If you are an international living in Finland and planning to make your long-time dream of entrepreneurship come true, the country offers a variety of great support systems and networks that can boost your success with integration and business aspirations alike. Here are some examples of what’s available and where you can find them.

Living in Finland for 13 years, I’ve witnessed a significant transformation in how internationals and expat entrepreneurs are supported within the ecosystem, along with the opportunities available to them. When I arrived, I remember signing all the official papers in Finnish without knowing what I am actually putting my signature to. Today most of the official papers, laws, rules, guidances are available in English and when you are dealing with city officials, the tax office, or the healthcare system, you can always request an English speaker.

These efforts are a response to the rapid internationalization of the country. According to Statistics Finland, every 7th person in Finland aged 30-34 and living permanently in the country was of foreign background at the end of 2020. Additionally, every 4th person in the Greater Helsinki area within the same age group and residency status was of foreign background.

Skillshare by Timea Gál Jäger about ChatGPT for entrepreneurs

New efforts

Certain cities, like Espoo, responded to this change in demographics by making English as one of their official service languages – meaning you can smoothly handle any official papers and errands without speaking a word in Finnish.

Others, like Business Turku, redesigned their start-up accelerator program with internationals in mind and made the BusinessUp Program available for all, for free, offering all courses, mentorships, and networking opportunities fully in English – you can move to Finland and learn how to run a business before you start learning the language.

NGOs are also pulling in their weight to make settling down and building a career and business easier. Startup Refugees, for example, supports refugees, asylum seekers, and other migrants in skill development and entrepreneurship. Likewise, International Working Women of Finland boasts with a community close to 10k members and aids the integration of expat women nationwide, with a particular emphasis on career.

In addition to these, there was a significant increase in communities created by internationals for internationals, mainly on a voluntary basis. These networks provide newcomers with the collective learnings & insights of hundreds or sometimes thousands of expats who walked the path before them and centre around various themes, demographics, and cities.

The river Aura flows through the city of Turku

Eyes on Turku

Turku, in particular, stands out as a vibrant hub with a multitude of communities. For example, International Women Community Turku & Southwest Finland provides peer support for expat women with everything integration related. Meanwhile, Girl Gone International’s Turku chapter is a fun, local but global community focused on networking. On a different note, Mothers In Business, speaks to women navigating a specific stage in their lives and careers. While communities for international men have been slower to emerge, they are now beginning to flourish. International Men Community Turku, for example, is less than 4-months old but already close to 100 members with great chances to reach the size of the others in the near future.

Benefitting from all these communities myself (ok, not the men one…) made it obvious how vital they are when redesigning your life. And entrepreneurship redesigns your life with the same force as relocation does, yet a community dedicated for us was still missing.

Skillshare by Yiran Chen about market validation 101

The story of a peer-support community

In January 2023 we got together with 2 of my entrepreneur friends for some dinner & wine. Without planning it, the conversation quickly turned to running a business in Finland. The chance to discuss with someone in the same situation was just too great to miss out on. While loved ones & friends want to offer all the support needed, odds are, if they are not international founders themselves, there will be hesitation in giving tips on how to deal with everything from clients to taxation, to entrepreneurs’ insurance – just to name a few. Not having someone to discuss these with is largely the reason why entrepreneurial loneliness kicks in.

Having first-hand experience of how that feels, we decided to address the problem. That’s how Entrepreneurs Turku was born – a vibrant peer-support community for small business owners from this region. To facilitate a meeting point between locals and expats, we encouraged both Finnish and international business owners to join and we also left it open to all genders. One year later we are past the 120-member mark. We get together for monthly meetings where we tap into the collective learnings of the group and get advice on whatever business issues we are faced with. Meetings culminate in a short skill share session where one of our entrepreneurs takes the stage to teaches us about their field of expertise: SEO, stress management, ChatGPT, Canva, offer creation – we’ve covered them all.

So, in addition to all the previously mentioned support systems, Turku has now a community as well to support entrepreneurs. If you are in need to bounce ideas with other founders, join us and we’d be excited to see you at the next meeting!

The next generation

But what about entrepreneurs from other cities or those who have not registered their business yet? Worry not, you won’t be falling through the gaps!

Faced with a demand for a similar, country-wide group that serves both business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs, I rolled up my sleeves for the second time and founded Next-Gen Entrepreneurs of Finland. Regardless of where in the country you are located and what stage your business is in, you are free to join and mingle with like-minded people and get tips & tricks, news, information about events, and lively discussions around everything business-related.

While the two groups covered some gaps in the growing ecosystem of international entrepreneurs, the work is never really done. I hope that the above two examples don’t just provide additional communities to join but encourage my doer peers to roll up their sleeves themselves and create more specialized communities around their specific interests. I’ll be honest, it will take time and effort, but a rising tide lifts all boats and a thriving entrepreneurial community benefits society as a whole – so it’s worth it. In addition to that, when you align your values and interests, things become easier, and they make sense.

Meanwhile, use all the programs, support, and communities of which Finland has many! They can greatly ease your journey and can have a profound effect on your success. Entrepreneurship is not always easy, so be intentional about building networks that can help. As Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” and when you become an expat entrepreneur it gives tremendous value if one of those five also walked the path.

About the author:

Timea is a Hungarian expat and the founder of Mavenhaus, a sales and business development consultancy company from Turku. She is also the Chief Operation Enthusiast at Tech Enthusiast, a company specialized in educational content production for fortune 500 enterprise IT companies. 2023 Timea became the co-founder of Entrepreneurs Turku and the founder of Next-Gen Entrepreneurs of Finland, creating much needed communities for entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs from Finland. In the same year, she took the role of Head of Strategic Partnerships at International Working Women of Finland building strategic partnerships with the business sector to amplify the impact of IWWOF.

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