Young Entrepreneur Spotlight: Francesco Bakhos

Tell us about your background and how you got started in entrepreneurship

As a marketing graduate coming from a small village in the north of Lebanon, the term entrepreneurship was something so foreign and never heard of, at least for me. Despite the very few knowledge of what the words “ريادة الاعمال” meant, I was practically clueless until January 2020, when my university, The Lebanese University, and CentreMINE (Centre des métiers, d’innovation et de L’entreprenariat at LU) decided to hold the Hult Prize Competition. After reading about the hult prize and getting excited about creating a sustainable project that was suitable for that year’s theme, I decided with 2 of my friends to embark on this journey. And as they say the rest is history.

My startup idea “PlastEco” was declared the winner during the OnCampus event and we got the chance to represent our university on an international level in the second phase of the competition: the regionals. And from there on, my knowledge and experience in entrepreneurship grew further.

Aside from the Hult prize Competition, PlastEco took us on a 2-year journey of growth and education. We participated in multiple local and international competitions such as the Company Program by INJAZ Lebanon, DEEL Competition by AUF, where we were declared finalists and won a 6-month training/incubation period by Berytech. Additionally, my admiration for entrepreneurship continued to flourish as we participated and reached the finale of the third edition of the “Youth Forum Contest – Green & Sustainable Solutions for The Future”, promoted by ISPI and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Italy.

Aside from all that, my entrepreneurial journey came fully round in 2021 as I was chosen by the hult prize foundation and the Lebanese university to become a campus director and lead a new cohort of future student entrepreneurs to success (in collaboration with CentreMINE). And now in 2022, I have been chosen to guest judge in 3 rounds of the OnCampus event.

I have also been awarded the title of Student-entrepreneur 2021-2022 by Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF) and have had the chance to take part in UNDP’s 6th cohort of the Youth Leadership Program (YLP) where my knowledge, grasp, and understanding of entrepreneurship has grown.

Tell us about your first 2 Start-ups.

My first endeavour in entrepreneurship is 365 Movies Lebanon, an online platform for cinematic literacy and spoiler-free reviews.

It is an online community of like-minded cinema lovers where we get to exchange reviews, thoughts and point of views on the latest in the cinematic universe.

It also serves as a place of education through timely educational online sessions about cinematography and interviews with renowned directors, writers, actors, and crew members.

My second startup in entrepreneurship is PlastEco. PlastEco is an eco-friendly start-up that aims to eliminate plastic waste and other recyclable/non-recyclable material by incorporating them in the production of environmentally friendly and sustainable bricks to be used later on in construction or for decorative means.

My “true” entrepreneurship journey started with PlastEco as I consider it the idea and the project that lead me to truly discover my passion for this domain.

What has been your biggest success in your entrepreneurial journey so far?

I consider my biggest success so far is being able to break the expectations that my idea was doomed to fail. Despite still being in its last phases of research (on hold due to lack of funding now) and despite the dire situations we are going through in Lebanon, PlastEco proved to everyone and myself included that if you believe in your idea, everything else is possible.

But the true highlight of my year was when I was nominated to JCI’s “2021 Top Ten Outstanding Young Persons of Lebanon” where I placed as a runner up and was shortlisted for JCI’s “2021 top ten outstanding young persons of the world” for the category of Business and Entrepreneurial achievement, a great achievement considering the economic hardships and health concerns that we have had to bear in Lebanon.

The biggest success you ask me. The biggest success is not the awards or the recognition, the biggest success is the ability to reach other students as my self and tap deep into their minds and help them unleash their entrepreneurial potential one idea a time and one success story at a time.

Why is student entrepreneurship so important?

As we embark upon the 21st Century, entrepreneurs are moving forward as an instrument of change and restoration in times of calamities.

We are so focused on creating a new sustainable generation of pioneer thinkers and changemakers and what better way to do that other than transforming educated, well-informed students into the leaders they are capable of being.

Student entrepreneurship offers a sort of freshness and an unusual perspective into the business world. The youth are well informed of the world’s problems nowadays, equip them with enough knowledge and expose them to as much training and entrepreneurial education as possible and you have yourselves a student entrepreneur willing and ready to take on the world. And this was exactly what my graduation thesis was all about: the creation of student-entrepreneurs amongst university students in Lebanon..

Through my personal experience as a student and as an up and coming young entrepreneur, everything I have learned, experienced, and gone through has only solidified my passion to create something impactful, not only for myself but for my society and my country.

If I can create a dozen young entrepreneurs like myself, then our country will be in good hands.

Student entrepreneurship is no longer a luxury, it is an accessible way of life available to anyone willing to put in the work, dedication, and time.

What are the biggest challenges facing young entrepreneurs in Lebanon?

There are many challenges, but the most prominent one would be lack of knowledge. Most people think that entrepreneurship or being an entrepreneur is reserved to middle-aged people who holds many degrees and diplomas.

Another challenge would be lack of resources and proper training. There are many associations and NGOs who have taken this responsibility yet, still despite all the success their reach is still minimal.

I live in what you can consider an out skirted region. Most students, if not most citizens don’t even know what entrepreneurship means, let alone student entrepreneurship and its impact.

The biggest challenge of all is changing students’ mentalities. Unfortunately, we have a lot of problems in Lebanon and due to that many students are losing hope and have given up.

How can leaders and successful entrepreneurs help to support student entrepreneurship in Lebanon?

Personally, I believe that successful entrepreneurs and leaders can help student entrepreneurship by having an open mind and the willingness to teach, coach and mentor young entrepreneurs and changemakers.

Creating a direct line of mutual collaboration and education will help a lot of students and potentially future entrepreneurs to truly connect with their ideas, believe in themselves and learn from the best in the business. I have reached this far due to the help of those more successful and knowledgeable than me.

As a young, emerging successful entrepreneur, what is your number ONE piece of advice for entrepreneurs just starting out?

Be patient and don’t give up. Success is not an overnight achievement. It is the result of long hard-working hours, a lot of dedication, and countless failures.

If you truly believe that your idea can create an impact then no matter how hard you fall, keep getting up again and you will make it eventually.

Surround yourself with like-minded individuals. Your environment will help you succeed in ways you could’ve never imagined.

What is your favourite quote for life & entrepreneurship?

I have one quote that I live by and that is “I will succeed even if I have to bleed till death.”

This quote means a lot because I’m the type of person who truly makes sure to give my best and my all in everything I do. And this quote just assures me that despite all the hard time and the failures, success is inevitable.

What is your main goal for the next 3 years?

I have many goals for the next 3 years of my life. In addition to taking the next step with my project “PlastEco” and fully launching it, I am currently preparing to go live with new ideas and start-ups tackling many aspects such as inclusivity, empowerment, and technology.

I will be pursing a graduate degree in entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial studies that will equip me with enough knowledge, resources, and connections to open “the Lebanese Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and Research”, dedicated to the innovative minds of the Lebanese youth. By doing so, I will have the resources to pass on the knowledge I have acquired, create new generations of pioneer thinkers, push the envelope further and unleash hidden talents. Through this center, I will be helping future generations to discover their inner entrepreneurial capabilities and build the Lebanon we all envision and dream of.

How can our readers find out more about you?

For anyone interested in knowing more about my journey with entrepreneurship and my future project, you can follow me on my LinkedIn account:

Editor-In-Chief of Bizpreneur Middle East