Fatbiking at Kuertunturi during winter in Lapland
Photo by: Markus Kiili | Lapland Material Bank

How to be an Entrepreneur in Lapland

As the economic structure and the job market goes through substantial changes, entrepreneurship gains a larger part of employment in Finland. This also concerns immigrants. With the help of Eija Jussila-Salmi, Business Developer in Business Rovaniemi, we put together a guide about the essentials of entrepreneurship in Lapland, Finland.  

Are There Many Immigrant Entrepreneurs in Lapland?

— Immigrants start up businesses on a very frequent basis, especially in the Helsinki metropolitan area. According to the latest statistics, there are about 170 companies in Rovaniemi owned by foreigners or where some of the board members are not native Finns. It’s a big number for a small city like Rovaniemi, Eija Jussila-Salmi says.  

— Most of the companies are related to tourism. But there also doctors or for example specialists in mining field who decided to employ themselves.  

I Have a Good Idea. How to Set up my Own Company? 

You can start a company in Finland regardless of your nationality. It is important that you have the right of residence in Finland. If you need a new permit to start your business, take into account that it might take a while to get through the processing period. 

If you have any questions related to residence permits, you can find the answer from the Finnish Immigration Service

Local Register Offices determine who may reside permanently in Finland. A permanent place of residence is the deciding factor in establishing the right to set up a business.

For more information: 

Is it Difficult to Start a Business in Lapland? Who Could Advise Me? 

First of all, in Rovaniemi I suggest you come to our office, Business Rovaniemi (Rovaniemen Kehitys Oy). We always meet our clients, and our services are not limited to a single occasion. We provide free-of-charge professional advice. We can discuss how viable your idea is. We can help you in making a business plan. We can advise you where and how you can get financial help for the beginning or even later for further development. 

The TE-Office is also a good place for help. They regularly have courses – also free of charge – about entrepreneurship. Sometimes in English too. They help you to improve your business plan and do the calculations. 

– We also have the entrepreneurship associations, both in Rovaniemi and in Lapland. They come into the picture when you already have the company. You need to be a member. Then they help you with networking. They can also provide basic legal help. Every city and municipality have these kinds of services. We cooperate and help each other. 

 My Business Plan is Ready. Where Can I Get Financial Support? 

– Financing of the company must be carefully planned before you start a company. When you apply for financing, you must have a solid business plan ready. Banks and Finnvera grant loans to entrepreneurs who start companies. Finnvera is a financing company owned by the state of Finland. It grants loans to new companies and to companies that are already running. 

– If you have a business idea where you must make investments at the beginning, Business Finland is your partner for that. We’re talking about tens of thousands of euros or even more. First, you need to invest, and then you can receive the grant. The grant is usually around 10-30% of your initial investment, Eija Jussila-Salmi explains. 

– Most of these grants are for those who already have their company up and running, and they need some help to expand or they want to go international. For those purposes, we have a lot of financial possibilities. 

For more information:

Financing for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs): Finnvera

Grants for SMEs: http://www.ely-keskus.fi/web/ely/yrityksen-kehittamisavustus  

How Can I Apply for a Start-up Grant?

When you become an entrepreneur, you can receive a start-up grant to ensure your livelihood during the beginning of your business operation. Apply for a start-up grant from your local Employment and Economic Office. You can receive it for a maximum of twelve months. 

When you apply for a start-up grant, the Employment and Economic Office will determine if entrepreneurship is a suitable employment alternative for you. 

You are eligible for the grant if: 

  • you are an unemployed job seeker (työtön työnhakija in Finnish) 
  • you are not unemployed but about to transition into full-time entrepreneurship after having a job, studying or working from home 
  • you are a part-time entrepreneur and expand your entrepreneurial activities to full-time

More information about start-up grant can be found at TE-Servies website.

I Would Like to Work from Home. Do I Have to Set up my Company Right Away?

To become a “light entrepreneur” is easier than establishing a company. You can invoice your clients without a company of your own through one of the invoice services. This may be a suitable solution for self-employed and freelance professionals.  

It’s important to realize that working as a light entrepreneur can affect your eligibility for unemployment and income support benefits, even after you no longer work as a light entrepreneur.

– It’s especially suitable for those who sell their skills: graphic designers, content creators, etc. You don’t have to set up your company from the beginning or to worry about bookkeeping. They take care of it for you. You have time to test your idea, build up your network. When you reach that point that your business is strong enough, you can apply for start-up grant and become an entrepreneur, Eija Jussila-Salmi says

Invoice services:

  • Eezy
  • Ukko.fi
  • Odeal
  • OP Kevytyrittäjä takes the service a bit further: It has more services (I.e. bookkeeping) but you will also get your own Business ID (Y-tunnus in Finnish) which makes you officially an entrepreneur.

Do I Have to Speak Finnish to Run my Company?

– When you deal with authorities you don’t always get service in English. Also, many documents are available only in Finnish. You can get the big picture in English, but you won’t understand the small details without speaking Finnish, says Eija Jussila-Salmi.  

 If your business services are related to some international field, for example, tourism, you don’t need to speak in Finnish in order to run it. But I always suggest having a Finnish accounting office beside you, she continues.  

That’s the best way to make sure that you pay all your taxes and follow all the rules. 

Is the Business Culture in Lapland Different? How Do I Get Clients?

– One of the biggest challenges that foreigners face in Lapland that they need to understand how small the market is here. The tourist season lasts only four months. The other months are quiet and slow, Eija Jussila-Salmi summarizes.  

– Even if your business is not related to tourism, you still need to understand that this is a small market. It might be difficult to get enough clients. Sending e-mails won’t work. You must talk to them personally. You need to be brave to ask for a meeting. You just need to find the right time when they can listen to you. Don’t be afraid to contact many times. People forget if they are busy. In Lapland, people are very straightforward. If they are not interested in your offer, they will tell you directly the first time. 

– Compared to the Finnish people, foreigners are very active and innovative. If you want to be successful in business life, you need to be active, you need to be social, you shouldn’t be afraid of reaching out to people. I think foreigners are much better at this than we are. 

– Just like in other parts of life, in business, we have very clear rules. It also takes time to establish relationships here. But when you have them, you can rely on them no matter what. It’s also important in our culture that we like contracts. But apart from that, most of the things are similar to elsewhere in Europe.  

Information for new companies in tourism sector can be found at Tourism ABC.