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The PEPITE is a key player for students and young graduates, offering entrepreneurial opportunities at the University of Guyana. As a public service player, the PEPITE supports all types of projects: the creation of associations, collectives and businesses with an economic, social and/or environmental purpose. Mylena JEAN-NOEL, winner of the PEPITE 2022 prize, shares her story with us.

My name is Myléna JEAN-NOEL, I'm 30 years old. I teach mathematics at the Lycée Melkior-Garre. At the same time, I'm a student-entrepreneur via the Pépite programme in French Guiana.

Why did you choose to join the PEPITE scheme?

I took part in the PEPITE competition, firstly to try my luck like all the other competitors. But I also wanted to be a winner so that I could get some initial funding to start my business.

Tell us about your background.

After passing my baccalauréat, I took a few competitive exams in the paramedical sector. (nurse, childcare assistant, pharmacy assistant). Unfortunately, These attempts were unsuccessful. Following these experiences, I had the opportunity to be taken on at Réeberg Néron secondary school in Rémire-Montjoly, where I worked as an individual support worker for pupils with disabilities. (AESH).

After this initial work experience, I decided to end my contract in order to go back to higher education in the field I'm passionate about: mathematics.

That same year, I applied to the University of Guyana and was accepted. I took a degree in mathematics with a minor in computer science. My course lasted three years. My aim in taking the course was to become a mathematics teacher. That's my current job!

When did you develop a taste for entrepreneurship?

Yes,  In the meantime, my goals have changed and I've become interested in entrepreneurship. Through the employment centre, I was able to take a two-month training course at the BGE de Guyane, the management shop for entrepreneurs. There I discovered different aspects of the world of entrepreneurship. I still wanted to take another course to consolidate my skills. So the Pôle Emploi offered me the Pépite scheme at the University of Guyana. That's when I applied.

I was contacted very quickly and went before the commitment committee to present my project, which was approved by the jury.

Can you tell us about your business project? ?

My project is to create a tourist camp offering different types of 'atypical' and 'ecological' accommodation in French Guiana, close to the Amazon rainforest and Amerindian villages. The camp will offer cabins on stilts, tipi cabins and hammock cabins, both shared and private.

Originally from the Kali'na Amerindian tribe, I chose to name this place "AYEGOSAMANA", which means "You are at home" in the Amerindian language.

Through a series of activities, AYEGOSAMANA offers a chance to discover and appreciate the Amerindian traditions, way of life and know-how of my ancestors.

This tourist camp is intended to be a comfortable, peaceful place to discover and relax, with a touch of luxury. My aim is for this site to become an international showcase for French Guiana as a destination.

The impact of my project on society and the environment is nothing but positive, as it will create new jobs for the local population. Offering eco-accommodation, it is based on preserving and respecting the environment while involving the local Amerindian communities.

Where did this idea come from?

The idea for this project came to me on my bed, one night when I couldn't sleep. What really sparked off the idea was my first stay in a hotel room. I really liked the comfort, so I became interested in the range of hotels available in French Guiana. I stayed in a number of hotels in French Guiana, in different communes and outside the department too. I also spent days in some of the tourist camps in French Guiana, which may or may not offer accommodation. I've developed a real passion for travelling, visiting and discovering other cultures, other ways of life, etc...

From the idea to the project, what motivated you?

I love a challenge. That's what drove me to take action. I wanted the satisfaction of having achieved a goal. The commitment and enthusiasm of the people around me in achieving this project is a big part of that.

 How has the Pépite award helped you to develop your project? What are the next steps for your company?

The PEPITE prize helped me to obtain initial funding, which will be invaluable in raising additional funds for the construction of my eco-accommodations. The next stage is to clear and dig up the plot of land on which the accommodation will be built.

You won first prize in the PEPITE competition. How did it make you feel?

When the first prize was announced, I felt great joy and a sense of recognition. I felt fulfilled and these emotions ran through my body. I was so happy I couldn't wait to share it with those close to me. I was sure of myself and confident in my project, convinced that I could win this prize.

In my opinion, it was my thoroughness, the details in the presentation of my project and the initial financing plan that I included in my application that enabled me to win the PEPITE prize.

What did you enjoy about the experience?

What I appreciated about this training programme was the effort made by the PEPITE team as a whole, both the lecturers and the managers, to support us and develop the entrepreneurial spirit in each student. What's more, I had the opportunity to benefit from support. I was accompanied by a mentor called Gwenaelle Quist, who was a great help in advancing my project. She gave me very good advice. She helped me to push myself and get out of my comfort zone. I'd like to express my gratitude to her!

My university experience reinforced my desire to set up my own business, because after obtaining my student-entrepreneur diploma and my PEPITE prize, I was given personalised support. Pépite Guyane didn't leave me out in the cold. I'm included in workshops, seminars, outings and meetings to hone my skills and knowledge so that I have all the tools I need to launch my business.

I would like to thank Pépite Guyane, Pépite France and BPI France for their dedication and commitment to helping students set up their own businesses and become future entrepreneurs.

Any advice for future student entrepreneurs?

My advice to students aspiring to the student-entrepreneur diploma would be to adopt a rigorous approach and to be attentive and assiduous during the modules. It's essential to take notes, to take an active interest in what's being taught, and to share and communicate with others.

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