Everyone has a unique story, especially entrepreneurs. Their stories of failure and success, of struggling and thriving can help inspire and encourage people to embrace entrepreneurship or to do things they are passionate about but have never get started.
“Do not rush into entrepreneurship without proper preparation”, Igor Soroka – Independent Software Consultant at Soroka Tech
An independent software consultant who always finds great opportunities and continuously learns throughout his working experiences, no matter how hard the situation is, Igor Soroka still manages and thrives for success. Entrepreneurship has become a part of Igor, and it means more than just businesses.
“Be careful with your dream, what you visualize, become your reality”, Luis Bellido – Founder of Metacomics
“Fighting” against his parents to pursue his love for architecture and design. Then after six years working as an architect, Luis felt something was not right. He knew deep down there was a desire to travel and explore. So he left his hometown in Lima – Perú and started a whole new life in Finland.
“Money is only a by-product of value created!” – Kelvin Chikezie, CEO & Co-Founder at Digital Growth Boost
Driven by an urge to make the world a better place, even after he’s gone, his hunger for knowledge and willingness to learn taught him entrepreneurship is truly about helping people and providing value, rather than just making money
“When one thing doesn’t work out, try something else. Failing at one thing may be exactly what enables you to succeed at something else” – Erasmus van Niekerk, CEO and Owner at SEP Solutions
Growing up in South Africa taught Erasmus the value of the family and how to tell a good story, but the tight budget pushed him to entrepreneurship in high school, where he became a “candy dealer”. How did he get from there to get vetted distributors in 40 countries interested in his and his wife’s products? Read on to find the whole story!
“We built our prototype by using hot glue and nail polish” – Janne Kyllönen, Founder & COB at QuietOn
Janne Kyllönen is Chief Product Officer and Chairman of Board at QuietOn Ltd. His team develops earplugs that use active noise cancellation and are designed to reduce low frequency ‘bass’ noises that traditional products can’t block, such as the hum of aeroplane engines, snoring, and normal background noise. QuietOn is the only active noise cancelling device which can be used for sleeping and has more than 50000 happy customers all around the world.
“Finnish education is great, but you don’t learn how to sell & present yourself there”, Sirkku Hahn – Founder & CEO of INARI Arctic Cosmetics
Sometimes the passion for entrepreneurship can come from the people around you but Sirkku Hahn discovered her’s through doing it herself. The enthusiasm she found being an entrepreneur, even at the age of 12, stuck with her
“Gaining access to my family’s computer without my parents’ approval back then has changed my life” – Jarvis Luong, CTO at Reactron
Programming has piqued Jarvis Luong’s interest since the age of ten. By deep-diving into his father’s IT books and materials, Jarvis gained access to his family’s computer without his parent’s approval. Since then he has nurtured his passion for IT and realized his dream of becoming a tech entrepreneur and CTO at Reactron Technologies, creating his own company culture, job opportunities and helping customers make their business visions a reality.
“You should feel excited when dialing a new number, butterflies in your belly, imagining the potential of meeting someone who can turn out to be a great client. It’s not a chore: it’s an adventure!” – Stefan Carrizo, Co-founder of ROND
A passionate, stubbornly hopeful, and courageous international living in Finland, who used to have no contact with entrepreneurship or the local language, Stefan Carrizo still gave his earnest shot to begin his journey as an entrepreneur in Finland. Despite all the difficult and challenging times, he still managed to get through, have fun along the way, and make it work.
Satu Niemelä is a two-time startup founder, a business consultant, and a funding specialist who has authored funding applications for tens of companies all of which have secured funding. She has helped take a product and a service from concept to international markets and is now using her skills, knowledge and experience to help others navigate the treacherous waters of product development.
“Never feel embarrassed about your product. Just launch it!”, Sari Hurme-Mehtälä – CEO & Co-founder at Kide Science
A brave and courageous mother of two who never believes in the pursuit of perfection and is not afraid of failure; she is an optimistic person and continuously learns as she goes. Now Sari Hurme-Mehtälä – CEO & Co-founder of Kide Science Oy is ready to share her own story of entrepreneurship and her passion for delivering meaningful things to the world.
“If the idea sucks, I want to see how it works in real life, not just in my mind”, Lynn Cu – Founder at Aurabear
Despite growing up learning that entrepreneurship is regarded as a high-risk game, Lynn defied all preconceptions and difficulties as a young immigrant female entrepreneur to establish her entrepreneurial journey in a foreign land
“There are no unnecessary hierarchies, we discuss things together and make them happen”, Ossi Ojala – Founder at Getaway Room Escape
Despite living in the same place for his whole life, Ossi Ojala has no shortage of vision and enthusiasm. He found the perfect fit for his sociable and risk-taking attitude in self-study at business school and one day hopes to be an investor
A brutally honest marketer who failed three times in the attempt to become a physiotherapist, Rémy Bertol has many lessons to share with us about success and failure, study and career, life and of course, entrepreneurship. He loves everything digital and is living his passion fully!
“I get to do the things I love and don’t need anyone’s permission”, Leea Mattila – Founder at MindLink
With a love for animals and her sights set on being a vet, Leea Mattila swore against entrepreneurship as a child after seeing how hard her mother worked. Now she sees entrepreneurship as the perfect fit for her lifestyle, and her work as enjoyable as a hobby
“Believe in yourself and price correctly”, Heidi Ekholm-Talas – Influencer & Entrepreneur at BSG Marketing Oy
Inspired by a passion for performance Heidi Ekholm-Talas became an entrepreneur almost by accident, seizing the opportunities that would come her way. But leadership and the entrepreneurial mindset is something she has known since childhood. Now she is a “lifestyle entrepreneur” as it’s more than just a job.
“The only way to become likeable is to be yourself”, Sjoerd Postema – a guy getting things done at ROND Productions
All Sjoerd wants is to invite you to join any of the ROND Productions events: have a great time, keep learning and enjoy a unique experience. Oh, no gatherings allowed this year? No problem, ROND has built a 100% virtual world that merges the best of 3D games with remote working tools for you to meet other people, explore new online spaces and have a blast along the way.
“Don’t fall into the trap of just building a good product”, Jesse Nieminen – Co-founder & Chairman of Viima
Jesse Nieminen co-founded Viima – the best tool for working teams to collect and develop ideas – at the end of his university study. He has a passion for building businesses and growing organizations to scale in the digital age.
“Losing a partner is the worst thing I have had to face”, Mikko Parkkila – CMO & Co-Founder at Radientum
In December 2015, Mikko Parkkila co-founded Radientum – a consultancy/engineering company focused solely on antenna design and support services. They have experts in simulation-driven designs capable of simulating antennas for very complicated products with an excellent match between simulated and measured results. The company has generated profitable results from the very first financial year.
“All small businesses deserve to know the secret to get more sales”, Antti Leijala – Lean-sales pioneer & CEO at UltraLeanBusiness Oy Ltd
Antti Leijala is an author of four books about business strategy & CEO of UltraLeanBusiness Oy Ltd. He makes use of his 20 years of experience in international business management and 15 years of expertise as an entrepreneur to help people achieve bigger success for their career or organization. One of his biggest achievements is the invention of the Internet of Competition (IoC) model.
“SMEs are far too underserved segment and deserve much higher pricing power”, Päivi Kangasmäki – CEO & Founder at riskrate
Päivi Kangasmäki changed her career path from the corporate world to entrepreneurship to follow her greatest passion – boosting SMBs Cash by a dynamic, predictive, and real-time risk rating. There’s a lot of difference and new lessons to learn, but she and her team in riskrate are determined to solve the problem that their customers are facing every day: the buyers’ willingness to pay.
Huong Tran is the co-founder of ROND House, a company whose mission is to bring urban life to the next level of fun, convenience, and comfort. After a brief teaching experience, plans to go to medical school and other study and work experiences, Huong is on a totally different career path far away from home. Together with her team, they work hard to give Helsinki citizens meaningful living experiences and a lifestyle rich in sharing, learning, and inspiring.
“2,5 years running a startup taught me more real-life skills, than what I had learned at university in 5 years.” – Elisabet Miheludaki, CEO & Founder of amplaffy.io
Elisabet founded amplaffy in 2017. Almost three years later, the team now is much bigger, more dedicated to pursue their mission – contributing to a borderless, mobile world, where anyone, anywhere has the same opportunities to realize their potential in their lifetime. The company personalizes data about startup jobs and learning resources that are currently scattered, making them easily accessible through a single node for better career planning.
“If I was a millionaire, I would still be building a company, just with fewer limitations”, Juho Kallio – CTO & Co-Founder of IPRally
As the co-founder of IPRally, Juho Kallio wants to create things that are unimaginable for most. Together with his dedicated team, they are building a technology company that may change the world – with a magnitude better patent search.
“I quit my corporate job in a foreign country to explore my passion with no networks, no Finnish skills, no knowledge of entrepreneurship and suddenly, with no source of income”, Priyanka Banerjee – Co-founder and CEO at BusinessWiz
Priyanka Banerjee is an entrepreneur and public speaker whose mission is to create an inclusive society where she wants to live in and could feel that she belongs without any labels. Her company BusinessWiz is founded based on over seven years of experience working with international clients and customers. With the profound understanding and know-how, her team is helping companies to optimize multicultural teams’ performance, turn workplace diversity and inclusion into competitive advantages.
“I used to work 10-12 hours per day including weekends” – Trung Nguyen, CEO & Co-founder of Reactron Technologies
Trung Nguyen co-founded his company Reactron Technologies to help bring the human touch back to tech consultancy. Covering a range of tech development tools, his team stick to their motto: “Customers cannot wait, but we can always wait for our customers.”
“Having a side business doesn’t mean you’re putting in half the effort” – Chris Moore, CPO at ReceiptHero
I don’t really believe I’m your typical entrepreneur. I wasn’t selling homemade lemonade on the side of the road as a kid. I’ve not followed the path of building something due to a personal pain point nor been passionate about something that deeply that I’d spend years and years fixing that problem. My early career has mostly been dipping in and out of a lot of startups, in different industries and in a variety of job roles.
“Being a mompreneur is not easy but it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made” – Anna Juusela, Founder & CEO of We Encourage
Can a movie change your life? This is the case for Anna after watching a documentary about forced marriage which made her so frustrated and angry that she decided she must do something about it! The only problem was, she did not know “how”. Anna thought until the age of 50, she might figure out some ways to help the girls and women. But then another event happened, which totally changed her plan!
Persistence is a key trait of any entrepreneur and Lari is no different. After many months of dedication and numerous business plans, he has kept the focus on always improving and using setbacks as learning points. Lari shares with us the motto which has contributed to the success of his business – everything can be (and should be) made simple with the right approach.
“Dare to try – Many dreams die because people worry too much about what others say” – Marko Höynälä, Founder of Skiiot, Cmicro & Kipuwex
Are all entrepreneurs innovators? The answer is yes with Marko’s case. Massive layoff sounds dreadful at first sight, but it turns out to be a good thing for this natural-born inventor. After 15 years of being an employee, Marko’s decision to pursue entrepreneurship was finally catalyzed when his company fired 650 people, including him.
Edem Abekey, Founder of Inkuto – a company that offers wide-ranging skincare products made from indigenous African natural resources. Edem is dedicated to promoting sustainability,
“We are a part of the transformation Finland is witnessing”, Anne Badan – Co-founder of The Shortcut
We couldn’t hide our surprise when Anne told us “I wish my organization would not exist”. But don’t get it wrong. Anne loves what she’s doing and the people around her. She just expresses her honest view on the problem they are solving – the mismatch of talents in the Finnish job market.
Since early childhood, Daniel Rahman has seen the contrast between Finland’s inefficient labour market and the job struggles people face when they first move here. He asks, “why aren’t we putting skilled workers into the jobs they’re qualified for?” Growing up, Daniel developed his interest in socioeconomics, especially the topic of the labour force and immigration.
Together with the determination to become an entrepreneur since he was in school, Daniel has followed his dream and successfully set up several companies, including Integrify – an organization that teaches software development and data science to talented and highly educated people and then connects them with jobs.
You can hardly be sure if you like something until you try it out. And it’s often the case that people take on the entrepreneurship journey unintentionally. Lasse’s story on how he became an entrepreneur is an example. Sometimes all it takes is just a motivation to do good things. And entrepreneurship comes as a powerful tool to achieve one’s dream.
Being raised under the northern lights and suffering from bad indoor air quality himself, Aki was so motivated to find a cure for his own trouble. With dedication and a belief in doing good, he turns out to be an entrepreneur “exporting” Finnish air to the world. In 2017, he was nominated to be among the finalists for EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year in Finland, also as PWC’s Most Valuable Entrepreneur (2015) and Young Academic Entrepreneur (2014).
“It’s hard to beat the buzz of creating cool content which goes viral” – Joel Willans, Co-founder & Creative Director at Ink Tank Media
Joel came to Finland after falling in love with a Finn, but the reason that kept him stay in the country is the weather. Joel loves the Finnish summer and how the social system works beautifully here. From his experience, he encourages Finland to open the door for immigrants more and see them as an advantage instead of a liability.
“Never force yourself to become an entrepreneur by all means” – Juhani Polkko, Founder of San Francisco Agency
Juhani has 700 apps on his phone – a shred of evidence to see how much interested he is in technology. He has always been fascinating about how computers and technology impact on human’s life and behaviors. He truly lives with his passion – either in Silicon Valley or Helsinki, every work he has been doing, mostly related to technology. People say it’s never too young or too old to start your business but Juhani believes the best time to try entrepreneurship is when you have some prior experience and not too much responsibility because entrepreneurship is all about uncertainty and risk-taking.
“I refused to give up even though others tell me to quit” – Josephine Atanga, CEO at JEHOM Driving School
As a foreigner, Josephine Atanga met problems that many other foreigners in Finland faced: lack of network, language barrier, limited source to finance her business. In the darkest times, she refused to give up and believed in her hardship as an opportunity to strengthen her personality and be unique. We believe her strong positive mindset is what makes Josephine stands out and achieve successes outside the norms.
“I work harder to prove to people that they were wrong” – Miikka Sipilä, Co-founder of Stolen Shoes Entertainment
Miikka is one of the “lucky ones” who could turn their hobby into a profession. His story shows that it is definitely not easy, but possible, and in fact, well worthwhile in the long run. As an entrepreneur, building a circle of professional networks is undoubtedly important yet arduous. It’s even more challenging if you are a youngster, having almost no connection, started your career from scratch in a new city. However, with a big dream, hard work, and active participation in several events, Miikka has made his own way to get to where he wanted to be.
“Being an entrepreneur is the fastest way to get something done” – Antti Merilehto, Founder of AI Strategy Company
“Different technologies are soon like Finnish lager beer – it all tastes the same”. Antti writes, coaches, and gives speeches about one of the hottest, most discussed topics – Artificial Intelligence. But that’s not all about him. Besides the speaking style of an author, he has the mindset of a businessman, the heart of a soldier, and the world view of a politician.
Becoming co-founder in a startup in investment service, without having a background in finance. Living between the Ukrainian and Finnish cultures. Working as a freelancer for more than five years and founding a startup for sound-scaping, without consciously pursuing an entrepreneurial career. And many more interesting stories that Valeria has shared with us about her journey on finding a passion for designing and entrepreneurship.
“Entrepreneurship is like falling in love and getting married” – Tomi Kaukinen, Founder of Licence to Fail
What we learned from Tomi is that burnout is real, it can happen to anyone. But it’s not necessarily something to be afraid of. Because the worst moments in our lives can be the ones that make us who we are. During the interview, there were not so many questions to be made because we were blown away by his compelling story about how he made it from a construction worker to a student at Sweden’s top university, what lessons he has after founding several startups, and how he overcame depression and find meaning in life again.
“Running a business used to be the worst thing I could think of for my career” – Sonja Mednikova, Founder of BySonjamed
As a natural-born non-procrastinator, Sonja shared with us her own simple-yet-powerful remedy for procrastination – how to stay focus and efficient in this modern world full of distraction. When being asked “What would you do when the business doesn’t go the way you wanted?”, she answered without hesitation that she and her team would change the strategy until they find something that works. Quitting on the business is not her solution. How interesting it is to see Sonja now as a dedicated entrepreneur while years ago her view on entrepreneurship is nothing but boring!
“It does not feel right in the beginning, until you gain momentum” – Tan Lay, Video Marketing Consultant
“A video is not a product” – We did not expect to hear this at all from a video producer. But after Tan shared with us the insights about the traditional film industry and today video marketing production, we are completely convinced. Tan only started his entrepreneurship journey after settling down in Finland for six years. Before that, he worked for a TV production company and struggled with the language barrier. However, instead of complaining, he accepts the fact that without Finnish, he shouldn’t be hired as an employee in a Finnish firm and moved on to set up his own business.
“My motto is that, you have to show your capability and value first by doing work for free” – Vanitsri Tirkkonen, Founder of The Finnish Thai Association ry
Vanitsri is a type of people who can make you feel at home right from the first meeting. During the talk, we could see it’s the care for Thailand, her home country that has lightened and kept glowing the fire of patriotism in her heart. “Patriotism is a thing difficult to put into words. It is neither precisely an emotion nor an opinion, but a state of mind.” Vanitsri chose to show her love for Thailand by concrete actions. All major works she has been doing in her career share the same purpose – to promote her nation and support her fellow citizens.
“Owning a business is more stable than being employed” – Alexander Spelman, Founder of Spelman Media
Alexander just celebrated his 20th birthday 3 weeks ago. Coming from an international family where his father is Russian and his mother is half Estonian half Russian, he became an entrepreneur at the age of 16. But make no mistake, age doesn’t define him and age “really doesn’t matter”, as Alexander shared in his story. Our interview was supposed to be within an hour but it turned out to be a two-hours insightful talk about entrepreneurship, education and investment. We were amazed by his perspective on life and business. It was beyond our expectations that we learned so much from such a young man.
“One of the most important activities for entrepreneurs is to go on vacation” – Raija Lehtinen, Owner of Punainen Lanka
It was a busy day close to Midsummer. We met Raija in her colorful button and textile accessory store – Punainen Lanka (“The Red String” in English) – at Hakaniemi market hall. Customers came every now and then during our interview. There was one lady came looking for badges. Raija and she had a long conversation like two friends after a long time no see. We thought the lady must be a regular customer. But later Raija told us this was the first time they met. We were amazed by her customer service. She treats customers in a way that makes them want to buy and keep coming back.
“Entrepreneurship is not all roses – if you want to play this game, get ready to sacrifice something” – Jesse Khanh Tran, Co-founder of RENS
We met Jesse Khanh Tran on a sunny Wednesday in June. He arrived a bit late but with a reasonable excuse: He had been bitten by a dog just a couple of minutes ago. It was very unfortunate and we all felt sorry for him. But what surprised us was that Jesse came to the café with a big smile. And the way he told us about the accident was like a good thing had just happened. Jesse explained that he felt lucky a lot because the dog was vaccinated and it was a flesh wound. Later on in our interview, Jesse shared his opinion on “being positive” then we understood why he could focus solely on the positivity of a difficult situation.