• Sustainable finance

Volunteer testimony: Supporting entrepreneurship through microfinance

By offering tailored support services, Créajeunes helps young entrepreneurs bring their ideas to fruition by creating a company. Among the volunteers who support this initiative, Jean-Luc Audoin provides coaching to young entrepreneurs. This volunteer tutor juggles between his job as a BNP Paribas branch director and his mission with the ADIE.

You are the director of a special branch at BNP Paribas. Can you tell us a little about it?  

I am the director of the Orangerie, located at the Place de l’Opéra in Paris. The Orangerie is unique in France, because it is dedicated to “wealth management” of its clients.

But you also carry out a microfinance mission with the ADIE. 

Yes, for the past six months I have worked as a tutor at Créajeunes, ADIE’s program to help young entrepreneurs launch their projects. My role consists in assisting young entrepreneurs, who do not have access to traditional banking services, to complete the paperwork for starting a business. I advise, guide and support them during this difficult process of turning an idea into a business. And if their project seems pertinent and viable, I help them obtain a microloan.

There is a world of difference between a prestigious branch and a volunteer mission!

That’s true. Between the Orangerie and Créajeunes, the people I meet and the issues I work on have nothing in common. But in my opinion the two missions complement each other in an enriching way. Before I started volunteering with Créajeunes, I was named CSR manager of the Opéra group. So I have a certain understanding of these issues.

What kind of support does Créajeunes provide?  

Each entrepreneur benefits from two months of support so they can enter the market with the best possible chances of success. The ADIE’s help is crucial to guide and support their initiatives, in terms of technical issues such as creating a business plan, as well as legal and fiscal questions. It also provides moral support, since certain cases do not lead to a loan application. Sometimes our role involves communicating that the project is not yet mature, and helping to rethink or rescale the project to match market realities. 

But some projects are carried out to the end…

Of course! Mature projects generally obtain microloans of less than 10,000 euros. That enables all sorts of financing. It may seem small, but this money is crucial when first starting a business, and it is not covered by the activities of traditional banks. That’s why I’m convinced that microfinance is a critical tool, even in developed countries like France. Just look at all the new businesses that microfinance has helped to create in recent years. Moreover, the ADIE continues to work with entrepreneurs after they create their businesses. The first years in the life of a company are strategic, so it simply doesn’t make sense to stop after the initial loan. Other entities within Créajeunes pick up the baton to monitor entrepreneurs over the course of their development.

What do you take away from this experience? 

More than an opportunity to dispense technical advice, each mission is a human encounter. It’s a moment of exchange and sharing. I have met so many amazing projects and people. In some cases, I may have some initial reservations about a project, but later change my mind after meeting the entrepreneur. Some entrepreneurs, after a few months of reflection and a little trial and error, can end up introducing truly innovative solutions into the market. 

I have learned so much over the past six months, and have discovered projects of immense human value. I’m thinking in particular of a young woman who, for personal reasons, realized that cancer patients typically receive poor oversight after leaving the hospital. So her idea is to bring support, assistance and services to these ill or recovering patients. The project is not fully developed yet, but it is a perfect example of the human dimension at the core of the ADIE’s work. 

More than an opportunity to dispense technical advice, each mission is a human encounter. It’s a moment of exchange and sharing.

To conclude, do you have any advice for a future volunteer?

I think these missions require two qualities: availability and an open mind. Each mission is a new chance to discover a new world while staying connected to the world around us. But the best advice I can give is simply to join us! We need more BNPP volunteers with good intentions and excellent skills to continue helping these young entrepreneurs carry out their projects. 

More information

BNP Paribas, committed to microfinance (unavailable link)

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