I am just an employee who gives his time

I am a regional manager of Generali's salaried sales force in France. Since October, I have also been the coach of Lacina, a refugee entrepreneur, accompanied by the THSN Incubator in Montreuil, near Paris.

It's the first time I have volunteered for others. Until now, I have devoted all my time and energy to my job and family. I joined Generali at the age of 23, and have spent my entire career there, from sales advisor to regional manager. But at nearly 50, I felt very strongly the desire to make myself useful, to act to help people who have had fewer opportunities in their lives than I’ve had.

Last June, The Human Safety Net Foundation inaugurated an incubator for refugee entrepreneurs in Montreuil. A first promotion was launched in October. The association La Ruche, which runs the Incubator, invited Generali employees to get involved with the 14 project leaders. I seized the opportunity and became the coach of Lacina, who I will accompany for nine months.

Lacina is 35 years old. He comes from Ivory Coast. He currently works in a cleaning company, and he has a rare know-how: he's able to carry out cleaning work at very high heights, especially on the windows of towers, equipped with ropes and harnesses.

Lacina masters his job perfectly. His goal is to become self-employed. But if he understands French well, Lacina can hardly write it. He didn't attend school. But the creation of his company will oblige him to carry out administrative procedures, to draw up a business plan, to find funding to buy a vehicle, equipment...

My role implies, first of all, to give him confidence, then to help him structure his project by getting him to ask himself the right questions. But I am not intended to provide all the answers! I am neither a cleaning specialist, an accountant, or a business angel. I am just a Generali employee who gives his time, who pays attention and listens to Lacina, who challenges and encourages him.

The experts in business creation, those who provide the solutions, who bring their networks into play, are the animators of La Ruche. I was impressed by this association, by its professionalism, by the quality of its program. I put myself at their service, with my goodwill, my common sense, and my experience.

Concretely, I meet Lacina every Wednesday evening at the Montreuil Incubator. I have a busy professional life, but I have made this weekly meeting a regular part of my schedule. It is a commitment that I have to honor for Lacina, for the animators of La Ruche, for the THSN France team who is very involved.

My reward is to see Lacina's progress. He is more confident. He is attending all the different workshops that the association offers him. He is currently working on his financing plan. His project is taking shape. He knows that he will be a subcontractor first, and he has already identified the first companies to contact. 

This engaging experience began with a meeting at the Montreuil Incubator - I can only encourage other Generali employees to volunteer!