In the summer of 2023, the 4H associations of the Capital Region (Pks4H) and the City of Helsinki organised a summer entrepreneurship programme where more than 40 young people aged 15–29 could try their hand at running a business. The city supported the young participants with summer entrepreneurship vouchers worth EUR 300, while Pks4H was responsible for guiding the young people and coordinating the summer entrepreneurship programme.
Hanna Palosuo, summer entrepreneur mentor at Pks4H, says that summer entrepreneurship is a low-threshold way to try starting a business in a supported and safe way. The programme went very well and the participants reported having gained much-needed experience, particularly in sales, marketing and customer service.
“The main thing that stuck in my mind was the hard work, courage and initiative of the young people. The mentors help them get started, but very quickly the young people start to trust their abilities and find the courage to approach customers or post the first updates on their businesses’ social media accounts,” Palosuo says.
According to her, it was also wonderful to see that the young participants were not discouraged by setbacks.
“If the original idea didn’t work out, we developed new ideas together. I believe that the business trial has had a huge impact on the young people’s self-confidence and perseverance, in particular. These qualities are needed in every aspect of life.”
This year, the programme included an even wider range of entrepreneurs from different sectors than in previous years: game coders, music and website makers, as well as entrepreneurs offering various photography and video services. The aim of the programme was for all the participants to be able to start their business and make some sales.
Growing self-confidence and surpassing yourself
The 4H association considers it important for the programme to have a very supportive atmosphere, where the participants support each other, learn new things and discover new sides and abilities in themselves. Each young person or team is also supported by their own 4H business mentor who helps with things like taxes, permits and invoicing. The young people can discuss practical issues and positive experiences with their mentors.
The participants of the summer entrepreneurship programme also got to try their hand at real-life customer service situations. As part of the programme, a bazaar week was organised at the Sello Shopping Centre in late July, allowing the young people to showcase their products and services. Hanna Palosuo says that people were really interested in the summer entrepreneurship programme and 4H entrepreneurship, and the young people made good sales and approached customers cheerfully. For many young people, the bazaar week was the first opportunity to sell products directly to customers. The summer entrepreneurship closing event at the Redi Shopping Centre was also a success.
Almost every participant plans to continue business either in the autumn or next summer
A total of 137 young people applied for the summer entrepreneurship programme, and 49 were selected. The vouchers offered by the City of Helsinki were granted to a total of 40 young people. The final survey of the participants revealed that 96% had started their business and 84% had made sales by 11 August. A total of 93% of the respondents also planned to continue their business activities after the end of the programme.
New experiences and a good start to an entrepreneur’s journey
Peppi Viljanen (17) participated in the summer entrepreneurship programme. Her business, Peppis_nails, offers gel polish nail services. Her business has also offered cleaning and yard services.
“The highlights of my summer were definitely the experiences of success that I gained by starting a business. It felt amazing to get my first customers and the first wages for my work,” Viljanen says.
Peppi also liked how the programme allowed her to get to know other 4H entrepreneurs and learn about business development from other entrepreneurs.
“I plan to continue entrepreneurship after the end of the summer entrepreneurship programme, and I already have plans for my business in the autumn. For example, I will participate in Nordea’s 4H business marketplace,” Viljanen says.
“We are forward-looking and committed to continuous development”
The business idea of Lukas Linden (15) and Johannes Salovaara (16) is to offer a wide range of car washing services, such as basic washing, waxing and interior cleaning. They also offer moving and storage cleanout services, if needed.
“We stand out from our competitors by coming to the customer, which saves them time and money,” Linden says.
Lukas and Johannes experienced many successes and new things this summer. They say they have already learned a lot about running a business, managing finances and taking responsibility for their actions.
“The highlight of the summer entrepreneurship was when we washed the first car and saw a satisfied customer. It marked the actual start of our business operations,” Salovaara says.
In the autumn and spring, the friends plan to invest especially in a service focusing on tyre changes, but they intend to always expand their operations according to customers’ needs.
Business Helsinki supports young people
The City of Helsinki has been supporting summer entrepreneurship programmes for four summers now. Hannele Kostiainen, Business Advisor at Business Helsinki, says that, for more and more young people, entrepreneurship is a viable option for finding employment and doing meaningful things in life.
“In addition to the youth summer entrepreneurship programme, Helsinki employment services and Business Helsinki launched a joint youth entrepreneurship path last year. It offers, for example, coaching, mentoring and peer support for young people and adults under the age of 30 who are interested in entrepreneurship,” Kostiainen says.