Young people view entrepreneurship in a positive light. At least that is the case when listening to two entrepreneurs of less than thirty years of age, Essi Savola and Henry Klefström who, as soon as their entrepreneurial studies had begun, bought a summer café and the business operations of a company selling experiences.
What motivates these young people in entrepreneurship?
Essi and Henry are among the first graduates of Business Academy in Joensuu, which is a multidisciplinary learning path for Karelia University of Applied Sciences students aiming at entrepreneurship. Tourism student Essi, and Henry, who focuses on business economics, first studied their own field for 1.5 years, after which they commenced their practical entrepreneurial studies in January 2018. This meant that the students set up a cooperative called Bision, in which Essi and Henry learned in a team with seven other students, and completed different projects using their own competence. The studies included no lectures.
They spent the spring in the cooperative, and then it was time to think about possible summer jobs. A smaller team of Bision members considered the option of applying for paid employment, and wondered whether it would be possible to employ themselves through the cooperative. They noticed an advertisement for the sale of Rento summer café and Enjoy Life Finland, a company selling experiences.
– At first, we enquired about the possibility of renting a business, but the owner then asked if we were interested in buying the company. At the end, we made a deal. So many people were surprised that we were not scared of jumping into this, but eventually it was not as big a deal as you could imagine. It felt natural to try and do this, Essi says.
Essi and Henry felt that everyone was extremely enthusiastic about the new entrepreneurs, and there were various helping hands and advice available.
– I must say that the business services in Joensuu are really good. In the purchasing phase, for example, we received assistance from JOSEK. Our office is in the Science Park, where we have become acquainted with the folks of Business Joensuu. In addition, several articles were published about us, which gave us good visibility, Essi and Henry say.
The transfer of ownership had taken place two weeks earlier, when the small yellow summer café opened its doors with new energy on 1 May. This is when the heatwave started, which lasted throughout the summer, and the young entrepreneurs were thrown in the deep end: customers were already queueing up, while their own processes were still under way.
– We were caught with our pants down, so to speak. The heatwave began immediately at the opening, before we had learned the cash register system or even begun any development activities. This meant that everything had to be done alongside customer service. Without customers, it is difficult to learn the entire production process in such a scale, Henry describes their shocking early stages.
However, we became quickly familiar with the daily routines, and spent the summer running the café and offering guidance in canoeing. Their dream summer job had turned into reality.
– The memorable highlights include cycling to Rento in the morning and thinking ‘how cool, I’m going to the world’s best summer job’. Or when I managed to encourage some slightly nervous first-time canoeists to go out to the water, and I later saw them return all excited, swearing they would come back soon, Essi laughs.
Although it was busy, the young people developed Rento further: they applied for a licence to dispense alcohol, built an outhouse and renewed the terrace. Rento was also open at Christmas, and now in the spring, Essi and Henry are planning new things for the coming summer. At least, they plan to invest in sustainable development and various events.
Both 22-year-old Henry and 29-year-old Essi emphasise that, although entrepreneurship certainly requires courage, there is no reason not to set up a business as a young person. On the contrary, you can invest everything in the company in the most effective way.
– It is easy to run a business as a young person, as you do not necessarily have a family or a mortgage, which require regular income. You would certainly earn more in paid employment, but at least I value being the boss of myself so much higher. I do not see this as a matter of daring. Even if things now went pear-shaped, I have already created such large networks that I know I would find some sort of paid employment.
Both Essi and Henry heavily underline the significance of networks.
– As an entrepreneur, you have to network, but it happens very naturally. I was surprised to realise how warm and strong the mutual support between entrepreneurs seems to be. At least many entrepreneurs have presented themselves while visiting Rento, and asked if we could develop something together. It has felt very nice, Essi explains.
However, networking does not happen by itself.
– Of course it is challenging to be young: people do not necessarily know about you, you do not have any customers from your previous position, and you have to start from scratch. You have to consciously decide to network and create a foundation for your own future. However, if you start with small orders and complete them with excellent results, people get to know you and have confidence in your capability, Henry hints.
The duo encourages young people interested in entrepreneurship to use a variety of services and visit the various events taking place in the city.
– Business idea competitions such as Start Me Up, Young Entrepreneurs of Finland, Joensuu Entrepreneurship Society JoES, Business Incubator of Business Joensuu: there are plenty to choose from. It is easy to start from, for example, open lectures or events. I suppose it would be strange to try to network in a shop queue, but when like-minded people meet up at networking events, it creates a great feeling. I was also nervous at the beginning: I moved to Joensuu from another town without anyone I know, but gradually my network started to grow, Henry continues.
In general, Essi and Henry have a wonderfully fresh attitude towards entrepreneurship. As an entrepreneur, you are never alone, but there is always assistance and coaching available. And nothing is final.
– It is old-fashioned to think that an entrepreneur is either a millionaire or lives in eternal debt slavery. Moreover, you do not have to be an entrepreneur for the rest of your life. You can try it out alongside paid employment and see how far it takes you.
One thing, however, is highlighted above everything else – passion.
– If you cannot talk about your idea with a twinkle in your eye, it is not worth pursuing. Then it feels like work and drains your energy. However, if you’re excited about your idea, you do things for the simple joy of doing them, and it does not feel like work when you can experiment and try things out, Henry summarises.
At the moment, it looks as though entrepreneurship will be a strong part of both Essi’s and Henry’s life: Essi will focus on the development of tourism business, and Henry on the promotion of entrepreneurship.
– One of my projects is linked with setting up a business academy in universities of applied sciences. The promotion of entrepreneurship is also my personal mission, as the world of work is moving more and more in the direction of selling our own competence in different directions. I also have an idea for the Start Me Up competition, but it is not ready just yet. In the next few years, it will be, Henry reveals.