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

“Intuition is a great way to challenge yourself”

Intuition, flow, energy. Those three words pass by often when talking with Simon Hodges from the Words that Change in Amsterdam.

Words that Change is a collective of writers and storytellers. They help small businesses and large enterprises to develop their core story and put it into words across online and offline platforms.

How did you end up to the storytelling business?

I already was becoming a storyteller when I came into business and knew this was a way that expressed my talents – of communication, of sensing, of finding the core of a story. My background to that point was in corporate communications so this was a good way to evolve what I could do into a more fun and fruitful way of working. Storytelling is such a holistic way of working – it incorporates self-investigation, communication, empathy as well as a quality of execution in writing, designing or film-making. The fun has been working out what makes business sense and what clients actually need.

Words That Change that change is an evolving idea that language has impact: there is an opportunity to make this honest, vibrant and authentic in a way that really speaks to people’s deeper selves. I see the writing and storytelling that I do as having a humanising influence over bland, superficial or manipulative marketing approaches, and encouraging people in the workshops to have the courage to speak their own wisdom in any situation.

Words that Change just celebrated its first birthday a couple of months ago. What were the three most important lessons you learned during the first year as an entrepreneur?

Just getting out there – Talking to people, following up, being energetic and driven. You have no idea of what the market wants until you launch, so you need to make intelligent guesses and adapt quickly as new information comes in. There will be a settling at some point, a crystallising of ideas and then you need to move quickly in that direction.

Playfulness – Having fun while you work is a magnetic quality that draws others to you. You are also more likely to be doing a good job, be flexible and responsive in this ‘mode’. Mastering play is probably one of the most exciting things about being an entrepreneur.

Co-operation – Finding the right people to work with is a delight and can be a challenge. I’ve learned more about when to work with others and when to go it alone, and to better understand my boundaries so I can work with others better. But really seeing the workplace as a field of co-operation rather than competition is a wonderful attitude that more business could do with as it moves forward – it is also a lot more rewarding and fun.

You talk a lot about intuition. How do you learn to trust your intuition, if it doesn´t come naturally?

Intuition is a sense or idea that something might be the case, but it is not rational. For that reason we often dismiss it because it doesn’t fit into our current way of thinking.  But intuition can be a great way to challenge yourself, to see if you really know the way the world works, or there might (likely will be) things you haven’t thought of yet. It is something that can be refined.

Part of trusting is openness – that your idea or feeling is not right or wrong but is suggesting a direction that can expand you. You can then refine your intuition based on what actually happens. Be playful about it. It is all just a very big game. The great thing about being an entrepreneur is you get to make up more rules than anyone else.

What would be your three tips to a new start-up entrepreneur?

Support yourself – make sure you have a way to support yourself financially while you are getting going. It is likely to be a while until your model starts generating income so make sure you have a part-time job while things get going.

Relax – always!

Balance – find a mix of activities that will inspire you and make you money. One feeds the other until gradually, if you’re true to yourself, the inspiration takes over.

Simon Hodges ran his storytelling workshop in HUB Helsinki in September. He is planning to come back next spring. Keep updated about his plans join the mailing list at http://wordsthatchange.nl/.

 Maria Ruuska


“Not everyone needs to become Steve Jobs”

Start ups have made their way from garages to the talks of ministres. Finland craves for a new Nokia or for whatever innovations to patch up floundering exports and the gradual rundown of several industries. So far start-ups have been built up in the hands of people from business or technical backgrounds. Aalto University’s Aalto Venture Garage Start up-hub has been nominated the official lifesaver of the country. Is there anything out there for social scientist and humanists?

Codrin Kruijne thinks there is. “Not everyone needs to become Steve Jobs”, he starts. Kruijne guides and teaches students at the Utrecht Center for Entrepreneurship in the Netherlands. UCE’s one year-lasting program aims at making students of social sciences and humanities aware of entrepreneurship as a career option and preparing them for it. A humanist may stop reading here, but in the UCE being an entrepreneur means something else than working long hours in the hope of getting filthy rich. “We don’t want to create these mythical entrepreneurs but to stimulate entrepreneurial behavior”, Kruijne tells. In UCE the vision is, that an entrepreneur with an academic background can make a difference in society with novel applications of his disciplinary (scientific) knowledge. UCE students have founded eg. Brood Funds, a new community based insurance system for unemployed people.

So UCE sees entrepreneurship from a new angle, which however doesn’t mean you could avoid courses on accounting or marketing while studying there. That is because no matter how non-profit your enterprise is, the bills and wages still need to be paid. This is what many idealists forget when talking about money feels uncomfortable. Again, marketing is often mixed with mere advertising, although it should be seen as the process of getting to know your customer. It is the “interaction between what you want to do and what you customer needs”, as Codrin Kruijne puts it.

The University of Utrecht resembles the University of Helsinki in the sense that neither of them have faculties for business or technology. UCE gets students from eg. psychology, history, biomedicine an political science. Codrin Kruijne thinks that the strengths of academic entrepreneurs are especially abstract thinking and understanding of complex systems. In addition academic entrepreneurs are familiar with the scientific method where you don’t just make a ready “business plan”, but where the plan is being remodeled after hypotheses have been tested and experimented. Kruijne underlines, that experimenting is crucially important for a starting entrepreneur, simply because you cannot know in advance, what is going to work and what is not. “Usually we love our own idea so much, that we are not ready to accept any information that is against it. That is why the most important experiment to do is the one that proves you wrong”, Kruijne ends.

Entrepreneurial stereotypes and humanistic entrepreneurs

On our trip we discussed the stereotypes and beliefs surrounding entrepreneurship. The most common cliché is that entrepreneurs are hardworking loners, introverted inventors and risk takers that are on the edge of loosing everything if their business idea fails. Also the media tends to promote stories of these risk takers who without much education turned a crazy idea into a million dollar business. These types are easy to criticize and knock over, but stereotypes can also tell us the general conception and image that might stop people from considering to start up a business. Keeping the dreaded risks in mind, I have also pondered what kind of equation humanities and entrepreneurship can create. Could these stereotypical challenges be won over by the skills that humanities can create? Would it be possible to translate the knowledge I have into creating a business?

From this to action?

During the trip it became clear that entrepreneurial work is one way to employment among others. It’s an independent, responsible and creative path to turn your own interests, knowledge and visions into a source of livelihood instead of working for someone. As a student of arts and humanities I’ve come across the mentioned stereotypes- even prejudices, since traditionally most entrepreneurs work outside this field. To generalize from the large scale of humanistic approaches, our skills are for example critical thinking, cultural knowledge, intercultural and communication skills. From this viewpoint networking and cultural understanding can be for example used to create social and economic value. The problem here could be that our studies don’t always support the process to determine what our expertize is. When wanting to change something, putting together the values and ideas of humanities with the skill set of entrepreneurship one can create problem solving strategies needed in the future. Entrepreneurs look at the outside world searching for ways to clinch these problems.

It’s also important to team up! If you come up with an idea you want to carry on with, students from such back rounds should be more active in connecting with people with the necessary skills they are possibly lacking. Multidisciplinary synergy and for example extra knowledge on how to run a business is easily accessible. Maybe we will see interdisciplinary programs for future entrepreneurs at Universities in the future?

Farmers of the better future

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!

Humanities and Social Sciences – Suitable for Business?

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


Great restaurant tip for Copenhagen

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.

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.

Listen to others – decide on your own

Tieteestä toimintaa –trip blew my mind in many ways. I loved the inspiring atmosphere of Kennisland office in Amsterdam and the great Future Navigators -workshop by Liselotte Lyngsø in Copenhagen – just to mention few highlights along the way.

Here are my three key insights from the trip.

1. Listen louder

I realized that the key for successful entrepreneurship is openness. Ask questions, talk about your idea widely and especially listen to people´s advice and needs carefully.

2. There are no right answers

Listening is essential, but I also understood that my partners and I have to make the final decisions on our own. There are only opinions but not right answers to many questions. Realizing that feels first scary, but after a while it starts to feel actually empowering…

3. Work hard and be nice to people

Setting up a business is hard work. I had only 45 minutes spare time in Copenhagen during the week. Within those precious minutes I ran into the Urban Outfitters -store and found a funny little aphorism book. My absolutely favourite was: ”Work hard and be nice to people”. I think that is a great motto for new (and also an older) entrepreneur.









Maria Ruuska

Maria Ruuska and two of her journalist collegues are interested in using the tools of feature journalism in research and reporting context. They want to run a business offering traditional feature articles, little ethnographic studies, reporting and consulting. The center of everything is catchy and elegant writing.

Entrepreneurship can be Anarchy

It was three weeks ago when my friend Maria called me and suggested that I should apply for Tieteestä toimintaa trip to Copenhagen and Amsterdam. I had pretty much no idea what the trip was all about. I hesitated for an hour or so and then decided to go. I’m really glad I did beacause the trip gave me a good reminder about the importance of anarchy in life.


Entrepreneurship has been on my mind for years. I found a Facebook update from 2008 where I had written that I have a business idea and I’m going to hire all my student friends. I have no idea what the idea was, but I remember being excited. To me entrepreneurship is a chance of doing something great and something different. Great things for yourself and for others.


I will be a sociologist in the near future and I feel passionate about social research and sociological theories. I don’t want to be a researcher in the academia, but I most definetly want to keep working on sociology. Someone told me once that sociology is the punk music of social sciences. I couldn’t agree more. It has great potential for finding anarchist solutions for everyday life. Starting up a business can also be anarchist. It’s all about finding your own way of doing things. What a great combo.


So before the trip i had a vague idea about making a business out of innovative sociological research. During the trip I realized that I have to find an anarchist niche to start with. Something new and something great. That shouldn’t be too hard because I have all the magical (I’m serious!) tools from my academic background in sociology. The trip gave me exactly what I needed: inspiration for using my own inspiration. That is my kind of anarchy.