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Home > Life Stories > The Portfolio Entrepreneur - Finland - 1

The Portfolio Entrepreneur - Finland - 1

An art student from Belgium went to student exchange to Norway in the mid 90’s. There he met two boys from Finland and they became friends. After graduation Mr R – our art student – and his artist wife got interested in the idea of moving to Finland, to the same small town where his friends lived, because they valued the closeness of nature and peace. Mr R had a web company back in Belgium and some money he had inherited.

After moving to Finland Mr R sold the web company. But at the first it was that web company that enabled him to move to a new country and still have an income. After selling the firm, he first started to work as a teacher of media technology. He did that for two years, but did not like it too much. Then he worked as a graphic designer in a local advertising agency, but eventually it was closed down and he had to think of some other work. In that situation he had the idea of starting an agency of his own. He thought would be essential to have a Finnish partner, since he did not speak the language that well. He found a suitable partner. The deal was that he brought in the money and the Finnish partner the language skills into the company. These partners were also complementary by character –one spontaneous, the other more cautious. Of course they both had the vocational skills needed in the advertising business.

The company started solely as an advertising agency but then Mr R came to think that since there are always some fallow periods in creative work it would be nice to have something concrete to do while ‘waiting for inspiration’ which is how he came to think of establishing a café in the same premises. The café worked mostly as a way of marketing the advertising agency. It created a very good image for the company. Mr R was very keen to get some Belgian chocolates in the café but they were not available in Finland therefore he ended up importing them himself. This part of the business has expanded as Finland’s biggest retail trade chain has taken those chocolates into their selection. Eventually, a second café was established and he still has some ‘appetite’ to open up new cafés in bigger towns. So, Mr R thinks that he has become a portfolio entrepreneur quite accidentally within only four years.

Mr R feels that the most important pieces of advice he could offer for other immigrants starting up a business are a) be honest, b) do not deny where you are – that means you should mix the best of your own country into the cultural context of your new country, and c) be ready to work hard for your goals. It is not as easy for an immigrant to succeed as entrepreneur, since you and your doings will be monitored much more carefully than the doings of the Finns and you’ll have to start from a scratch, because you don’t have the network of people around you which you would have in your country of origin and in Finland knowing people is the key to successful business. 

Education and Culture Lifelong Learning Programme
© 2011 ELIE Project
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication [communication] reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.