By Suçie Jones / Staff Writer
My friend Guilia and I had the pleasure of speaking with Fernando Royuela, the president of a newly founded junior initiative, an international consulting company run entirely by students. Both Giulia and I are not experts in the field of business, so this was a unique opportunity for us to learn more and dive into another professional world foreign to us: the new and exciting world of JERO.
What is JERO? How would you describe JERO to someone who has no experience in business?
JERO is a non-profit organization, offering international consulting services to startups. So, what is a start up? They are small businesses that are in the beginning of their progress, and they don’t have enough money to pay for super-professional consulting services, or they don’t have enough resources to start their business. JERO offers their services by doing their financial analysis, business planning and marketing planning etc. so students can build their professional skills.
Despite the pandemic that turned the world upside down, you have grown a nonprofit organization with great success. JERO is recognized by John Cabot’s faculty and students as well as junior enterprises from other universities. How did you come up with the idea and how did you find the motivation during COVID?
It’s a bit of a funny story actually. I was studying abroad for one year, but I was studying at different universities. I was taking single courses in different universities and at one time I was taking courses at three different universities. But I believe one of the most important things while you are doing your bachelor’s degree is also to gain professional experience, so I decided to join a junior enterprise at another university. I then gained the basics of what a junior enterprise is and what it does. It was incredible. I learned of the many different enterprises, especially the ones in Europe, but they are also in Africa and South America and all around the world.
At John Cabot now, I have one opportunity and one semester. One opportunity to leave something valuable for the students and also the JCU community, so I decided to open and create JERO. Everything is fast paced because of COVID, but when you have an opportunity like this you have to take it, or you could miss out on something big. JCU is nice because it has clubs and internships, but this was something different. Students have the real opportunity to work with businesses and they gain responsibility that will aid them for their futures after college. Because a person may work in a number of different sectors in consulting, students have the opportunity to learn about each sector or one in particular if they chose, and this consulting will help them understand what kind of future they want for themselves and give them the tools to go after it.
How does one create a junior enterprise?
There are three steps. First you are a group of young talents, then you become a junior initiative by completing a number of requirements, and finally you are a junior enterprise, which requires more difficult achievements. When you are a junior initiative, or a group who wants to become a junior enterprise, you must complete a presentation to the Italian Confederation of junior enterprises. You must create your project, gather a team and establish the basis, and then you are going to present your project to the Confederation. If the Confederation likes your presentation, they will confirm you as part of the organization and they will send the project to the board of directors of other junior enterprises at different universities. The junior enterprises can then apply to be the “Godmother,” or sponsor of that junior initiative. For example, our godmother is the junior enterprise at Bocconi University in Milan, which is called JEME.
JEME impressed us with their structed plan for our possible collaboration, and we decided to go with them. When we presented JERO to the Italian Confederation, they loved our idea. They loved our project and they loved how our team was a group of international members, as well as John Cabot being an international school. They saw the opportunity that we had because we were putting something different in this network of enterprises. JERO is the first junior initiative and soon to be enterprise operating fully in English in Italy. John Cabot being an international school, they saw the opportunity that we had because we were putting something different in this network of enterprises. In fact, JERO is the first junior initiative and soon to be enterprise operating fully in English in Italy.
What is the objective of JERO? What are some goals you see yourself reaching in the near future?
Well, currently we have three specific sectors in our junior initiative. There is the commercial area which involves Business and Finance, and the Marketing and Communications area, and finally the Human Resources sector. We hope in the future to split the commercial area as well as Marketing and Communications area in two as our team and connections grow. Our goal is to be one of the top junior enterprises in Italy. The top junior enterprises in Italy usually have on average 40-60 members and that is also our goal. They are real organizations, managed entirely by students. We want to have projects in collaboration with international enterprises around the world. A junior initiative is the stage before becoming a junior enterprise. But first, junior enterprises are written into the Italian law as a nonprofit organization, which we are trying to accomplish. At present, we are trying to build all the required legal documents, gain partnerships and develop more projects, to be fully recognized as a non-profit organization.
Is this profession something you see yourself doing beyond JCU and in your future? What are some challenges that you foresee?
One of my passions is consulting, but one of the requirements of being a junior entrepreneur, meaning being a member of a junior enterprise, is to be a bachelor or master’s student. So, it’s not something I plan for my future, but something I will keep doing next semester because I am able to stay 6 months following my graduation. The challenge inherent in the junior enterprise framework is that every semester or year and a half based on your statute, there will be a new board of directors. I will have to build the next generation of JERO. The task of my team and I is to teach and train the next board of directors the basics so they can carry JERO on and ensure its continuance.
If you had to imagine JERO in 5 years, where would you see it?
I am very positive of the outcome of JERO. I think it will be a huge junior enterprise and one of the most important of Italy. We will be having collaborations with other universities in Europe and other companies. The team will be huge because I believe the JCU community is very proactive; students always want to be engaged with new activities and build professional skills. Students at JCU don’t want to just be the average student, they want to make change; they care about their future.
What do you feel is the most rewarding part of the process of JERO?
The most rewarding part of the process is to see the impact of JERO. Right now, I’m seeing the impact. Some students are asking to be a part of JERO already because they find it interesting, want to build professional skills and most importantly, want to make a positive contribution. We are also getting feedback from other junior enterprises telling us we are doing an excellent job and they see our competence, even though we are still at the beginning of JERO’s journey. This positive feedback and enthusiasm from other students are the most rewarding. In the future, hopefully the most rewarding thing will be the actual consulting services to the clients; to the startups
, and to the small businesses because that is what we want to do; to satisfy clients and be able to help them and receive positive feedback and give students enough responsibility to make an impact on these small businesses.
Even from this brief but informative interview, we can already see the professionalism and the promising future of JERO. During a time of great uncertainty, Fernando and his team were able to accomplish something that hasn’t been done before at JCU. Fernando was quick to graciously thank his team and their efforts as well, which shows truly positive teamwork and a long-lasting initiative. Commitment and engagement are especially hard when meetings and conversations must be online, but they were able to successfully push through, even through the tribulations. The JCU community can look forward to seeing this junior initiative and soon to be junior enterprise making an impact not only on the students and faculty, but on other junior enterprises around the world, and its future clients.