Faisa Egge, immigrant entrepreneur of the year: "I started collecting bottles"
The beginning was difficult for Faisa Egge, who arrived in Finland in 2008 like many other immigrants "with just two suitcases" and a great desire to work hard and find her place in this society, so different from her country of origin.
Finland is not indeed the easiest place to land as a foreigner. This Wednesday, while she was collecting the Immigrant Entrepreneur of the Year Award, she remembered how she started her career: "I collected bottles, I worked in a pizzeria, I also worked for people who after refused to pay me ...," she explained with a permanent smile on her face.
But not all were bad experiences. This brave woman, who now proudly remembers that her first salary in Finland was 2.50 euros, also learned how to take advantage of the facilities offered by this country. She studied to be a nurse, although she later discovered that finding a permanent, full-time job as an employee would be an extremely difficult task.
Struggling with bureaucracy
One day she decided to leave on-and-off employment behind and to start her own company. Without any experience in the world of entrepreneurship, without any knowledge of the Finnish business environment and struggling against the local bureaucracy, which at certain points might be daunting.
"I had my own ideas and values, so I said: let´s do something different here and bring some Kenyan culture to this country," she explained.
Faisa also took advantage of some benefits such as starttiraha, a monthly payment of approximately 600 euros that the Government gives to entrepreneurs during one year to support their activity.
If something she did well was to choose her field of work: her company Amanihoiva Kotihoito Oy offers home care services to seniors and personal assistance to the disabled in their own homes in Central Ostrobothnia. Those are increasingly demanded services throughout Finland, a country which suffers from a rapid aging of the population and lack of skilled labor to serve the elderly.
Active member of her community
According to Suomen Yrittäjät, Faisa's company "is growing its profits, customer base and employee numbers year on year." As well as running her business, she has been also an active member in the community and she even stood for election in the municipal elections in the city of Kokkola.
During the event, Faisa was asked what she would ask the Government of Finland to make her job easier. And she was clear with the answer: "Please, reduce all this bureaucracy, make it easier, less complex for us entrepreneurs."
The organizers of the award agreed in their speeches by highlighting her skills:
"The strongest argument in Faisa Egge's favour was her story of coming to Finland, educating herself and becoming an entrepreneur. I also value the fact that she operates in a city that is not very large. There is immigrant entrepreneurship outside the big cities," said Suomen Yrittäjät chairman and jury member Jyrki Mäkinen.
Satu Huber, CEO of the employment pension company Elo also valued Faisa Egge's contribution to Finland: "She has been wonderful in introducing the light and positivity of her homeland to a sector which needs more skilled, motivated labour." "We should have many more immigrants in Finland, for many reasons," she also emphasized.
The 3,000 euros of the award have been donated by Elo.
From left to right: Rajkumar Sabanadesan, Douglas Castro and Faisa Egge. Photo: Elina Hakola/Suomen Yrittäjät.
The other finalists
The two other finalists were Rajkumar Sabanadesan of Kaksi.nolla Oy from Tampere and Douglas Castro of Darkglass Electronics Oy and Neutral DSP Technologies Oy from Helsinki. Both Sabanadesan's and Castro's business are growing strongly, with good turnover and functional business concepts.
The bass gear made by Castro's company, Darkglass, is sold worldwide and the company's clients include several international success stories. The company has found its niche, in which it does business globally.
Sabanadesan's Kaksi.nolla Oy caters to a range of societal needs by offering senior services, catering and meal services, as well as education and consulting. Sabanadesan himself is a change management expert and has made his company's field of operations profitable.
According to Suomen Yrittäjät, almost a hundred foreign entrepreneurs from all over Finland were nominated for the award.
"This competition puts immigrant entrepreneurs and their significance to Finnish business front and centre," said Aicha Manai, network manager at Suomen Yrittäjät.