Establishing a new business takes time and effort, especially if you don’t speak one of the official languages of your country. Luckily, Finland offers one of the most supportive start-up environments anywhere in the world. This article will describe some of the resources and steps you should be aware of when setting up your own business. Hopefully, it can help you on your route to becoming your own boss!
Start-Up Advice Services
This should be your first stop when considering setting up your own business.EnterpriseHelsinki has a team of dedicated professionals whose purpose is to help potential start-ups and early stage companies with all manners of their business development. And the best part: they offer services for free, and in English (and other languages too)!
Their must-read document, “Guide to Becoming an Entrepreneur in Finland”, contains all the information you’ll need. It can be downloaded from their website for free. You can even make a free appointment with one of their business advisors for individualized help with your business plan, registration, and funding requests.
The registration requirements for your company is highly dependent on your residency status / citizenship, and the form of business ownership being established. Refer to EnterpriseHelsinki’s guide for a detailed description on pages 22-23.
The Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY centres) can provide start-up funding for new businesses, depending on the location and business type. They will review your business plan and judge if they deem your proposal to be feasible, and whether it is likely to result in a profitable business. If so, you can be awarded start-up funding grants in the range of €500 - €700 per month, for 6 months. An additional 6-month extension of the funding may be possible if your business is showing signs of growth. If after one year of operations, the business is growing but still in need of support, a final 6-month extension is possible. This third extension is not common to be approved for sole-practitioners and typically requires the business to be hiring staff.
Finnvera is a special financing company owned by the State of Finland. It provides financing for businesses, including low-interest loans and guarantees. Low-interest loans in small amounts (around €5 000 are relatively easy to secure if your business plan is sound). They can also offer the first year of the loan as interest free in some cases.
Tax and accounting laws can be rather confusing, and are often dependent on the type of business and location of sales. Although the Finnish Tax Administration, Vero, offers high-level English language guidance, most detailed instructions can only be found in Finnish or Swedish.
For these reasons, it is highly recommended that you obtain a local professional accountant who is familiar with Finnish tax law, and can speak Finnish or Swedish. Accounting services should be available for around €1 000 per year.
It is important to make sure that you are covered for whatever life might throw at you.
Mandatory Entrepreneur’s Pension Insurance (YEL)
This is the only insurance that entrepreneurs are required to take from an insurance provider (provided that your estimated income is over €7 430 / yr – 2014 figure). All insurance providers must charge the same rates for this coverage, so there is no need to ‘shop-around’. YEL insurance provides you with pension and disability coverage. Payment amounts are based on the entrepreneur’s work income. Note that new entrepreneurs get a 22% discount on their required payments for the first 4 years.
The TEK unemployment fund, IAET, is not applicable to entrepreneurs. If you wish to obtain unemployment coverage you can join the unemployment fund for entrepreneurs, AYT. This can give you the option of closing down your business in the future, and allow you to obtain unemployment benefits while you look for a new job, or retrain.
Professional Liability and Legal Expense Insurance
Your TEK membership includes basic coverage for legal expenses and professional liability through IF Insurance Company. This coverage should suffice for most new businesses, but you can always purchase additional coverage from your insurance provider, if required. To find out more about the IF coverage for TEK members, download a copy of the policy in English.
You may wish to obtain your own critical illness insurance from a private insurance company, for added piece of mind.
Don’t forget to check out the extensive Career Services offered to TEK members, including CV Clinic, Career Webinars, and Legal Consulting - all of which can be valuable tools for new entrepreneurs.
Although there are many items to consider and steps to be taken, don’t be intimidated by the process. You should schedule at least a few weeks to a few months to set up your business, so chip away at the process one topic at a time. With perseverance and focus, you can start your own business, and become your own boss!