On 11 November, the City of Helsinki organised an Entrepreneurship Fair, which was attended by over a hundred Helsinki residents interested in entrepreneurship. The participants were able to take advantage of free expert advice and hear about experiences in entrepreneurship.
“We want to raise our clients’ awareness of entrepreneurship and remind them that entrepreneurship is also a viable way to employ oneself. There are still many fears and misconceptions about entrepreneurship, which we aim to dispel in our business services,” says Tuomas Järvinen, Service Manager for the City of Helsinki Employment Services.
The Entrepreneurship Fair showed that unemployed jobseekers are also interested in entrepreneurship. In fact, many of the participants took advantage of the city’s business advisory services at the pop-up points. The day of the fair included information sessions on acquisitions, personal branding, productisation, marketing, sales and entrepreneurial services. In addition, entrepreneurs shared their experiences.
“Peer support from other entrepreneurs is important for those who are just thinking about whether they would have the courage to become an entrepreneur,” believes Business Adviser Hannele Kostiainen.
Low-threshold entrepreneurship and light entrepreneurship have increased
The change in working life is reflected in the rise of low-threshold entrepreneurship: According to Uusi työ ry, the number of light entrepreneurs alone has increased fivefold in Finland over the past five years.
A large number of the clients of the City of Helsinki’s Employment Services are immigrants, long-term unemployed and young people under the age of 30.
“Selling your skills and searching for a job share many of the same elements that support each other. Both require seeking knowledge and marketing your expertise. There certainly are people among the unemployed jobseekers who have the potential to become entrepreneurs,” says Tuomas Järvinen.
The Entrepreneurship Fair helps with marketing and networking
Nina Vanne came to the Entrepreneurship Fair to seek encouragement for her own business. She stated that she was particularly inspired by the speeches of the cafe entrepreneurs Maria Nuutinen as well as Anna and Elli Uuksulainen who took the stage at the fair.
“I admire entrepreneurs like them who do their work with great motivation. On the other hand, there is then the risk that it is difficult to draw a line between work and leisure.”
Vanne says she used to work in the restaurant industry but then decided to stay at home with her children for several years. Now, the situation in life could be favourable for her to start her own business. She has outlined a business idea around crafts and party services.
“What scares me most about entrepreneurship is marketing myself because it doesn’t come naturally to me. I know I should become more active on social media.”
Dance artist Ville Välikoski is familiar with marketing, having lived in London for eight years and studied at the University of the Arts. Välikoski even managed to get roles in Hollywood films.
“In the UK, you have to push yourself as the competition for dance roles is fierce and the number of applicants is many times higher than in Finland. The number of arts and culture professionals in Finland is smaller, but so are the productions, and they are often distributed to people who are known from before. I have been away from Finland for so long that I am now trying to re-establish networks here,” says Välikoski.
He stated that he came to the Entrepreneurship Fair to find new channels for his work and information on starting a business. Välikoski, who recently moved to Finland with his American wife, has so far worked freelance through invoicing services.
“I would like to bring more diverse event production to the Finnish cultural scene and find spaces where artists can work together.”
Buying a business is also a way to become an entrepreneur
The City of Helsinki’s Enterprise Services and Helsingin Uusyrityskeskus ry have an extensive network of expert partners, who provided information on topics such as the self-employed persons’ YEL insurance, accounting, the Unemployment Fund for Entrepreneurs and franchising entrepreneurship at the Entrepreneurship Fair.
Curious visitors especially gathered at the Yrityspörssi.fi stand, where CEO Meri Varkoi-Anhava talked about the opportunities regarding company acquisitions. Within the next ten years, up to 50,000 companies are expected to change ownership in Finland.
“Buying a business is a good way to start your entrepreneurship because then you don’t have to start everything from scratch. There is likely to be cash flow and staff already,” says Varkoi-Anhava.
Statistics also support the profitability of acquisitions: according to Finnvera, 90% of the acquired companies are still in operation three years after the acquisition. Varkoi-Anhava reminds that an acquisition does not always require substantial financing.
“For example, we at Yrityspörssi have had companies for sale starting from €5,000 and going up to €22 million.
International opportunities in the circular economy business
Sometimes the path to entrepreneurship can be the result of a long period of reflection. Tiia Ikonen, who runs the second-hand shop Urbaani Legenda in Kruununhaka, Helsinki, told her own story to a packed hall at the Entrepreneurship Fair and reminded the audience that it pays to hold on to your dream.
“I made my first business plan ten years ago, but for a long time the setting up of the company got pushed aside by other work,” recalls Ikonen.
She spent years in the restaurant business and then studied to become an interior constructor-artisan, and she also worked as a burlesque dancer and teacher. Tiia Ikonen has always had an interest in second-hand fashion, and it finally materialised into a business in April 2022, when she founded Urbaani Legenda.
“I also see international potential in responsible fashion and the circular economy. The fast fashion industry is undergoing a major transformation, and we are at the forefront of recycling in Finland.”
Ikonen’s dream is to expand her company to other parts of Europe as well as to acquire a sister company for Urbaani Legenda in Finland.
“Good partners are important because they always give you new insights and ideas for your own work.”
The Entrepreneurship Fair is part of the local government pilot on employment
The Entrepreneurship Fair is part of the local government pilot on employment that started in spring 2021. At that time, 50,000 unemployed jobseekers were referred from the Employment and Economic Development Offices (TE Offices) to the City of Helsinki Employment Services. The aim of the local government pilot on employment is to promote the employment of unemployed jobseekers and direct them to the courses and services offered by the city.
The City of Helsinki Employment Services have a large number of clients with an immigrant background. A similar entrepreneurship fair will also be organised in English for those interested in entrepreneurship on 9 December 2022. Sign up for the event here.
All the free courses offered by the City of Helsinki related to starting and developing a business can be found in the events calendar.
News photo: At the Entrepreneurship Fair organised by the City of Helsinki’s Business Services, participants were able to take advantage of free expert advice and hear about experiences in entrepreneurship. Photos: Sanna Wallenius