‘The most effective part was the group - people from very different backgrounds and cultures. We encouraged and sparred each other. We learned from each other and from Business Joensuu’s brilliant mentors,’ says Ivan Alidjaja, the entrepreneur at Pohon Oy, summarising his experience of Business Joensuu’s START coaching.

Ivan Alidjaja participated in Business Joensuu’s START coaching at the end of last year. In the last two years, 158 entrepreneur-minded customers have participated in the group coaching. The training targeted companies established 0-3 years earlier. Each group consisted of a maximum of ten participants. International participants received coaching in English in four groups.

– People planning to start a business and early-stage companies are a very important target group for Business Joensuu. The group is also very heterogeneous. There are young people and students who are just starting to plan their careers. There are also older people, including professionals who have been in the working life for a long time. ‘The need for information and encouragement is shared by everyone,’ says Business Coach Satu Niiranen from Business Joensuu.

New home in Joensuu

Ivan Alidjaja is from a metropolis called Bandung, Indonesia. Alidjaja, who studied finance, business, marketing and IT, worked at the Finnish Embassy in Indonesia for 13 years before moving to Finland. Alidjaja and his family pondered the choice of the new home city between Helsinki, Tampere and Joensuu.

– The children had to choose their future high school. ‘I was aware that the level of education in Joensuu was high-quality. The city is international and safe. Joensuu is culturally attractive, people there are friendly. So, the children started their upper secondary school studies in the Lyseo upper secondary school in 2020.’

Small streams, large river

In 2021, Ivan Alidjaja founded Pohon Oy. Pohon is an online store for environmental solutions with a digital platform that allows users to buy and sell environmental solutions. The target group is broad, including private individuals, companies, authorities and local government.

Communication on the platform goes two ways. The aim is to find practical solutions for which expertise comes from the members of the Pohon community. The idea behind the company is that small and local environmental acts can grow to be significant – also globally.

During the development phase, Pohon selected Finland and Indonesia as its test sites. The countries are different but the basic needs in nature conservation are eventually similar: reducing litter, waste and pollution and tackling climate change, even if only by planting one tree.

In Finland, Pohon is interested in private forest owners. The average size of forest area in Finland is approximately 30 hectares.

– At the Pohon marketplace, a forest owner can commit to giving an amount of their forest area for protection. Parties supporting protection around the world can participate in protection with financial support through Pohon.

The testing of Pohon’s digital platform is in its final stages. According to Alidjaja, the marketplace will be launched during the summer.

With the power of the group

According to Ivan Alidjaja, finding networks has been the most difficult and also the most time-consuming part in the early stages of the company. Satu Niiranen from Business Joensuu recognises the need well.

– Networks play an important role for every start-up entrepreneur. It is a particular challenge for those who come to Finland from elsewhere often without any local contacts. Coaching for new entrepreneurs is an opportunity to build networks. ‘Time and time again, it has been great to see the power of teamwork – joy, energy, positive sparring, solving problems and moving forward,’ Niiranen says.

The working method of the groups is specifically coaching, not teaching. The goal of Satu Niiranen and her colleague, business coach Lasse Immonen, is for the entrepreneur to find their own potential through the power of the group. That is exactly what happened to Ivan Alidjaja.

– ‘The mentors made us think for ourselves, find the right tools and methods to proceed. The group’s support was extremely important. And even though the coaching weeks themselves are already over, the WhatsApp group established during the coaching still continues to keep in touch actively.’

One-shop stop luxury

The list of questions from start-up companies is extensive: from preparing a business plan, risk management, taxation and the economy to ensuring the adequacy of your own resources and time management. As a foreign entrepreneur, Ivan Alidjaja is happy that many things in online services aimed at companies are also explained in English.

– ‘Yes, and then this Business Joensuu – I am really happy that there is a place like this where an entrepreneur starting from the scratch can get all the information and help they need.’

More trained, innovative and active entrepreneurs such as Alidjaja are needed in North Karelia. According to Satu Niiranen from Business Joensuu, the growth is indicated by the fact that, for example, Karelia University of Applied Sciences has stated that it will triple the number of students coming from abroad.

– Karelia, Riveria and the University of Eastern Finland, among others, are the parties through which start-up companies and their coaching needs are created. ‘There is a need for group coaching and also for the development of coaching in the future,’ Niiranen emphasises.

Text: Sirkka-Liisa Aaltonen/Business Joensuu
Photo: Jarno Artika