ‘Just Ask’ – had all the hallmarks of a great entrepreneurial idea: collaboration, problem-solving and the ability to scale up the business.
Clara explains: “We presented a peer-to-peer marketplace that matches locals who want to buy things from overseas with travellers who have extra luggage space, thus avoiding pollution.
“For the presentation we created a prototype, a website, partially coded and fully designed by us. We also thought out all the regulations and limits for the idea, as well as how it would be implemented in a modern-day market – although we now unfortunately happen to be in the Covid era.”
Clara believes taking part “greatly contributed” to her wider education thanks to YEP’s insight into start-ups and markets as well as a chance to consider society’s needs. Completing this year’s program during the pandemic-enforced lockdown added to the challenge – and to the benefits.
“It forced us to switch to smart working and distance learning, which made it quite difficult to communicate efficiently and share ideas in a tidy way,” she explains. “We used platforms that allow multiple users to work on the same presentation or project to make sure everyone in the group could do the same amount of work, according to their strengths and weaknesses.
“Designing and creating JASK showed me sides of myself I didn’t know I had, and helped me understand better what my strongest and weakest suits are. For example I discovered a great sense of leadership and I got much more confident presenting in English in front of crowds.”
Professor Vanessa Kamkhagi, who oversaw the project at the Milan school, is also effusive about YEP’s benefits.
She says: “I would like to thank ORT and Robert Taub for this amazing opportunity of growth for both teachers and students.
“The YEP program enables teachers to deepen economic themes and to provide a model of team working for students. Students have developed communication skills in their own languages as well as English, while improving their debating competencies.
“In a changing world, giving the students the opportunity to face a professional competition with other worldwide students is a great challenge that contributes to create open-minded citizens of tomorrow.”
Clara is certainly a great example of an open-minded citizen. The teenager identifies a number of areas in which her YEP experience will continue to benefit her life and career.
“It felt like having a small job, with real deadlines and demands. In the future I will be able to pitch a product or start-up, create a model, come up with a business plan and a SWAT analysis and successfully convince my audience to take an interest in the product.”
She is particularly grateful to Mr Taub for “the amazing opportunity” and believes the investment in the program is being used to its “maximum potential”.
“I hope he sees the impact this project had made on my class and many other students my age around the world, by giving us the possibility to develop and grow, both personally and with our group.”
Clara advises future YEP students to learn as much as possible from the experience. She concludes: “Winning is only a consequence – a very pleasant one – but the biggest win is what you cherish for the rest of life.
“I’ve learned a lot about myself and I’ve gathered a lot of advice for my future. I would definitely recommend this program to other schools around the world.”