Fresh thinking and support from networks – The Back to Work event encouraged us to take steps towards something new

The Back to Work event brought together entrepreneurs from the region for the second time to start the autumn season together. This time, the event organized by NIHAK and Nivala Teollisuuskylä was dedicated to the theme of internationalization. New markets and fresh perspectives were seen in the speeches as a great opportunity for companies – and in this time, also a necessity.

” If the company has a good product, service, and know-how, then it’s worth thinking big and trying to go abroad. Despite that, the idea of staying in the current situation may seem easier and more comfortable,” NIHAK CEO Toni Krankkala stated in his opening speech.

The most important thing in internationalization is to get going and start gathering experience. In practice, it can initially mean, for example, participating in a trade fair trip, in which case you can get a feel for new markets.

” NIHAK offers companies just such opportunities. It’s going out together, gaining experience, and building networks. After that, we can move on forward with more detailed plans,” Krankkala concluded.

Think Big award goes to an open-minded internationalist

The Think Big award went to Hero Mechanics Oy from Nivala this year. NIHAK awards the award annually to a micro-enterprise that dares to think big and internationalize without any preconceptions.

Hero Mechanics Oy was founded in 2018, but its CEO Esa Lohela has more than 20 years of experience in the machining industry. Despite his long career, he has not stuck to traditional operating models but seeks new ideas and boldly applies them in the development of the company.

An open-minded attitude can be seen, for example, in recruitment. At the end of 2020, the company hired its first external employee, a sales and marketing specialist from Poland.

Expanding to international markets has been Hero Mechanics Oy’s strategy since the company was founded. It is essential to acquire the right kind of expertise for the company. At the same time, internationalization is also seen as an opportunity to broaden perspectives and bring new ways of thinking to the company.

The importance of the North is increasing


Minister Ville Skinnar’s speech encouraged entrepreneurs to be active in internationalization.

The Minister of Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade Ville Skinnari, who spoke at the Back to Work event, emphasized the challenge for companies brought by the new security policy situation.

” Finland and the entire northern region must reposition itself, and the export market must also be looked at in a new way,” Skinnari stated.

 ” Get up and get going because no one will get you from here,” the minister emphasized.

On joining NATO, the importance of Sweden and the other Nordic countries will increase even more. The opening of new embassies is also currently being negotiated in different parts of the world.

Even in internationalization, it is necessary to think locally and focus on the regions: interesting partnerships can often be found at the regional level in the target countries. In any case, the most important thing is to be active yourself.  

Even the small ones can do it

The entrepreneurs’ perspectives on internationalization were offered by a panel discussion led by BusinessOulu’s account manager Janne Hietaniemi. The panel discussion focused especially on the challenges and successes of small companies in their export efforts.

Riku Hietamäki, CEO of GearMotive Oy from Sievi, told how the company was built from the beginning with the international market in mind. Founded in 2015, GearMotive specializes in gearboxes for racing vehicles.


Eija Hämäläinen (vas.) Business Oulu, Riku Hietamäki, GearMotive Oy

Hietamäki emphasized, among other things, the importance of networks and support groups, as well as uncompromising work for product quality and customer service.

BusinessOulu’s business sector coordinator Eija Hämäläinen is also an entrepreneur specializing in fair and event marketing. Based on her long international experience, Hämäläinen gave many practical tips for internationalizing companies. There is no need to make language skills a threshold question because’ broken’ English is spoken everywhere, and even large companies use interpreters. Hämäläinen also emphasized the importance of meeting people. Entrepreneurs from different cultures often have a lot in common.

NIHAK project worker Nataliia Dichtiarenko has a company in her home country of Ukraine that manufactures and sells role-playing armor focused on a market for women. Since the products are aimed at a small but international target group, it was natural to start a business directly on the global market. Dichtiarenko believed in her idea, even though many others doubted it.

She states how important it is to have a supportive team in the beginning. However, the most important thing is to move forward because the worst option is to do nothing.


Jukka Olkkonen (vas.) Olkkonen Oy, Nataliia Dikhtiarenko, NIHAK ry

The Osuma products from Olkkonen Oy hunting accessories shop in Haapajärvi are exported to several European countries in addition to the Nordic countries. According to CEO Jukka Olkkonen, the reason behind the internationalization was the desire to see how far it was possible to go with our own products. In the beginning, NIHAK’s internationalization services were of decisive importance, through which the company once went out on a trial run to show its products at trade fairs. We are still on that road.

Success requires a new way of thinking


According to Perttu Pölönen, the new successful people are those who know how to think fresh.

The event culminated in a speech by futurist, inventor, and writer Perttu Pölönen, in which he went through the development of business models in an interesting way, looking at history. Today, new technologies, platform economy, and global networks offer enormous opportunities to challenge old thought patterns and ways of working.

Pölönen’s central message was that real reforms are not created by simply making better versions of old solutions. New achievers are those who know how to think fresh and make old solutions look bad.


Jukka Poika entertained the audience at the Back to Work networking and cocktail event.

After the actual seminar program, there was a networking and cocktail event where the guests could exchange ideas. The evening was entertained by Jukka Poika, one of Finland’s most famous artists, and DJ Stormy.

Jukka Poika is one of the pioneers of Finnish-language reggae. Walking his own path has brought success, but not quickly.

The artist’s career started already in the 90s, but he made his real breakthrough into the awareness of the general public a good ten years ago. In Nivala, Jukka Poika showed a model of paying attention to the audience and spontaneously living in the moment.


There was also a good atmosphere at the networking and cocktail event.

Read the article in finnish from this link!

Article and pictures: Hanna Perkkiö

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