‹ Back to list

From Street Smart to Business Smart

Post by Katleen Weytjens (WisKeys) & Edward Vanhoutte (Balance HR) 

“We work with young people who are looking for a second chance. We often see youngsters who had some issues, like problems at school, but at the same time engage themselves in sport clubs or in their neighborhood. This is just an example. The point is that underprivileged youth is full of talents!", according to general director Peter Geeroms and John Hermans, the people behind the non-profit organization YouthStart Belgium, who spoke at the last Freelance HR Café.

Imagine what could happen if they fully used these talents and are guided on their journey? This is where you come in…

Take control over your life

YouthStart was founded thirty years ago by Steve Mariotti in The Bronx (New York) and works across the globe under the NFTE label. They have been active in Belgium since 2000.  ‘Take control over your life and use your talents’, is their motto to inspire young people. By starting up something yourself, or by becoming an entrepreneurial employee, and above all by becoming the entrepreneur of your own life.

Teaching entrepreneurship

This may be true but how does it help youth to take that vital first step? YouthStart boosts disadvantaged people between 16 and 30, with an eight-day training course in which the participants develop a business idea of their own. They also learn to develop attitudes, like respect for each other or turning up on time. On the final day, each student presents his or her project. Currently 35 trainers, both Dutch- and French-speaking, give 100 courses per year in small groups.

Training completed, now what??

Peter Geeroms: “Hopefully this course has enough impact on the young people to change their lives. Sadly enough it now stops with the training.  That leaves a major risk that the young people’s plans and intentions may fade away.”

This is why YouthStart dreams of a follow-up path. In practical terms it wants to set up a community, consisting of students who have taken the course and mentors who can guide them through the subsequent steps.

Looking for mentors

The organizations Balance HR (sharing freelance HR network) and WisKeys (HR knowledge platform) aim to help YouthStart to build this community. At the kick-off session at YouthStart we drew up a plan to support them with the expertise of our HR network. We are now actively looking for mentors to advice and challenge YouthStart alumni in developing their business idea and certainly also to further develop their behavioural skills.

Mentoring is not only beneficial for the protégés, but also for the mentors. As a mentor, you can advance your own skills in coaching and personal development, develop your network and increase your job satisfaction. This last point was one of the outcomes of a meta-analysis by Professors Gosh and Reio Jr (2013) around the career benefits associated with mentoring for mentors. On the website ‘ScienceforWork’ you’ll find a nice blogpost on this study.

Are you interested in helping underprivileged youth on their path to entrepreneurship? Or do you want to know more about this initiative?

Join us on 21 September at 6PM in the offices of YouthStart (Luchthavenlaan 10, Vilvoorde) to take the next steps. No worry if you were not there the first time. We will catch up with you.

You can register and find more info here


Ghosh, R., & Reio, T. G. (2013). “Career benefits associated with mentoring for mentors: A meta-analysis”. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 83(1), 106-116. Find the original article here.

Mariotti, S. (2015). “An Entrepreneur’s Manifesto”. Templeton Press. Find a summary of the book here.

You can find this post in Dutch on the WisKeys website.

Pictures of the event at YouthStart in June 

Click on largest picture for full view.

Be the first to comment on this post