I took this picture last week, in a classroom full of teenagers I had had the most exhausting discussion with. What was I doing there? Am I not supposed to be running Sparks & Co? Well, everything started back in January when I decided I had spent the last 3 years chained up to my laptop, I needed some fresh air and another form of engagement.
A personal and professional engagement
I knew I wanted to get involved in something that would have meaning for me both as an individual AND as an entrepreneur. Being a full-time CEO leaves very little time for my hobbies, family and friends, so in the first three years of activity I had to let go of all my non-Sparks related societal engagement activities. I used to be very involved in science engagement initiatives like Fête de la Science or Muséomix as a volunteer or even participating in feminist actions.
Back in January , I decided I would renew my dedication to be societally involved and I quickly found what I needed through the 100 000 entrepreneurs‘ initiative. The 100 000 entrepreneurs association is simply sending entrepreneurs into secondary and high schools as well as university classes to discuss with students. The ultimate objective is to share entrepreneurship culture and to debunk a lot of stereotypes students can have. What really got me was the special female entrepreneurship week they had in March to celebrate International Women’s Day.
“Talking about entrepreneurship AND gender equality sounds like the perfect thing for me, let’s do this!”
Knowing the association was a laureate at the European Enterprise Promotion Awards in 2015 only strengthened my willingness to work with them.
Two hours with teenagers… and I’m still alive!
After a quick introduction to the matter at hand with the core team (thanks a lot Maud Pretot!), I very quickly decided to dive into it by selecting my first intervention. I selected a public secondary school located in Paris suburban areas. I had this feeling teenagers would be fun to interact with – and I was right. There’s something about these 14 year-old kids that really caught me: they’re still full of hope and dreams, (surprisingly) not sarcastic at all. I really loved spending 2 hours with them and trying to quench their thirst for answers. They were VERY energetic and could barely hold their questions for me.
— Camille Cocaud (@CamilleCocaud) March 9, 2017
We discussed the concept of entrepreneurship, my background, my age, my education, their dreams, my daily struggles, recruiting processes, administrative burdens and so much more. Among my favorite questions were:
What makes you want to continue running your agency everyday when you wake up?
Do you sometimes cry in your bed when things get hard?
Is it difficult to manage male employees?
If you were to create another business, what would it be?
And about another thousand questions…!
Going back to work, I felt like I had contributed to society at my own scale with my life experience and advice. I have good hope that some of the girls in that classroom will feel empowered for the years to come and will not question their ability to run a company because of their gender.
After all, our motto at Sparks & Co is to contribute to solving humanity’s greatest challenges through better communication – what better contribution to making the world a better place than by empowering half of the population into believing they can solve global issues themselves?