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Denis Dong

France

“I saw the uncool behind the cool: the advertising scene in Paris was inflexible, consisting of a small number of established organisations with fixed business structures and bland methodologies. I wanted to change that.”

For many young entrepreneurs, starting a business is a way of achieving freedom and personal fulfilment. For others, it offers the chance to embark upon an adventure. For Denis Dong, it was a chance to do both.

Born in Noisy-Le-Sec—one of the most deprived parts of Paris—Denis dreamed of becoming a journalist. However, while attending the Université Paris Nanterre, Denis became interested in advertising, which led him to accept a place to study at the ISCOM Higher Institute of Communications and Advertising. After graduating, he spent three years working at various Parisian advertising companies, but he found the work unfulfilling. “I worked as a copywriter but found most agencies were dry and lacking creativity.”

Denis’ writing skills along with the creative talents of two of his friends—one a videographer and one a graphic designer—were all needed to establish Grama, an advertising agency.

Grama works to create fresh and engaging advertisements driven by visual interest. Denis and the team are keen to test new ideas in video advertising and take chances on campaigns which more established agencies would not even consider.

Creating a business with friends poses certain challenges, but fortunately for Grama, the three business partners possessed a complementary combination of skills as well as similar visions for the future. What they lacked, however, was knowledge about starting a business. “We were overwhelmed by a mountain of information. The sudden need to take charge of legal, financial and administrative information was new to all of us. It was a huge challenge.”

At first the difficulties seemed too much, and Denis and his co-founders considered abandoning their dreams. Luckily they learned about YBI member Positive Planet France. Founded in 2006, Positive Planet freely offers young entrepreneurs from urban areas support for business creation and growth.

“The advice and guidance they gave us was invaluable. The Positive Planet team pointed out flaws in our business model that we would not initially have considered and suggested solutions to problems before they had even emerged. This combination of support and critical analysis was key to our success.”

The moral and psychological support provided by Positive Planet was even more beneficial for Denis and his team. He adds: “It is always great to have somebody that you don’t know believe in you. To have someone who isn’t a friend or family member take our business seriously was a major boost for us.”

Denis loves having something he can call his own, saying it is the most fulfilling part of running his own business. He also values the chance to be more creative. “In an office you are dispossessed of everything you create. Being an entrepreneur, however, allows for control over your own creative legacy.”

He also hopes his actions will inspire other budding entrepreneurs, especially those from a similar background. Having grown up in a very deprived part of Paris, Denis wants to be role model to others and show people the advertising field is no longer so exclusive.

Denis recommends that young people get out and meet people to establish a strong network of like-minded entrepreneurs. These people can be crucial resources who provide meaningful support by building up the entrepreneur’s confidence and offering fresh perspectives.

“Believe in yourself and have confidence in your dreams. One of the biggest issues young people face is a lack of confidence in their ideas. Not only can this prevent a potential entrepreneur from pursuing a good idea, but it can limit their access to the resources that are vital to business success."

Positive Planet France is part of the Youth Business Europe programme, a regional initiative supported by the Citi Foundation to help young entrepreneurs to start or grow a business.

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