Best of both worlds: Dutch students support Moroccan entrepreneurs with real-life challenges

Last year, Orange Corners Morocco and the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences kicked off a new strategic partnership. Their goal? To combine the best of both worlds! Dutch university students are exposed to international business challenges, while getting the opportunity to apply their knowledge in a real-world setting. And the other way around, our Moroccan entrepreneurs profit from their practical skills and the latest knowledge they bring to the table. As the semester is about to end, we look back with three participants, Amine, Asaf and Ömer. For this project, they were matched with Moroccan agripreneur and Orange Corners participant Youssef Ahmims (Greenertech).

Hi guys, lovely to have you here! To start, could you introduce yourself?

Amine: I’m Amine Frafri, I’m 21 years old, and I study Finance and Control at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences.
Asaf: My name is Asaf Bildirici, and my major is the same as Amine’s.
Ömer: I’m Ömer Kahraman, I study Built Engineering. And all three of us are taking a minor in Business and Cultural Development this semester.
Asaf: We go a long way back. Amine and I are in the same class, and we’ve known Ömer since high school. And the three of us decided to enrol in the same minor this semester.

The project team in action during the bootcamp: Amine, Ömer and Asaf with entrepreneur Youssef Ahmins

Do you have a particular affinity with the theme entrepreneurship, or did you end up doing this project because of the minor?

Asaf: it was purely coincidental, because of this minor we’re taking!
Ömer: we wanted to get a bit outside of our comfort zone, do something different. I come from an engineering background, and this minor is more related to business. I like learning about different perspectives, and entrepreneurship is a topic that interests me for sure.

So for this project you went to Morocco. What did you do there, beside the Orange Corners project?

Ömer: we did a number of different activities. Beside Orange Corners, we visited several other places, like universities. And in Nador and Tangier we worked on a project with local students. In Tangier for example, we interviewed a local about a local event and the impact the event had.
Amine: it was like a market study around the impact of this Jazz event.

And then you also worked on a project with Orange Corners Morocco. What was it like, this bootcamp?

Ömer: it was a two-day bootcamp. The first day was mostly about introductions, getting to know the entrepreneur you were matched with. And then the second day, we started developing the project itself: discussing what we were going to do, agreeing on expectations from both sides. Together with the entrepreneur, we decided we’d build a website and create social media accounts for his business. And this is what we did. So we decided upon this project at the bootcamp, and then after we came home the entrepreneur sent all the information he wanted to have on his website, and we started working on building it. We actually submitted the project today, so we’re very happy we’ve reached our targets.

Group picture from the bootcamp

What kind of business were you working with for this project?

Amine: Youssef, the entrepreneur we worked with, runs an innovative agriculture business. He wants to grow tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers in the most sustainable way.
Ömer: to promote his business and increase brand awareness, Youssef wanted to have a website and social media. And we helped him to develop a strong online presence. In a period of about two months, we successfully used several social media platforms, including Instagram, Facebook and TikTok, to build this presence – constantly showing the relevance of his brand. Additionally, we strengthened this online presence by adding another essential pillar: a website. The result is a solid online presence, that’s crucial for further business growth and interaction with his customers. This is a solid basis that Youssef can use to further develop his branding in the future.

Could you elaborate a bit more, how did this work in practise?

Ömer: Youssef already had a Facebook account, and we connected that account to an Instagram account we created. And a TikTok account, to reach young people. The website we created is also ready to go live, except for a few pictures Youssef didn’t have yet. He’s still working on getting some photos material. We used stock pictures for now, but he can easily change that later on. He already purchased the domain, so he can easily connect it all together if we wants.
Amine: if he approves of the website we created, of course. In the end, it’s his choice whether he wants to use the website or not.
Ömer: we built two different versions of the website, one cheaper version and a somewhat more expensive version. And we got positive feedback from Youssef already, he really liked the websites.

To promote his business and increase brand awareness, Youssef wanted to have a website and social media. And we helped him to develop a strong online presence.

Ömer Kahraman, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences

Nice! Do you know why Youssef didn’t have a website and social media yet?

Amine: we didn’t ask, but I assume it’s because he’s very busy working on his company. He did tell us how busy his schedule is, he’s working super hard developing his product. It takes a lot of time to get his machines right, that’s his main priority right now.
Ömer: we also didn’t really ask why he wanted to have a website in the first place, but in today’s world it’s very important of course to have one.
Amine: to show your professionalism.
Ömer: yeah, and the products and services you have to offer as a business. Both the website and the social media are vital for this.

In addition to delivering the website and social media, did you also develop a plan for Youssef to guide him how to use them?

Ömer: we did, although he already knows a lot and he already has many ideas! We didn’t share it with him yet, but of course it’s also important that when he gets access to the website and the social media channels, we also give him some pointers as to how to best use it. But since he already knows so much, we just focused on delivering the website and socials. We delivered the socials two days ago, so I’m assuming he didn’t really start using them much yet, but hopefully he’ll start using them in the nearby future! And to get things going, we already posted the first two introduction posts on Instagram and gave him a professional business status. But both Instagram and TikTok heavily depend on sharing pictures. We used stock photos for now, but he’s gonna need his own photos to make the account a success. So from now on, it’s up to him!

The new GreenerTech Instagram page

If you look at this project, do you see any differences with how you would’ve done a similar project in the Netherlands?

Ömer: the communication was slightly different. We noticed clear communication was really important. But other than that, I didn’t really notice any major differences.
Amine: the communication could have been a bit better at times, but I guess that had to do with how busy Youssef was. And sometimes when he wanted to communicate with us, it was at times that wasn’t suitable for us – like when we were in class or at work. 
Ömer: sometimes it took a while for us to get a response. And we also realised the importance of face to face communications. Online communications isn’t always ideal, it’s so much easier to discuss things when you meet each other in real life. So the bootcamp really had added value there. We did try to keep the deadlines we agreed upon at the bootcamp though, and we were in touch weekly to discuss updates, show the progress on the website.

When you think about this project, what did you learn that you think could be beneficial for your future career?

Ömer: creating a website, first and foremost. For all of us, this was the first time we built a website. We learnt that in the course of the project. And honestly, it was much more difficult than I had expected! It took quite a bit of time building a website, taking all the entrepreneurs’ wishes into account. And you notice how vital it is to have access to the right information and good quality pictures.
Amine: absolutely. And to add, we learnt how to communicate with an entrepreneur, somebody who already runs a business. You notice how much people like Youssef are always busy working on bringing their business further, making plans for the future.
Ömer: and it’s also a good experience to learn to communicate with someone who’s far away. All communication was in English, so you notice how important it is to know English. Amine could communicate with Youssef in Darija, but Asaf and I had to communicate with him in English. Although that wasn’t really an obstacle in the end, everything worked out fine.

This was the first time we did a project like this. Do you have any feedback for us: what went well, and what could be improved?

Amine: I thought it was really good that during the bootcamp, there was also an opportunity to meet entrepreneurs who didn’t make the selection of the project. To also learn about their businesses. We couldn’t do anything for them right now, but maybe we can still help them at some point in the future. And it was really good to have the first meeting face to face, so it was easier to get to know Youssef’s business, discuss his needs and expectations from both sides. And I can’t really think of anything that could be improved, I thought it went really rather well!
Ömer: I also don’t really know what could be improved, but I agree with Amine that it really made a difference to spend those first few days together in person. That’s when we really got to know each other and made the rest of the project much smoother.

I’m truly happy for the opportunity I had to collaborate with Orange Corners and the University of Amsterdam. The three gentlemen did an outstanding job in creating a website for our startup. This collaboration was extremely beneficial for us, especially considering the generally high cost associated with building a website. I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to Orange Corners for this opportunity and to the University of Amsterdam for making it possible.

Youssef Ahmims, Founder GreenerTech

Follow Youssef’s GreenerTech on social media:

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