Former US president George W. Bush reportedly quipped once that the French have no word for entrepreneur. But the French innovation minister on Tuesday said she wants to launch a school to teach people how to become one.
Of course, the very word “entrepreneur” comes from French, although its meaning in France is broader, meaning “contractor” or “manager” as well as the English connotation of an enterprising individual striking out on his or her own.
Now, Small Business Minister Fleur Pellerin (pictured, above) wants to set up an “ecole de l’entrepreneuriat”. This “school for entrepreneurs”, which Pellerin signalled could be run as a public-private partnership, would offer training in the legal, accounting and administrative aspects of setting up a company in a country with a reputation for red tape.
The school may not be based on a physical location, she also said, adding that it would be open to people of all profiles. This contrasts with France's élite, world-famous business schools such as the HEC, near Paris.
“I don’t want it to be the case any more that certain French people are excluded from entrepreneurship because they lack the right diplomas, because of their origin, their gender or their age,” Pellerin told Le Figaro newspaper.
Tuesday’s announcement comes amid a rumbling swell of discontent among the nearly one million people in France who are on the first administrative rung of the self-employment ladder. These so-called “auto-entrepreneurs”, who benefit from a simplified status created in 2009 by Nicolas Sarkozy’s government, are concerned about the current Socialist government’s plans to change the rules, potentially lowering the amount they can earn without switching to a more traditional business tax regime.
A representative of the “poussins”, or “little chicks” movement of auto-entrepreneurs, Adrien Sergent, told FRANCE 24 he thought Pellerin’s initiative to launch the new school seems to be an “excellent idea”.
But it is, he said, “something of a paradox" to launch the new institution while at the same time “chiselling away” at the auto-entrepreneur system.
Once would-be small business owners have finished their studies at the school, they’ll need a system that will allow them to put the ideas into practice, Sergent said, adding that this is exactly what the auto-entrepreneur status gives them, given that it is simple to use and that entrepreneurs only have to pay tax if they succeed in earning money.
In her remarks in Le Figaro, Pellerin attempted to address concerns of this sort, saying the government does not want to damage the auto-entrepreneur system but that it is important to address concerns such as employers using it to build a payroll in disguise.