Denise Johansson Finnish woman entrepreneur business Enfuce CEO

“We agreed to commit to this journey 100%, but without sacrificing our families” – Denise Johansson Co-founder and CEO of Enfuce License Services, COO of Enfuce Group

“Will you regret all the nights away from home when the kids get older?” Like any other mompreneur, Denise Johansson has reflected on this matter a lot – how to balance between family and work, choosing to spend times with her husband and the kids or her colleagues and clients. But she has found a sweet solution for it! Explore her learnings and insights shared in the in-depth story below!

I grew up in the southeast part of Finland, in Hanko. My parents divorced before I turned one so I mainly grew up with my mum, siblings and the family from mom’s side. My grandma and my aunt both played big roles in my childhood. Like most kids growing up in small cities I thought I would live in a big city as a grown-up, I hated that “everyone knew everybody”, and definitely did not see any charm in that.

‘I always had to get my voice heard and to fight for what I want’

I’m the youngest of three siblings, with my sister being 9 years older and my brother 2 years respectively. Being the youngest sibling has probably formed me a lot into who I am today. I always had to get my voice heard and fight for what I want, otherwise, the elder siblings would have called all the shots. 

I come from a family of entrepreneurs both on my mom’s and dad’s side. This is why my opinion on entrepreneurs has been formed quite early on, and it was not a positive one. I thought it was way too much hustle, without any time off, so it did not appeal to the young me at all. 

‘I envied my friends whose parents took long summer vacations and spent whole weeks with them’ 

My whole family was saying that I will become either an entrepreneur or a politician, as I always fight for what I believe in and I could never accept things being run in inefficient ways. But hearing them saying that made me even more determined not to end up as either of those.

I had two career dreams growing up: police or lawyer. I think I was mostly influenced by the tv-series I watched, as I didn’t know anyone having those careers. I actually even applied for both. The lawyer dream ended up with me having the entrance exam booked and all books in a pile at home, and deciding I won’t make the actual effort of reading them. The police dream ended up with me being excluded from the process for being too short. 

Me and my co-founder, Monika Liikamaa used to work really well together. We did so for five years when she quit from the place where we both worked. When she left, instead of saying good-bye we just made a pact that we will be collaborating again at some point in the future. 

‘I said YES before even knowing what we were about to do‘

It was just two or three months later that Monika called me. I remember being outside playing with my two kids in our garden when I received the call. She was asking whether now is a good time for us to start something together. 

I was on maternity leave with my youngest at that point, and I already decided to take time to reflect on what I want to do going forward. I don’t know if it was that the opportunity was right in front of me, or the lack of opportunities in my then working place that made me take the decision of becoming an entrepreneur.

“I said YES before even knowing what we were about to do” - Denise Johansson Co-founder and CEO of Enfuce License Services, COO of Enfuce Group

‘My husband had only one demand: to never put our home as security for the company‘

I just knew inside me that I needed to do something new. If I was going to jump out of my safety nest together with someone else, it would have been with her.  After accepting my former colleague’s proposal, I also told my husband. He never doubted or questioned my decision. He gave me his full support.

We had bought a brand-new house just four weeks earlier and by then just got the approval from the bank for two house loans. We were eight months away from moving to the new house. But he never doubted my passion for doing something new. He had only one demand: to never put our home as security for the company, which I found fair enough.

‘If you need words of encouragement to become an entrepreneur, don’t become one‘

When it comes to the rest of my family and my friends, I would say I neither had their full support nor did I lack it completely. I was only looking for support from my husband, the rest just got the news and had to accept it. 

I think Elon Musk said that “If you need words of encouragement to become an entrepreneur, don’t become one”, and I tend to agree with that. 

‘You need to find encouragement within yourself, you can’t count on a large support group’ 

If your guts tell you don’t do it, then don’t do it. Don’t base your decision on the encouraging or discouraging words of others. 

I had no role-model in becoming an entrepreneur. I still don’t think I have any, even though I admire many entrepreneurs.

After I and Monika decided what we wanted to do, she invited some additional contacts of hers to join in. We founded Enfuce a couple of months later. We were all-in-all five co-founders, with diverse knowledge and characteristics which complement each other.

The starting process went from zero to 100% in seconds. Our goal was to incorporate in Enfuce what each of us has been working on previously. So in one sense we just kept doing what we always had been doing. But this time around, we did it together by building a new company and a new brand with bigger and greater visions and missions than we had before.

“I said YES before even knowing what we were about to do” - Denise Johansson Co-founder and CEO of Enfuce License Services, COO of Enfuce Group
Two the co-founders of Enfuce: Denise Johansson and Monika Liikamaa

’There are many obstacles when founding a new company’ 

I think most entrepreneurs could write their own book about them. Some are similar to others, some are industry-specific and some are just company or team-specific. I believe that all entrepreneurs can agree on one thing:  there will be obstacles and your success won’t be determined by simply facing the obstacles, rather by how you face them. For those thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, I advise you to be prepared for hard times. 

’Don’t get scared about hick-ups and shit-storms, just trust in yourself and in the idea you have and pull through!’ 

I’m a mom of two, a boy that is 8 years old and a daughter who just turned 6. When we started to draft on the idea of Enfuce my daughter had just turned one, and we had quite a bumpy road with my pregnancy. She was born 8 weeks premature, weighing only 1410g. So one year before founding Enfuce I was spending most of my time in the hospital feeling guilty of not spending enough time with my three-year-old son. Going from that to founding a company within a year can seem as I rushed into this, but I don’t feel like that. 

Our family came out on the other side of this life challenge and I was eager to find myself again. It was during this time that Monika called me, and of course, I had to reflect on my family situation and make a conscious decision whether it was good timing not only for me but for my family as well.

“I said YES before even knowing what we were about to do” - Denise Johansson Co-founder and CEO of Enfuce License Services, COO of Enfuce Group

’Relationships are not about quantity, but about quality’ 

In order to be successful as an entrepreneur, you will realize that time management is one of the keys to success. It’s not about time spent on an item, but on what you do with that time. 

I’m not the mom who spends the most time with my kids or my husband. But the time I do spend with them I tend to treasure and make sure it’s of high quality. Relationships are not about quantity, but about quality.

Before our journey with Enfuce started, my world revolved more or less around our kids. During the past years, I have learned to share the responsibility equally with my husband. 

’My husband’s presence and support have been another key to my success’

I still don’t like it when people are amazed by my husband taking “such a big responsibility”. Our male co-founders do not receive the same “compliment” regarding their wives. It still stands out when a wife and a mom is the one fulfilling her dreams…

One thing we (the five co-founders) agreed on when founding Enfuce was to commit to this journey 100%, but without sacrificing our homes or families. This means that there have been times when some of us needed to put extra effort and time into our families. But we’ve always had the other four “covering our back”. So we have been able to give the families the extra time when needed. This is one of the reasons I’m so grateful for us being five co-founders, instead of driving a business all on my own.

’I have been asked over the years if I think I will regret all the nights away from home when the kids are older’

I can honestly say that this is something I have reflected upon, but I’m as sure as one can be that I won’t. My children know that women can be successful in whatever they do, my children grow up with a mom who is passionate about what she does and I show them that by being passionate you will make anything work and you find the energy to do it all. 

At the same time, our children learn what equality in a household means. And it means that whatever you have on your heart you can always go to mom or dad, and it doesn’t matter who is doing the laundry or is picking you up from day-care. The most important thing is that we, as a family, keep the wheel spinning every day, every week, month after month…

“I noticed that I have a hard time recognizing the satisfying moments when they actually happen”

I’m mostly just ticking things off and moving to the next item on the list. But when I look back at our now 4,5-year journey there are a lot of things I’m very proud of. Both big and small. 

I remember when we put our signatures on the first customer deal, when we posted our first open position, when we went live with our service, when we reached 20-30-40 and so on employees (today more than 70 employees).

But it is also about smaller things, like greeting new employees to the company and listening to their story of why joining Enfuce. I always like those. Or when we have some virtual coffee breaks and I just get a chance to listen to all different people’s wins of the week.

“The biggest lesson I learned is: Never set a plan B”

It goes back to all the difficulties we faced, and all challenges thrown at us every single day. If we would have had a plan B I’m sure we would have given up at some point, because the alternative would have sounded better.  You know the saying: “grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”. 

Today I and Monika have our joke when we call each other: “so, what’s the current shit-storm, and how deep in the shit are you standing?” Then we laugh at it and we find a solution. We never panic, we are never incapable of finding solutions. 

“I said YES before even knowing what we were about to do” - Denise Johansson Co-founder and CEO of Enfuce License Services, COO of Enfuce Group

“We just pull up our sleeves and continue to work”

There is no professional and personal life after entering the entrepreneurial world. It’s the life path you have chosen. Counting hours or defining when you are allowed to work or not will either destroy your family or prevent your company from reaching its full potential. 

“Entrepreneurship is a way of living, it’s your work life and your hobby, all at the same time”

I was born the way I am and gained some characteristics growing up. As it turns out, my personality and my capabilities fit well with being an entrepreneur. 

I think that you are either born to do it or not. I don’t think you can acquire all the necessary traits. But then it’s also about timing in your life. I would not have been ready for the entrepreneurial journey in my twenties. It was not about skills I needed to gain, it was about gaining knowledge in a wider concept, about life in big and small, and about the industry as a whole. I needed to mature as an individual to start and get here.

“There is nothing I dislike about being an entrepreneur”

Or now I might be lying. I could live without some of the stomach pain all the difficulties have caused me and will cause me in the future. But on the other hand, without them, we would not be where we are and anything less than this would not make me happy either. It comes as a package deal, and for all the hard times we have pulled through we gained more knowledge, better understanding, and a clearer way forward.

In my personal life, I would say that I’m better at time management today than I was before. When I spend time with someone other than my family, it’s always a conscious decision. Why would I spend time with energy thieves? And my children are growing up with a mom who is showing passion towards her work and how life is about constant learning and believing in yourself and your capabilities.

“I trust in quality time and in deep relationships, and that is what I’m giving my children”

The top-three personality characteristics essential for an entrepreneur are: 

  1. Perseverance. Just keep moving forward. You will make mistakes, don’t be afraid of them, but learn and continue to trust that you are making the right decision at all points in life.
  2. Self-awareness of strengths and weaknesses. Get a good understanding of things you are not doing well and find someone else to do them. Channel your own energy into your strengths and you will continue to feel passionate and see results!
  3. Good communication. Poor communication skills will lead to poor results. No matter how good you think you are, you will need to sharpen your communication skills. And communication is a two-way street. It’s about listening AND talking. And making sure all parties understand things in the same way.

The activities I believe in are: plan – execute – evaluate – re-plan

This can be implemented on small as well as big projects. For bigger investments, all parts take a little more time and effort. But making the use of this concept a habit is something that will help you achieve your smaller goals, too.

Planning is about understanding what you want to achieve and how you are going to achieve it. 

Execution is about doing the work required to get where you want

Evaluation is about taking time to reflect if you are still heading in the right direction? Do you still believe in the plan? Have you identified all parts? 

Re-plan is about using new knowledge and translating that into your plan. Identify what you are doing good and where time is just wasted. Set or reset the direction and again identify how you will get there.

This piece of advice is a common cliché, but oh, so true “Success is a journey, not a destination. So enjoy the journey as much as you think you will enjoy the destination”.

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Enfuce is an innovative payment service provider. Enfuce offers payment and open banking services to banks, fintechs, financial operators, and merchants. By combining industry expertise, innovative technology and compliance, they have been delivering long-term and scalable solutions fast and secure. Established in 2016, Enfuce employs 70 driven professionals in the Nordics and has close to 10 million end-users on their platform.


Maria-Anca Catană
Maria-Anca Catană
Teacher, Writer, Editor, Project Coordinator, Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Promoter, and Intercultural Communicator. My goal? To build bridges: between generations, between cultures, between people and businesses. Have a cool job/freelance opportunity? Get in touch: ancam.catana(at)

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