From West Africa to Finland for Higher Education and Entrepreneurship: Peter and Olusegun’s Entrepreneurial Journey

The entrepreneurship team of the Talent Hub Eastern Finland project had the opportunity to interview two emerging startup entrepreneurs about their entrepreneurial journey in the Joensuu region.

Heikki Immonen, Karelia University of Applied Sciences, Talent Hub Eastern Finland project

This article in a nutshell:

  • Background and Early Entrepreneurship: Peter Zorve from Ghana and Olusegun Akinyemi from Nigeria met at the University of Eastern Finland. Both had prior experiences in entrepreneurship; Peter in IT skills training and Olusegun in beverage production.
  • Higher Education and Skills: They pursued higher education studies in Finland, emphasizing the importance of IT and coding skills. Their experiences in a new culture contributed to their stress tolerance and determination, crucial for entrepreneurship.
  • Startup Formation: Leveraging their skills and international networks, they co-founded EduZolve Oy, a startup focused on educational services, after participating in a training program and receiving a grant from Draft Program.
  • Cultural Adaptation: Their journey in Finland involved adapting to the local culture and societal norms, which was a significant but rewarding challenge.
  • EduZolve Oy’s Focus: The company primarily targets the West African education market with digital products, alongside other services like the Mentor Me program, bridging African students and European universities.

The Spark of Entrepreneurship – The Youthful Experiences of Peter and Olusegun

Ghanaian Peter Zorve and Nigerian Olusegun Akinyemi met and found a common direction for their entrepreneurial path at the University of Eastern Finland’s Joensuu campus, in the Carelia building’s student restaurant. Peter, who came to work on his PhD in computational chemistry at UEF, had been supporting his young compatriots in IT skills both in his home country and after moving to Finland. Entrepreneurship would allow him to achieve this goal on a much larger scale.

Having grown up in an entrepreneurial family, Olusegun gained his own business experience at an early age. A key success from those years was the production and sale of a drink based on his own Zobo recipe. On the best days, sales volume reached 300 bottles.

Higher Education in Finland, Becoming a PhD, and a Startup Entrepreneur.

Like Peter, Olusegun moved to Joensuu, Finland, for his studies. In 2017, he completed his master’s degree in environmental sciences and started his now nearly completed doctoral studies a couple of years later. Olusegun’s special expertise lies in optical imaging techniques and research in biology.

Both Peter and Olusegun emphasize how studying and working as a researcher in a new country and culture provides a lot of the determination and stress tolerance needed in entrepreneurship. To finance their studies, both worked part-time or full-time in various jobs, from the hospitality, media and research sectors. Peter’s first sole proprietorship was born out of the need to  provide solutions for in-demand courier services.

Both Peter and Olusegun stress the importance of IT and coding skills, as well as international networks developed through their studies and research, in the founding of their joint startup, EduZolve Oy, a limited company. Leveraging their previous experience, Peter and Olusegun chose a Joensuu-based firm known to Peter through his sole proprietorship as their company’s accounting firm. During their studies, they learned about local entrepreneurship services through UEF’s Business for PhD’s course.

Choosing the Right Company Form: Sole Proprietorship or Limited Company?

Sole Proprietorship is a simple and common form of business for solo entrepreneurs

Personal liabilitythe entrepreneur is personally responsible for all company debts and obligations
Taxationsole proprietors pay taxes as personal income tax
Easy to establishsetting up a sole proprietorship requires minimal bureaucracy
Best suited forsmaller business activities and professional services with few risks

Limited Company is a more complex business form suitable for larger and growth-oriented business

Limited personal liabilityA shareholder’s liability for the company’s debts and obligations is limited to the value of their shares
Separate legal entityA limited company is a legal entity separate from its owners
TaxationThe company pays taxes on its business profit, and the owner pays capital gains tax on dividends.

Adapting to Finnish Culture

Moving to Finland and becoming part of Finnish society has been a long but rewarding journey. Alongside the cold, the first major difference from their home countries was the quiet bus rides. In Ghana, there’s always a story to share, even with strangers, but in Finland, each passenger respects the peace of others.

For Olusegun, who is from Lagos, one of the world’s largest metropolises, northern Finland was a haven of silence, tranquility, and cleanliness. In Finnish culture, Peter and Olusegun most appreciate politeness and loyalty. Since living in Finland, Olusegun has also become a father, which has given him a deeper insight into Finnish society, starting with maternity clinics and daycare.

Establishing a Company and Fulfilling Legal Obligations

Establishing a company in Finland is easy. However, it’s important to be aware of various legal obligations related to entrepreneurship.

Registering a company

1. Choose a business form (e.g., sole proprietorship, limited company)
2. Fill out the company formation form (Y-form) and prepare other necessary documents)
3. Submit the formation form and attachments to the Finnish Patent and Registration Office (PRH)
4. Join the prepayment register and VAT register if your business requires it.

Legal obligations

Organize the company’s accounting and annually report financial statements to the trade register
Comply with laws and regulations related to the company’s field of business
Fulfill employer obligations related to payroll and social security for employer companies.

EduZolve Oy is Born

In the autumn of 2023, Peter and Olusegun registered their joint limited company,

 EduZolve Oy, following a four-month Draft Program training session and a €1,000 grant from the Draft Program. EduZolve has received assistance from both the Business Joensuu business accelerator and the Lipertek business services in Liperi municipality. The company’s operations start from Liperi, which makes it possible to apply for rural startup funding and join the Patteristo Express entrepreneur community.

EduZolve is based on three core activities. The first and most important is a digital product targeted at the West African education market, to be launched in 2024, and offered to high school students aspiring for higher education. The second service package is the Mentor Me program, which helps young people in important IT skills, such as Python and machine learning. The third service is aimed at both African youth and European universities, where EduZolve acts as a bridge between the institutions and students.

Peter and Olusegun’s Example is Worth Following

The EduZolve team is a fantastic example of entrepreneurship, determination, and talent. When a student from abroad possesses these qualities, their entrepreneurial dream can become a reality. Good partners on this journey in North Karelia and North Savo are: