Kuopio Entrepreneurship Society (KuopioES) is an entrepreneur- and student-driven community of our city. It was founded in 2011, but the concept was originally born in 2008 at Aalto University. Now there are entrepreneurship societies all over Finland. The CEO of KuopioES is Niko Kosunen. Niko comes from Kuopio, he has a Bachelor’s degree in International Business, and he spent several years of his life in Scotland. Marco Rigano, the Marketing Manager, is from Italy. He has been living in Finland since 2010, and now he is about to finish his Master’s at the Innovation Management Degree Programme of UEF Business School. We have asked these two energetic and international-minded young business enthusiasts about the organization.
Kuopio Entrepreneurship Society is a community for thinkers and doers. It wants to encourage open dialogue in entrepreneurship and international business among young people.
KuopioES connects young people and makes them acquainted with entrepreneurship. The society aims to support the youth of Kuopio in starting their own businesses by giving advice and helping with practicalities. It also facilitates the development of business ideas and helps leveraging stakeholder networks. Niko and Marco say,
“It is not even necessary to have an idea to join Kuopio Entrepreneurship Society. You can join for networking purposes as well.”
The society deals with start-ups and connects companies and talents with both Finnish and international backgrounds. KuopioES highlights internationality, and the members have diverse cultural backgrounds.
Ideas + innovative people + enthusiasm = bright future
“We enhance entrepreneurial culture and multidisciplinary interaction between entrepreneurs, schools and students. We encourage people to refine their ideas, and we create an atmosphere to unleash hidden potential,” Niko says.
What’s the purpose?
Finland is the country where one feels entrepreneurial atmosphere. There has been a growing interest towards entrepreneurship among the students pursuing higher education degrees.
“Our purpose is to serve the entrepreneurial-minded with powerful insights, skills and connections that inspire, motivate and help students to create new businesses. We are the part of the movement towards a more innovative, creative, entrepreneur-friendly and economically healthy Finland,” Niko explains.
What’s on the agenda?
“To accomplish this we arrange events related to entrepreneurship. Collaboration is the essential part of our operation. Not everything can be learned in school, so we arrange different kinds of events for networking and encouraging people to take the next step. If you have ideas for the community, contact us without hesitation,” Marco continues.
The hangout events organized for idea exchange are the easiest way to join and find out more about KuopioES.
The hangout events take place once a month. These are mainly informal meetings which can take place, for example, in cafés. All KuopioES events are held in English. Niko says,
“Some exchange students have also tried coming to hangout events. If they wanted to stay and join KuopioES, we would help for sure.”
There are also two bigger-scale events with KuopioES participation taking place annually. Sawosta Maailmalle, an annual networking event targeting at business growth and international development, took place this May. Another event is Cockpit Accelerator Program, a four-week program for those dreaming to become an entrepreneur. The latest winner of this mentoring and pitching event took home 3000€. This year Cockpit Accelerator is preliminarily planned for autumn. Niko says,
“The events are adjusted based on the feedback received. When people suggest certain topics, we try to get people to talk and tell more about those topics. We always want to know what our members are interested in.”
KuopioES board members are selected in September, and most of the members are international students. Every year there are a lot of new members in the board. The old members usually become mentors for start-ups.
KuopioES is not a heavily formal organization. There is little power distance, and the atmosphere is easy-going and relaxed, so it is not intimidating for people to join and be part of it. The members of the society are students, and they are forming a peer-to-peer environment. The older members usually become mentors for the next KuopioES generations (the new people coming in).
“The ones most eager to join our society are those who want to help others in entrepreneurship and starting their businesses. The second group are entrepreneurs, who have good experiences to share with others,” Marco says. “KuopioES is very approachable! Most of the members are international, we offer almost professional help and charge no fees for it. Joining KuopioES is a good first step to see which way to go with your business idea, and we give advice which stakeholders can help to take the next steps.”
“We always wish more people know about us. Every year new students come to Kuopio, so creating awareness is essential,” Niko highlights.
The membership in KuopioES is free and so are the events! There are also free drinks and snacks offered during the hangout events.
The final words from Niko and Marco for those who want to join:
“Come share your own story. We want to get to know you, and we are not intimidating!”
KuopioES has collaborations with many businesses and organizations such as: Kuopio Chamber of Commerce, Nordea, Osuuspankki, City of Kuopio, Design Week, Tahko (e.g. Tahko Ski Lift Pitch took place there), Savon Yrittäjät, Nuoret Yrittäjät, Savonia, University of Eastern Finland, Muotoiluakatemia, 3D Talo, ISYY and all student unions, Preemio, Start-up Sauna, Junction, Call To Action, Value Thing, Slush, Treedee, SimLab, Science Stories (one of the companies KuopioES helped to grow), Dinersville, Energy Everywhere, and all other Entrepreneurship Societies especially in Savo and Eastern Finland area. The people from these organizations come to talk to KuopioES events. One of the highlights of KuopioES is connecting businesses with students.
Interview and text: Tiia Alina Heikkinen, Student Ambassador of the Programme