During I Started This campaign, 24 entrepreneur role models shared their insight on entrepreneurship, which we harshly summarizd into 7 theses to answer the question: what is entrepreneurship like in 2020?
Inklusiiv launched the three-week-long I Started This campaign in September 2020 together with more than forty entrepreneurial organizations. I Started This aims to challenge the myths and stereotypes related to entrepreneurship and inspire anyone to become an entrepreneur – no matter the background or the level of experience.
As a significant part of the campaign, 24 entrepreneurs from different backgrounds and different parts of Finland shared their honest and inspiring stories and views on entrepreneurship. “Representation and different role models are the key to young people being able to pursue bigger dreams and not submit to the roles predefined for them by society”, state Naomi and Wanda Holopainen, the founders of Ataá Agency and rolemodels in I Started This campaign. Outdated stereotypes and limiting attitudes were also challenged at the Updating Entrepreneurship to 2020 online event together with Meeri Koutaniemi, Lauri Järvilehto, Priyanka Banerjee, Anttoni Aniebonam, Sanna-Mari Lanki, Laura Miettunen and Maria Ihalainen.
There were some opinions and insights that repeated themselves throughout the role model stories. We have summarized them here into 7 thesis about entrepreneurship in 2020.
1. Entrepreneurs change the world and solve societal problems
In addition to being a way of self-expression and bringing meaning to one’s (and potential employees’) lives, entrepreneurship can be a very straightforward way to tackle societal problems and really make a difference in the world. Entrepreneurship can, for example, promote social justice and well-being or create a sustainable business model for a greener future – without compromising ambitious business goals. It’s crucial to recognize which problem your business is solving in the world.
“Find a problem you truly care about and just go at it. Learn more and don’t give up before you’ve solved it.” Lauri Järvilehto, Professor of Practice at Aalto University and Co-Director of Aalto Venture Program
2. A successful company is built together with others
No one succeeds alone. Instead, the key to success is to seek out other people in the same field, spar ideas with others, and to surround yourself with allies who share the same values. Or you can find a partner who you can trust. The expertise of others provides a new perspective and helps to take the company forward. The people you work with and share your thoughts with are at the center of everything. There’s a lot of help available – you just need to ask. You can find support e.g. from here.
“In the end, you won’t remember anything about your life other than who you shared and built everything with.” Anttoni Aniebonam, founder of Veri
3. Getting rich is a bad reason to start a business
Success is not a quick win and getting rich shouldn’t be the motivation to start a business. There is a lot of long-term work behind the success, and also situations where bankruptcy has been close. The idea itself doesn’t take you far, but you also need a chain of right kind of actions to turn it into a profitable business. When you invest into the company and put real professionalism and passion to solve an actual existing problem, it can ultimately lead to a fairly good standard of living.
“My own perception of entrepreneurship was that it is easy money – I couldn’t have been more wrong. Today, I think that if a company is not profitable after 3 years, you must rethink the operations.” Polina Shumilova, founder of The Modest Online
4. Entrepreneurship requires courage and resilience to incompleteness
As an entrepreneur you have to be able to tolerate incompleteness. Entrepreneurship is a series of managed risks, experiments and continuous learning. It’s about having the courage to put oneself on the line even if things are not quite ready yet and change direction if the idea doesn’t take off. One became an e-commerce entrepreneur with zero experience right after high school, without an e-commerce platform, whereas the other set up an interpretation and translation service with incomplete Finnish language skills. What matters the most is whether you dare to follow your intuition and find out where it takes you.
“Build something in a day rather than in a year. You’re never ready and you have to be ok with that. Every single day is Day One.” Anttoni Aniebonam, founder of Veri
5. Entrepreneurship is flexible and can be tailored to match your needs and wishes
Entrepreneurship is just another way to make a living, and it can also be something you do alongside other work or studies. Entrepreneurship and employment are not mutually exclusive. It’s becoming more common for many of us to have multiple careers during our working lives and entrepreneurship can be just one of them. As an encouragement to someone who’s thinking about starting a business: The choice doesn’t have to be set in stone. You can always go back to being an employee if you feel like entrepreneurship is not for you.
“I’d like to challenge the idea that an entrepreneur should always do something big and unique, or wait for a revolutionary business idea. As an entrepreneur, you can do exactly the same things as you would working for someone else. Start small and do your own thing!” Karin Nars, CEO of Dinolift Oy
6. You don’t have to work 24/7 to be a good entrepreneur
Entrepreneurship requires commitment but today’s entrepreneur doesn’t have to dedicate their entire life to the business and spend nights on the office couch to succeed and be credible. A smart entrepreneur focuses resources according to their strengths and understands that everything cannot be done alone. And maybe even goes fishing in the middle of the day, like one of the role models does. Without an entrepreneur, there will soon be no business.
“The myth about entrepreneurship being rough is false. It can be if that is what you want to make it.” Arto Sivonen, founder of Måndag
7. It’s totally ok to fail
Bankruptcies, burnouts and a lot of failed experiments. Still, these people are willing to try again. And again. For some of us, the fear of failure might set the bar high but in the end, only few end up regretting that they decided to test their ideas or pursue their dreams. You learn from every mistake and move on one experience richer. Failure is a natural part of the business. That just means you have tried and done something new.
“I sometimes ask myself, “what is the worst that could happen?” You might lose that dream of your own business, but life doesn’t end there. It’s important to try, many don’t even dare to do that.” Laura Strömberg, founder of Dagsmark Petfood Oy
The campaign in numbers:
- 24 entrepreneur role models
- 47 partners and supporters
- Virtual event with more than 300 people
- 450,000 views on social media
The campaign was built and supported by the main partners Aalto Ventures Program, Elo, Fennia and PwC, partners Maria 01, Meltwater, Microsoft and Tesi, as well as more than 40 other entrepreneurial organizations.