Entrepreneurial talk – taking the risk of opening your ideas to the world

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?

Paula Borkowski

Design experience in Denmark: NORMANN

Katja Meriläinen, 22.10.2012

In Copenhagen I visited Normann, one of the biggest design retailers in Denmark. I had meeting with PR-manager Nathja Larsen who gave me a guided tour in the flagship store and told briefly about the company. Is it possible to find obvious differences between selling design in Denmark and Finland? Let’s ask her!


Normann has a wide range of different products: everything from  furniture to cooking books and shoes. Something for everybody, Larsen explains. Actually the whole store is a visual lifestyle-experience with its daily changing entrance installation and relaxing music.

Entrance installation

What are the key elements of success of Normann? According the PR-manager Nathja Larsen the wide range of different products is giving Normann a competitive advantage. We have many different things in our Flagship Store, and if customers want to, they can buy most things for the home and themselves in the store. Also visual impression is important. We put a lot effort in styling, says Larsen. In that way customers are able to imagine how furnitures and other items would look in their own homes. We also organize different kinds of events, also for families, here in our flagship store, she continues.


How about the challenges then? What kind of difficulties does a design retailer face in these days? You never know what customers like, Larsen tells. We need to be able to react fast. It is also important to have products ready to buy. If people have to wait for the product they want to come in stock for a very long period of time, they  might get tired of waiting for it eventually and buy something else instead.

Everything you need?

Current selection of clothes represents 15-20 different designers -chosen by heart

Danish people are however willing to buy Danish design and fashion. We want to keep money in our own country and support Danish designers, says Kalle Heimbürger, fashion buyer at Normann.

Something to learn for us maybe?

A great thank to Normann! http://www.normann-copenhagen.com/

Text and pictures: Katja Meriläinen

My interest to design comes from my studies in craft and design. I’ve been wondering why Finnish design retailers often are not doing so well. Why aren’t we buying our own design? With my visit to Normann I wanted to see how Danish design is represented in one of the biggest design retailers in Denmark and what are the upcoming trends in their field. How they make it work is also how we can make it work.

From Helsinki to Amsterdam by train and ship, the beginning of the trip

The journey was about to begin. Traveling from Helsinki to Turku.

In Turku harbour.

Marianna and Heli in the night train wondering how to fit in six persons in one carriage. Traveling from Copenhagen to Amsterdam.

We spent a day at Design Thinkers in Amsterdam filling up a start-up canvas. Here are our stakeholders.



Coffee and heroes – a few words on the state of cultural institutions


On Monday night, after hours of super intense workshopping we stormed our way to the other edge of the town. Fresh brisk air at the ferry gave us a new boost of energy. We met Jasper Visser, the other co-founder of Insiper by Coffee at Ij Kantine, on the North shore of the Amsterdam. (www.inspiredbycoffee.nl)



Among other inspring things this is what we got:

  • Use the 21st century tools! Heritage institutions and museums in the Netherlands have found new audiences through social media.
  • Cultural experts unite! People working for the same goal need to meet face-to-face. So start networking casually.
  • Your audience is your hero! Engage them by asking questions. Let them tell you a story.

You only need one person to think differently to change the whole organisation. Awake one, awake all. Thanks for the espresso, Jasper!

Yhteismaa – good together

Finally, as we are sitting in the train heading to Copenhagen, I have enough time to finish the introduction to our project called Yhteismaa (Common Ground). Our program has been really busy, but fruitful. Especially the visit to Kennisland yesterday was an inspiring one.

Yhteismaa consist of four people, who are specialized in social sciences, social media, culture and design. Our main task is to design, implement and maintain social projects, events and services together with the society. We help organizations to create fruitful processes together with the citizens by combining our scientific background with expertise in social media, project management and web services.

Yhteismaa’s work is based on a strong vision on how we could all better express ourselves, how our creativity and capacities could be made a better use of and how we could actively participate in the building of the world around us. Often this means creating tools that utilize social media, as well as draw from social movements and collective creativity. We always work experimentally, developing our ideas in close relationship to the users.

We have already been working together with some projects like Siivouspäivä (Cleaning Day), which is a recycling carnival during which people bring their used stuff outside on the streets, parks and gardens for others to buy, take or swap. We also participated with Ilmastoinfo (Climate Info) in the international movement Park(ing) Day in the 21st of September 2012 with our own unique event. In cooperation with city authorities about twenty parking spots were reserved for anyone to occupy, without cars, in the Helsinki. The underlying task was to encourage people to imagine a different kind of city, with little less cars and little more people.

Now our main project is Nappi Naapuri (Spot on Neighbour), which is a web service that enables people living close to each other to communicate easily, ask and provide for help. The long term goal is to determine the extent into which geographical proximity can be employed as a resource to achieve social, cultural and even economic benefits.

So this is Yhteismaa shortly. Currently we are working with our home page, so soon you can find us in Internet (www.yhteismaa.fi) too. Check it out, when it’s ready (hopefully soon)!

On my way to Amsterdam and new challenges

By Katja Meriläinen last sunday night:

Täällä mennään!

Terveisiä Amsterdamin yöjunasta. Lauantai-iltana alkanut roadtrip Helsingin Pasilasta on edennyt Turun, Tukholman ja Kööpenhaminan kautta jo Saksan puolelle. Eteenpäin kohti Amsterdamia kolistellaan parikymmenvaunuisen yöjunan kyydissä tasaista vauhtia. Ravintolavaunussa näpytellään läppäreitä vielä myöhään –tälle matkalle on lähdetty kehittelemään ideoita, joita kirjava joukko Helsingin yliopiston opiskelijoita on pyöritellyt mielessään opintojensa ohella.

Kun itse viitisen vuotta sitten kirjauduin yliopistoon käsityötieteen fuksina, kuvittelin valmistuvani käsityönopettajaksi. Vuosien karttuessa huomasin opintojen kautta saavutettujen valmiuksien avaavan ovia muuallekin. Ennen kaikkea innostuin ajatuksesta hyödyntää oppimaani johonkin, mitä voisin kehittää omilla ehdoillani ja hallita kokonaisuudessaan itse määrittämieni tavoitteiden pohjalta.

Jos tuntui vaikeasti hahmotettavalta, ajattele asiaa vaikka näin:

Mieti, mitä osaat parhaiten tai minkä taidon olet oppinut opintojesi aikana.
Haluaisitko kokeilla uusia innovatiivisia tapoja hyödyntää taitoasi?
Voisitko suunnitella ja viedä läpi projektin, jossa hyödyntäisit taitoasi?

Mieti hetki.
Sitten jatketaan:

Pystytkö nimeämään työpaikan, jossa voisit kehittyä haluamallasi tavalla ja määritellä itse tavoitteesi työlle?
Jos tavoitteet eivät toteutuisikaan, mitä jos olisit vastuussa vain itsellesi?

Muun muassa näitä kysymyksiä aloin pohtia joitakin vuosia sitten. Vastausteni perusteella ymmärsin pian, että vain työllistämällä itse itseni voisin tehdä juuri niitä asioita, joita eniten haluan. Kesti jonkin aikaa tajuta, että halusin todella tietoisesti valita yhden epävarmimmista ammateista: yrittäjyyden.

Työelämän muuttuessa yrittäjyydestä on tullut kuitenkin varteenotettava vaihtoehto monilla aloilla. Usein se myös on ainoa väylä toteuttaa visioita, jotka eivät mahdu olemassa olevien työpaikkojen muotteihin. Näitä visioita tarvitaan. Kokeilemalla ennakkoluulottomasti tietojen ja taitojen soveltamista uusissa yhteyksissä luodaan innovaatioita, joilla vastataan tulevaisuuden muuttuviin tarpeisiin. Käytetään siis rohkeasti taitojamme uusilla tavoilla.

Taitojen hyödyntämisestä uusissa yhteyksissä puhutaan varmasti tulevan viikon aikana paljon. Matkaohjelmaan on buukattu useita tapaamisia innovatiivisten yritysten kanssa, jotka voivat toimia esikuvina meille, jotka nyt lähdemme työstämään omia ideoitamme eteenpäin. Ideakonseptoinnin ja workshoppien lisäksi matkasta jää toivottavasti käteen muutakin: uusia kontakteja, jaettuja ajatuksia ja pettämätön tukiverkosto samanhenkisiä ihmisiä.

Amsterdamin yöjuna kiittää ja kuittaa. Paluumatkalla ravintolavaunusta kuuden hengen makuuhyttiini ajattelin nauttia öisen Euroopan valoista ja tuulenvireestä vaunun avoimesta ikkunasta ennen yöunia.

Katja Meriläinen (katja.merilainen(at)aalto.fi)