The ABC’s of Business – facilitating new businesses to grow in Joensuu area

Riikka Simonen & Kirsi Autio

Figuring out what you want to do with your time and money is essential for anyone’s happiness. An essential part of figuring this out is employment. Getting a job is hard enough, but not knowing the specific language or the different cultural aspects can lead to more difficulties for foreigners finding steady employment in Finland. Therefore, creating ones own business is a fantastic way to stay in the country, make a living, and create new networks not otherwise available to ones self. Creating your own business is a challenge in itself, but creating one in a foreign country takes even more courage. To help with this challenge, the TalentHub Joensuu Project organized The ABC’s of Business, an event series where the sole focus was to encourage foreigners living in the Joensuu region to start their own business. 

The first event day was themed All About, where the focus was on how to figure out what and where business ideas come from. Coming up with a business idea can be extremely daunting, where one thinks of all the major things and situation that can go wrong. This idea was shut down by the key-note speaker at the event, Jason Brower, who excitedly proclamed how easy it is to just start. And start you must. When noticing problems in life, Jason had a strong will in figuring out how to solve them. Thus began his serial entrepreneurial life. Moving to Finland over a decade ago due to love, Jason figured out the best way to make a living was to make it himself. So far, he has started six different (and sold a few) companies 

His strongest suggestion was to start now. There is no better time to start than right now. Everyone can always find reasons why the time is not right, or one day I will have time, or once I am done with other things, then I can do this. But Jason proved with his exuberant examples how figuring out solutions to problems he finds need to be tackled right away, otherwise someone else will do it. 

The enthusiasm and encouragement of the day’s keynote speaker inspired the audience to participate in the sparring sessions in the afternoon. The TalentHub Joensuu Project facilitated individual sparring sessions with the keynote speaker or with Business Joensuu consultants. Ten people with different business ideas took advantage of this opportunity already in the first day. 

From Hobby to Business 

There are different paths to become an entrepreneur. One way is to follow the passions of one’s life. The keynote speaker of the second ABC’s of business day, Nicole Starkman, shared her story of entrepreneurship, how she started to run a bakery. She has always been a passionate american cake and pastry maker and shared her receipes and photographies of the imaginary and unique cakes of her’s in social media. By doing so the interest towards her delicacies grew and the vague thoughts of her own business started to crystallize. There was already a growing market out there! 

Starting from passion helps to keep the motivation high. The business idea is based on one’s core competencies which brings self-confidence in the beginning. But as the Nicole’s example shows the existing potential market is as essential. Talent Hub Joensuu’s second day of ABC’s of Business – The Basics of Businesstook the audience to the starting point of new businesses. Nicole Starkman from Americana Cakes and Sweets and Stan Domanieswski from Joenbruu Beer Company shared their experiences as new entrepreneurs in Finnish environment and what aspects they find important to take into account at the starting phase 

How a Right Niche Makes Your Business to Take Wing 

Both Nicole Starkman and Stan Domanieswski had found a perfect niche for their product. It had requiered clear vision of the speciality of the product and making it apparent to the customers. Finding the niche requires knowledge about the business of the similar companies and products in the market. Both of the companies represent local businesses that stand outs by emphasising certain aspects of their products. Nicole’s Americana Cakes and Sweet is a bakery that is specialised in american pastries in Turku area. Nicole has refused to makeFinnish cakes” and stands by original american recipes and ingredients in her pastries. Joenbruu Beer Company is a small brewery and according to Stan, the only one in Joensuu area that wants to stay local and be identified as “joensuulainen”. It’s been found by local event organisers and restaurants already, after few months of active production time. 

Important to Take into Account Moneywise 

The last event day, Cash, was about money. It’s essential and many times the hardest part to figure out when starting a new business. Where and how to get the money to start a new business? How much to invest and for what to invest at start? How to price the products? When the first money from the customers actually comes in? How to find the customers? And how to do the accounting 

Rob Connell from Nolwenture went through different finance and funding options and their differencies. He underlined how managing your financies and good accountant is an essential for running a business. Budjeting, forecasting, cash flow management, not forgetting the taxis, are important aspects of everyday work. 

Rob Connell from Nolwenture went through different funding options.

For testing the initial business idea and getting it further, the draft funding is a good tool. In Eastern Finland the Draft Program gives a chance to make small-scale experiments and develop one’s business idea without bureaucracy. The program is available for students and staff of Karelia UAS, University of Eastern Finland, Riveria, Savonia UAS and Savo Consortium for Education. Andrei Potekhin shared his experiences on how to take things further with a small draft money. He pointed out that the draft application process teached him how to pitch the idea and how to convince the audience to believe with you to your idea. 

The Support for Upcoming Entrepreneurs with Foreign Background 

TalentHub Joensuu Project is part of national Talent Boost program that aims at making the Finnish labour market and business more open, responsive and attractive to international talents. The one aim of the event series was to lower the threshold to take the next step from an initial business idea to the action. Many participants felt it very useful to have several opportunities to discuss and reflect their business ideas with people who actually had realized their ideas and with professional business coaches, that are aware of all the details and things you need to take into account at the start. 

In every event day there was also a speaker from an organisation that supports the entrepreneurs. North Karelia Federation of Finnish Enterprises, Business Joensuu and Business Finland introduced their different services for entrepreneurs. It’s important to notice that a lot of help and support is available also in English. The Finnish language is not needed in starting a business in Finland, though, it may help. 

For example Business Finland offers different kind of fundings for companies and entrepreneurers in varying phases of the business. Among the multiple options for funding Veli-Pekka Ihanus introduced Start-up Permit that is a residence permit for startup entrepreneurs coming from outside EU/ETA countries. The start-up permit is for international growth entrepreneurs to build a startup company in Finland and to become part of Finland’s vibrant startup ecosystem. 

Business Coach Timo Ruohio underlined that the main task of the Business Joensuu’s coaching services is to ease the way to become an entrepreneur and to figure out answers to the questions in mind. Nothing has to be already solved when contacting Business Joensuu coaching services. The services offer individual support, reflection and advices. 

Was it Useful? What Next? 

At the end of the seminar TalentHub Joensuu asked some feedback from the participants. According to Farzaneh Esmaeili the event series was very comprehensive one and gave, as promised, the ABC information on how to start a new business. The way the event days introduced different fundings and organisations that help starting entrepreneurs, was escpecially valuable to her  

All together c. 70 different persons participated to the event series. 13 of them received individual sparring with keynote speakers or business coaches and many of the people sparred have agreed on further meetings and are working with their ideas. It is interesting to see what kind of new businesses will flourish in Joensuu area in years to come. 

Riikka Simonen, project manager, TalentHub Joensuu
Kirsi Autio, project specialist, TalentHub Joensuu
Karelia University of Applied Sciences