Turning Dreamers into Doers

Joséphine Bouchez from Ticket for Change shares how they are inspiring and mobilizing a new generation of entrepreneurs for change.

by Sydney Mengel, May 23, 2016

For many of us, it all starts with a feeling. A general sense of wanting to do something meaningful and purposeful but feeling uncertain about how or where to begin. Often times, our ideas and dreams never become a reality. Ticket for Change wants to prevent that. Their goal is to turn dreamers into doers.

Founded in 2014, France's Ticket for Change aims to inspire and mobilize a new generation of entrepreneurs for change. How? Through a “Tour de France” of course! 

The 12 day tour takes 70 innovators from all walks of life on a tour through France - and in doing so, provides ample inspiration and network building. Afterwards, Ticket for Change provides ongoing support to help early-stage entrepreneurs succeed. 

In this interview, Joséphine Bouchez shares what she sees as common challenges that early-stage entrepreneurs face and how to overcome them. She also talks about winning the Google Impact Challenge in 2015 and what’s next for Ticket for Change.

Tell us about Ticket for Change - what was the motivation behind its inception?

When I was a student at a French business school, we always heard in the media that it would be better for us to leave France and live abroad to be successful in our professional careers and personal lives. I could not accept that, especially since at the time I was already observing the emergence of an incredible entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship ecosystem. I was seeing tons of social changemakers doing great things to improve the society we are living in. And in general, I couldn’t get on board with simply “leaving”, especially when there were still so many urgent and important problems to solve at home.

My co-founders and I observed that there were lots of people that wanted to change things and have a positive impact on society, but they simply didn’t know how to make the first step. On the other hand, when you looked a little deeper, there were in fact so many investors, hubs, and accelerators… They need a spark!

That’s why we created Ticket for Change. Ticket for Change aims at inspiring and putting into action a new generation of entrepreneurs for change - of Changers I could say. Entrepreneurs for change are entrepreneurs who develop innovative and viable solutions to urgent and important social and environmental problems.

We target individuals from very diverse academic, cultural and social backgrounds, who want to make a difference in the world and believe in the power of entrepreneurship to create change but who need a spark to make their very first step as entrepreneurs. Our ambition at Ticket for Change is to transform dreamers into doers.

In 2015, 58 entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs participated in the Ticket for Change “Tour de France”. What exactly happens on the tour?

The Ticket for Change "Tour de France" is our flagship program. In 2015, the 2nd edition of the tour took place. It is open to 50 highly motivated and talented entrepreneurs-to-be, from diverse social, cultural and academic backgrounds, and 20 social intrapreneurs-to-be who are employees in big companies and want to change things from the inside.

During the tour, they meet around 40 famous French pioneers, from Emmanuel Faber to Pierre Rabhi, and 60 experts and entrepreneurs, in 6 cities, from Lille to Marseille, from Strasbourg to Bordeaux. During 12 days, the 70 participants are inspired by innovators, (re)-discover their talents, their passions and their dreams, brainstorm to find innovative and entrepreneurial solutions to societal problems (education, environment, housing...) and receive intensive trainings to learn how to transform their ideas into viable social enterprises.

After the tour, we, along with partners and mentors, accompany them in the next 10 months to really launch their projects. Our very unique pedagogy was co-designed with some of the best experts in France.

We are now working on the 3rd edition: a lot of amazing changes are coming! Stay tuned on our Facebook Page here

You realized that supporting social entrepreneurs in the early stages was critical for creating success stories - what common challenges do most early stage entrepreneurs face?

This is a subject that I’m deeply passionate about. We are about to gain a very deep understanding of these challenges as we accompany and mentor 70+ entrepreneurs in their very first steps. For one of our other projects, we have just completed an in-depth study on the needs of early-stage social entrepreneurs. We completed 20+ qualitative and in-depth interviews with different entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs.

Based on these findings, I would say that there are 3 main challenges that entrepreneurs could encounter at the beginning:

- The network: they don’t necessarily have the network and/or they don’t belong to a community of peers and experts that will help them to launch and develop their project.

- The leadership skills: this is kind of “soft-skills”, even if it’s hard to define, but it’s not easy for young entrepreneurs to know how to build and manage a team, to behave in networking events or conferences, to know how to react to competition or conflicts, to gather and deal with feedback…

- The methodology: there are tons of existing useful and amazing tools and methodologies, but it’s always hard to know what to do in which order, to prioritize, to know what will be the next first small steps and deadlines.

For me, one more thing, which is perhaps the most important, is the “learning mindset”. It’s kind of a buzzword right now but this is underlying concept which applies to everything in entrepreneurs’ lives: we try to teach our entrepreneurs how to learn, and overall, how to keep learning all the time.

Early on, you managed to secure large companies like Evian as partners - how did you approach them and convince them to support you?

We work very closely with our partners. Before convincing them to support us, we identify which companies share the same values as us. Then we think about how our activities could create value for them.

It’s A LOT of work to meet them, discuss with them, invite them to our events and build strong relationships with them. We focus on building very strong relationship with them. For example, every year we invite them to work on our vision and define priorities together. In that sense, they’re almost like members of the team!

We are very lucky to have been supported since the beginning by prestigious partners such as Entreprendre ET+, our founder partner, Schneider Electric, Cegid, Renault…

On that note, you have a new program “Corporate for Change”. How do you work with intrapreneurs to foster transformation from within?

We strongly believe that change will not come without companies and the business sector. It’s in our DNA from the very beginning of Ticket for Change. Just right after the 1st Tour, we began to work closely with companies on conferences, workshops and specific training programs… We have two main activities in Corporate for Change: an Intrapreneurship Program and tailored training programs.

Our Intrapreneurship Program is a very unique program in France (and in Europe). We experimented it with 8 intrapreneurs last year and we open it to 20 intrapreneurs this year (registration is still open until the 31st of May for the Francophone readers: more info here). The selected intrapreneurs, employees from big companies, enter our 6-month program and have access to a strong community of peers and experts, learn methodologies, gain leadership skills, as well as the entrepreneurs. We are developing with experts the skills that differ from the entrepreneurs – and which is probably the most important for intrapreneurs: the ability to convince within their companies and to gather people around their projects, from the inside and outside of the companies.

In the past you have worked for large corporations but decided to start your own change-making enterprise. What inspired the change and what are the main difference(s) between the two working environments?

I learned a lot from my experiences in big companies. I had a diverse range of responsibilities and interesting missions, while also working in fantastic teams. But I always found myself wondering if I was at the right place. I couldn’t help but think that there were so many people who would want to have my job and that I would be much more useful elsewhere.

And I think it’s true. Today I like working on my own start-up EVEN more: I learn SO MUCH every single day! I like the very-fast paced and changing environment. I like trying and doing so many different things. I like meeting passionate and inspiring people who are willing to build tomorrow’s world!

Overall, I like the fact that we could invent our own ways of working, managing, and doing great work. Right now, I know I’m in the right place at the right moment. It’s priceless.

Ticket for Change recently won the Google Impact Challenge in France. How was that experience and what’s next for you now?

That was incredible! It was probably one of the best moments in Ticket for Change’s history. It was also a very tough moment thinking about all the other amazing organizations that deserved the prize. It gives a very deep sense of responsibility to the entire team and myself. We are entering a new period of Ticket for Change’s development: we need to build the best programs and pedagogy, strengthen our social impact, build-up our online programs to guarantee even greater access for even more people, reinforce our economic model and so on… We also want to scale and prepare further Ticket for Change replications abroad. We are working on it!

What makes you a Changer?

I like this quotation: “If not now, when? If not you, who?”

Life is too short. I can’t wait for the others to do something. I want to use my time and my energy to try to build a better place to live in. In fact, I don’t know why and I can’t explain it, but I can’t do anything else.