Coaches’ point of view when setting-up a business in Finland as foreigner

For a Draft entrepreneurship coach, an international team targeting international market is always a unique opportunity. In this article our coaches Iouri and Helena reflect on key aspect of working with Team EnviroVesi.


Iouri Kotorov, Karelia University of Applied Sciences

Helena Puhakka-Tarvainen, Karelia University of Applied Sciences

Main points

  • This article talks about the project of Team EnviroVesi, which is introduced in detail in this post: Water treatment solution for the Nigerian market – Case EnviroVesi
  • Solving a big problem requires solving multiple problems
  • Working with experts locally and on the target market is key.
  • For a foreigner some Finnish funding sources require at least a Finnish board member.

High quality business presentation

Projects like EnviroVesi are very interesting from a development perspective. Besides business, this type of projects also plays an important social role at both regional and national level. When listened the first pitch from the team as jury members, we were impressed! The business idea sounded challenging but doable, and the team convinced us with their professionalism.

Solving a big problem can be a big problem

Addressing such an important issue as access to clean water is very important. This provides an opportunity to solve many problems related to the lack of clean water. The project is big and ambitious and will certainly face many obstacles on its way. At this case, the challenges raised up quite soon in the coaching process, although the basis of the business idea was very well defined.

Finding funding sources and partnering with experts would be the first task

The first challenges appeared at the stage of searching for investors to create favorable conditions for project development. Of all the risks associated with investments, the risk of waiting a long time for a return on the investment is probably one of the most unpleasant. On top of that are market risk, foreign investment risk, inflation risk, market risk and all the other risks. The search for experts and staff to execute such projects is also one of the major hurdles. And North Karelia and even Finland are very small markets to find the best experts to such a global business sector.

You need to find a lot of information – for some Finnish funding sources a Finnish board member is required

In a project like this, the importance of gathering together all the available information is crucial. Thus, collating a multi-professional team to support the project development. The expertise starting from water microbiology and chemistry to product development and global marketing are just examples of the variety of the knowledge needed. And as foreigners in Finland, also the set-up of a business itself might be a challenge. Domestic board members are for example required for certain funding sources. How to find engaged Finnish board members or funders, who understand the market where the product will be produced and distributed? Quite a challenge.

In the end it is the team that counts

But are these insurmountable obstacles? Is it worth to start such projects? Is it worth even trying? We as Draft coaches believe that money is not the only factor and that return on investment is not the main measure of all projects. Finally, the belief in people, in the idea and in the dream is what drives our world! When there is a question about a dream project or social oriented project, the role of selling and pitching the idea to the potential funders and stakeholders is also crucial. In this case, the team did it splendidly, and the North Karelian Draft jury really bought the idea to purify the drinking water to Nigerian market. As Draft coaches, we were delighted to have this opportunity to work together with the EnviroVesi team!