16-06-2023 11:39

Fearless Founders – inspiring stories from women-owned businesses boost the confidence of aspiring entrepreneurs

At Nordea we set out to turn ideas into businesses with our new Fearless Founders mentoring programme primarily designed for women and university students about to graduate. According to feedback from the participants, they appreciated the personal stories shared by the guest speakers and the guidance they got from Nordea’s mentors.
Speakers at Fearless Founders event
Speakers at the event Marjaana Jukkola, Mö Foods (left) and Piia Kuosmanen, Velbi (right) with Nordea's Anni Ylismäki in the center.

The catalyst behind the launch of Fearless Founders in autumn 2022 was a staggering report released by Unconventional Ventures, which revealed that women-led businesses only receive about 1% of all growth funding in the Nordics.

At the Fearless Founders events, seasoned entrepreneurs shared their experiences in getting started with their companies, tackling challenges along the way and securing funding for their businesses. In addition, the 170 participants received guidance and mentoring from 40 Nordea volunteers.

Encouragement and inspiration from real-life role models

Maria Nurminen, a recent graduate from the University of Vaasa with a degree in Economics, and Elsi Eronen, who will soon graduate, both believe that they will devote a part of their career to entrepreneurship at some point.

“The speakers at the events proved that you can build a successful business despite challenging financial circumstances, as long as you have the dedication and put in the work to get your business off the ground. I found the latest event’s theme of ‘Towards International Markets’ the most interesting. I used to think that international markets would be unreachable but the event helped challenge my views,” Elsi Eronen says.

“For me, the most interesting part was the discussions I had with entrepreneurs and investors about how the businesses had been able to successfully pitch themselves to investors and secure funding,” Maria Nurminen adds.

Maria Nurminen and Elsi Eronen

Freedom and risk

Both participants say that the events gave them encouragement and practical advice on starting a business, which can otherwise feel daunting with the risks involved, especially for young people who may lack confidence in themselves or their idea.

“I believe that the freedom and opportunity to work with a topic that’s close to your heart outweigh any feelings of insecurity and the responsibilities that come with running your own business. I needed help with the early stages of setting up a business, especially with conceptualising my business idea and making it a reality later,” Elsi Eronen says.

“There’s a lot of support material available, but getting hung up on whether you can actually do this may hinder your progress. That’s what was so great about Fearless Founders – you could see how the entrepreneurs always believed in what they were trying to achieve despite difficult times and doubters,” Maria Nurminen says.

Volunteering to support entrepreneurship

Volunteers from Nordea acted as mentors, offering guidance on a wide array of topics related to start-up entrepreneurship ranging from founding a business to creating a business plan and a pitch deck to win over potential investors.

According to Anni Ylismäki, Community Engagement Manager for Business Banking Finland at Nordea, the feedback from the participants shows that  there’s demand for mentoring programmes designed especially for women interested in entrepreneurship.

“Many people felt that they got the encouragement they needed to finally start a business or take the next step with their company. They thought that the inspiring real-life stories from other entrepreneurs and the in-person mentoring sessions were very relevant and beneficial. Our events were also praised for the fact that they were free of charge and held in English. This was a way for us to pilot our new community engagement programme through which we want to promote and support entrepreneurship and diversity,” Anni Ylismäki says.

At Nordea, each employee can spend two working days a year doing voluntary work that supports financial and entrepreneurial skills.

”I’m extremely grateful for the wonderful and inspiring women speakers who took the stage at our events and shared real-life stories from their time as business owners so bravely and openly,” Anni Ylismäki concludes.

Panel Discussion with Meri-Tuuli Laaksonen, Co-Founder of Gubbe, Venture Capitalist Amanda Lindqvist and Teija Nousiainen, Deal Flow Manager, Nordea.