Enterpreneurship is much about learning. It requires an adaptive mindset and a constantly evolving way of working. Entrepreneurship means working with determination to realise your vision which involves taking risks of opening your ideas to the world and sharing them by talking. If you want to initiate a change in the world you need to be ready to face uncertainties and ambiguities that you can’t fully control.
Taking risks, especially the financial ones, has always been one of the key definers of entrepreneurial activity. True, but there are also ways to be entrepreneurial without putting your house and family savings on stake. The risk you can seldom avoid is sharing your ideas with other people. One of the awakening experiences I got on our journey to Copenhagen and Amsterdam was to realise how much emphasis people we met put on communication and sharing. According to Juha van ‘t Zelfde from Non-fiction, a company we visited in Amsterdam, talking about ideas is crucial from the start. Being open and transparent and communicating what you do is important. The Non-fiction team involves the community already in the early phase for example by organising events and exhibitions in the space they plan to transform into something new. ”When people see the space ideas start to pop up”, Juha said. In the same way, talking about your idea aloud since the beginning helps you to find what you actually should be doing and how.
Talking to people is an entrepreneurial tool. It is a strategy to find problems that need to be solved, and – what is even more crucial to entrepreneurs – to identify solutions that bring added value which clients are ready to pay for. As Juha puts it: ”It is about trade-offs of who needs you, what you get from other and others from you. At the end it’s all about economics.” Talking involves certain risks though. Others most likely will challenge your ideas. They might also put them into perspectives you never thought of. Talking of something you don’t have ready answers for means stepping out from the comfort zone of your daily routines and expertise by exposing unready ideas and fuzzy visions to criticism and modifications but how else you could know what it is that the world needs?
Anke de Vrieze in the Farming the City office.
We visited the office of Farming The City, which is a pilot project that has gathered different urban farming projects of Amsterdam together in an internet platform designed to provide an opportunity to discuss, debate and spread information about urban farming. Anke de Vrieze who is in working as a interview manager and project assistance, gave us a brief introduction to urban farming world of Netherlands. She told us that they have 20 projects that they choose to present in their webpage. Their goal was to introduce a “local food system”, a place-based, self-reliant food production system that would use available information about land ownership and use, planning policies and urban design initiatives.
The project has existed since 2010 and includes rooftop gardening, farming in empty buildings, school projects and various other innovative projects. Most of the projects are fully powered by small volunteer groups, but at least one business was established by an young entrepreneur who simply delivers food from organic food shops to customers by bicycle. The whole Farming the City -project left an impression that a lot of people are interested in urban farming in Netherlands, many small groups are active, but there is still a lot of work to get urban farming easily accessible for the general public. In Finland we are lagging behind a bit, but I believe that urban farming is a rising trend in the future, as it is already.
Maybe we could learn from the Netherlands that there is room for many players in the field, and that if one has an idea, they should definitely share it to other people with the same interests, and just get their hands dirty!
One of the most intriguing visits for me during the trip was with Suitable for Business. A Copenhagen based collective of students or a movement as they like to call themselves, Suitable for Business searches for novel ways to bring business and humanities together. Started in 2011 by philosophy students, SfB found home at the Copenhagen Business School.
Founding member and chairman of SfB, an enthusiastic yet calm and collected Matias Sondergaard took us through the basic premises of the movement. “We want to find ways to use our humanistic view of the world to benefit businesses. Academic skills from outside the economics can and should be used in improving the world of business.”
According to the SfB Manifesto or the ten commandments of the movement, humanistic businesses are ones that “are built upon morality, empathy and a link to culture. Moreover they aspire for creative solutions”. The more we chatted, the more I realized Torstai and SfB have in common. I for one definitely subscribe to Matias’s view, that society at large can only benefit from those shared values created through humanities and social sciences entering the world of business. Instead of battling business, as has traditionally been the case for students from the aforementioned disciplines, why not find ways to incorporate values and ideas created through them into business life and change it for the better?
What SfB does in practice is organize an annual conference and case competition. At the conference lectures and speeches are given by representatives from both businesses and the academia. The case competition brings together multidisciplinary teams of students to work on a specific case in which their individual skills and knowledge can be combined in a group effort. The first case competition in 2011 was organized in collaboration with the Danish Red Cross. You can learn more about the competition and the way SfB works at www.suitableforbusiness.dk/#Home
Walking away from the meeting I was left with a strengthened feeling that what I’m doing with Torstai can find resonance and sympathies among a wider audience of students that I had ever imagined. I was also super inspired to develop the way we work and start to think about the open road of possibilities ahead for our co-operative.
Mika Hyötyläinen, Torstai Helsinki
As you can probably tell, we had a pretty amazing trip. Near the end, we also had one amazing dinner at Manfred’s & Vin in Copenhagen.
We had pre-ordered the menu so nobody had to make a decisions which was perfect for a big group. The food was unbelievable! There were a lot of vegetarians in the group and we were pleased that the best bites were the vegetarian dishes.
“Wou!”, was probably the first word on everyone’s mind when we got in to the Kennisland office. The foundation has a beautiful place with a view in a lovely neighborhood in Amsterdam (we found delicious pan cakes just behind the corner).
Nora tells about Kennisland’s awesome work.
The rest was no less impressive. Nora van der Linden told us about the interesting work Kennisland is doing and how the “Knowledge land” got started over a decade ago. In the beginning it was a organization that focused on political lobbying over education and knowledge issues. When its mission seemed accomplished – Holland had really become a knowledge society – they started doing work in a wider sector. Their aim was still the same: a smarter society.
Marianna and Maria take photos of the cool office.
Nora and the director of Kennisland, Chris Sigaloff, told us about the projects, such as the Kennisland Safari, where young people come to work with the foundation and in their office for a week, to come up with interesting social innovations for real organizations. In general, Kennisland seemed to be about doing and prototyping, not just abstract research. They also emphasized the importance of reflection and communicating about their work.
Since a very big part of our group have a background in social sciences, this was like honey to our ears. That’s what we want do! And we would do it well! Not suprisingly, Nora and Chris told us that a lot of people working in Kennisland have studied in fields such as philosophy and anthropology.
Kennisland finds them young.
Chris also gave us concrete advice on how to became a successful social entrepreneuer:
- Writing a business plan is a good exercise, even though you wouldn’t follow it.
- It’s not very wise to be dependent on just public funding.
- Keep your work force flexible. Kennisland employs a lot of freelancers since permanent employees are huge investments.
- Building a cool brand is worth it. Kennisland has a designer working in the office.
- Don’t be afraid of letting go of your ideas. Copying is the highest form of compliment.
- Work with others and join networks.
- Build international relationships.
Finally, after quite a bit of cultivation our business idea starts to take its final shape! Me and my fiancé have been busy finding relevant information about the state and future of urban agriculture in Finland, tackling possible problems and mapping our contacts and possibilities and now our ”home-grown enterprise” is finally ready to be taken to the next level!
Our business aims to promote urban agriculture – a growing interest among private people and policymakers alike – by providing an easy access to planting boxes and other gardening essentials to our customers. We also provide information about starting up a garden, and how to make the most of it! We also offer the services of an urban agriculture expert who can really give people all the information they need. Our web page will have clear how-to instructions for those who wish to find the information themselves. We aim our services mainly to private people and housing companies, but will also aim to cooperate with the public sector and other communities.
Urban gardening saves emissions on food transportation, makes the urban environment more enjoyable and healthy, creates a sense of community among the people doing gardening in the same courtyard and is a great way to show children, and even adults, how their food is grown and produced. Our margeting targets families with children, elderly people and young green-minded urban dwellers – those who have the time and interest to do urban gardening.
Main channel for customers to take contact will be our internet page and social media. We will have an online form our customers can fill in and choose their preferred planting box and other services, such as soil, nutrients and plants/seeds. Then the customers will fill in their contact information and we will take care of the rest, including negotiating with the housing company and transportation of boxes to and from the customer. This solves a big problem with urban gardening today: when gardening is done in public areas, people have to travel a long way to get to their plantations, limiting their attractiveness and use for those who don’t have the capability to commute. It is also attractive that the gardens are brought close to the customers. Some urban gardening projects have also experienced theft and vandalism, which will be prevented by bringing the gardens to courtyards. Apart from the online form, we will also have a possibility to make orders or enquiries by telephone.
“You have to get used to being completely crap on something in order to improve. You shouldn’t be afraid to embarrass yourself.”
We did this exercise on the roof terrace of Future Navigators office where Liselotte taught us to juggle. The idea was to give a concrete example of a situation where you get out of your comfort zone, and do something where you know that you are going to be very lousy at first, but you just have to start from somewhere if you ever want to learn. I taught that this was a great exercise, that is applicable in many situations in life and especially in entrepreneurship.
One night on a ferry from Helsinki to Stockholm and a day in a train through Sweden took us to Copenhagen. Dinner in a cosy hamburger café, then to a train again. Amsterdam, here we come!
Morning coffee while speeding through the Dutch countryside.
We all are going to Amsterdam with an idea of some kind – a dream. We want to put our knowledge and skills into action that contributes to solving problems we see in contemporary and future world, whether they are cultural clashes, throwawayism, or hiding information behind dry jargon and unappealing presentation. After spending several years studying Polish language and culture and Eastern European Studies at the University of Helsinki, I have realised I have got to know many people with amazing amount of knowledge on these countries, their cultures and languages. What I would like to do is to build an active network which would organise a variety of activities that would increase awareness of Eastern European cultures and studies in Finland.
Together with the inspiring co-travellers I have already got fresh views that perhaps never would have come to my mind without letting other people to think about my idea. Could we tailor a personal mini guide for travellers going to explore Polish mountains, Sarajevo, or L’viv? Sure. Could we do background work for journalists, officials, or companies working on Eastern European issues? Why not. Our knowledge of the local languages and cultures could help them to access the information that is not available in other languages. Our contacts and knowledge of the societies can help find interviewees to share their experiences from a local point of view. These are just few of the thoughts the workshops and discussions on the road have evoked.
But this journey is not only about getting a list of tasks we could do. First and foremost it is a journey to transfer vague ponderings into clear ideas what my dream is about and how to give it a form that creates value to others and meaningful work to us. Tomorrow we are going to have a workshop given by experts in service design, the Design Thinkers, in Amsterdam. Let’s see what kind of shapes and colours my idea gets there!
Rohkea, luova ja aina valmiina seikkailuun!
Junatyöpajassa Tukholman ja Kööpenhaminan välissä kirkastimme yritysideoitamme pienissä ryhmissä.
Haluan perustaa orpokodin, luoda jotain omaa, tehdä uudenlaista asiantuntijatyötä…
Näitä ja monia muita haaveita ilmestyi ideakartalle, kun pohdimme ensimmäisessä työpajassa Silja Europan irrotessa Turun rannasta, millaisia ammattilaisia haluaisimme olla isona ja mikä meitä motivoi kehittämään omaa yritysideaamme.
Minä pohdin seuraavaa:
- Vaihtoehto käpätykselle: Journalismi muuttuu vinhaa vauhtia. Kun hyväksyy, että muutos on pysyvää, voi alkaa luoda tulevaisuutta. Minä ja kaksi kollegaani haluamme tehdä töitä porukassa ja hyödyntää journalistista osaamistamme perinteisen median lisäksi muilla tekstintuotantoareenoilla. Maailma on täynnä tietoa, joka voisi olla muotoiltu vetävämmin vaikka tarinoiksi ja infografiikoiksi.
- Inspiroivat tyypit: Yhtiökumppani kannattaa valita niin, että niiden kanssa haluaa työskennellä väsyneenä, nälkäisenä ja pattitilanteessa. Minua on ajanut eteenpäin suuri palo työskennellä juuri yhtiökumppaneideni kanssa. Ideani lähtevät poikkeukselliseen lentoon heidän kanssaan – vapaapäivinäkin.
- Matkasta nautinto: Jos urheilija ei näe tervettä päivää, yrittäjä tuskin näkee ongelmatonta hetkeä. Yritän opetella nauttimaan matkasta. Siitä, kun palapelin palaset löytävät pyörittelyn jälkeen toisensa. Yritys ei koskaan tule valmiiksi.
When I grow up I will be…?
Brave, creative and always ready for an adventure!
In the first workshop we talked about what what kind of work we want to do in the future.
Three factors motivate me especially:
- An option for complaining: My two collegues and I want to create something new with our journalistic skills instead of complaining about the rapid change in the traditional media scene. We are interested in using the tools of feature journalism a new way in research and reporting context.
- Inspiring collegues: I have been greatly inspired by my collegues. I am motivated to work with them even when I am tired, hungry and we are in a dead end.
- Make a pleasure out of a journey: Pitching a business idea is full of tricky suprises. I try to learn to enjoy solving them.
Maria Ruuska, a sosiologist & journalist
Greetings from the massive jungle of Southern Sweden!
We are now travelling to Amsterdam and on the way we have had some time to work on our business ideas. This is what we (meaning Johannes, Antti and Mirja) have so far:
Avanto co-op was formed around a group of friends, that felt that something was missing from public debates.They all agreed, that the time of all-encompassing solutions was over. The answers for the big, global and complex questions would rather be found at the grass-roots. This all led to the founding of Avanto Helsinki.
Avanto bridges cutting-edge research to practice. Projects don’t always have to end with a report, if a block party would be more appropriate. Innovative solutions and professional communication are the basis of all activities.
As academic, investigative professionals we are able to dive head first into any societal phenomena. The backbone of our work connects with migration, corporate responsibility and development policy.
-Mirja, Antti and Jone