Stories

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.

“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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!

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“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.

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“Don’t become an entrepreneur!” – Daniel Rahman, Co-founder & CEO of Integrify

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.

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Aki Soudunsaari founder Naava green sustainable workplace furniture green walls plants

“The business was founded to solve my own health problem” – Aki Soudunsaari, Co-founder of Naava

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).

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juhani polkko marketing agency in finland san francisco oy PR communication

“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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Valeria Gasik UX Design Selma Finance Investment Helsinki Finland Ukraine

“Don’t start with registering your company” – Valeria Gasik, Co-founder of Selma Finance

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.

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Tomi Kaukinen, Keynote Speaker Licence To Fail Entrepreneur Helsinki Stockholm Ironman

“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.

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“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! 

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“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. 

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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