“If you build trust, you won’t need to search hard for customers,” says Sivex Oy founder Monika Pöldkivi as she shares her experiences coming to Finland and building a business. The interview is part of our #STAYinFinland campaign, and it was made by our American summer intern, Anna Bogdan.
Founder and CEO of Monika Pöldkivi, knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur ever since she was a child growing up in Estonia. 24 years after arriving in Finland as an au pair, Pöldkivi runs a successful cleaning company operating in Uusimaa with over 30 employees.
“Your attitude is the most important,” says Pöldkivi about what it’s like to start a business in Finland. “If you build trust, you won’t need to search hard for customers.”
While an entrepreneur in a different country will always face challenges, Pöldkivi says being different is what drew people to her, which was a benefit in starting her own business.
“Coming from another country, sometimes you need to do double or triple the work,” Pöldkivi acknowledges, “you may need to push yourself more, but that’s not necessarily difficult.”
After attracting large clients, Pöldkivi found the most challenging part of growing her business to be scaling up to the demand as she moved from being self-employed to becoming an employer. In 2005, Sivex became a Finnish limited company (Oy).
There is a wealth of support for aspiring entrepreneurs in Finland, including funding, free courses, and free advice. Organizations such as Uusyrityskeskus and NewCo Helsinki have helped make it much easier to start your own business, regardless of where you come from.
“If you want to learn,” says Pöldkivi, “you can for free, you just need to look.”
Making the most of an international workplace
The majority of Sivex’s employees have immigrated to Finland, or commute to Finland for work.
“You need to hire the right people of course, but this is our benefit, that we have people from different countries because they’re bringing along something different and inspiring–their own culture.”
International employees are a valuable asset for Sivex. In return they deserve good leadership, Pöldkivi emphasizes. Looking to the future, Pöldkivi wants to continue supporting her employees by organizing easier access to Finnish language lessons, particularly while employees await their visa decisions before even arriving in Finland.
While cleaners don’t need much Finnish knowledge, Sivex Oy requires a certain level of Finnish for office positions. In other words, improving language skills helps taking next steps in working life and also at Sivex, which Pöldkivi is transparent about.
Pöldkivi also says that making the most of an international workplace requires Finnish employees in addition to foreign ones. With foreign employees bringing new perspectives and knowledge from abroad, and Finnish employees providing local experience and knowledge, an international workplace can help businesses thrive.
Pöldkivi’s recommendations to foreign entrepreneurs:
- Take advantage of the free courses and help offered in Finland, such as NewCo Helsinki.
- Be interested in the society you’re entering and learn how things work in Finland.
- Don’t hesitate to be different and seek opportunities that take you out of your comfort zone.
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes: learn from them and reflect on how you can do things differently.
The interview was made by our American summer intern, Anna Bogdan.