Inspiration and Motivation for Region’s Young Entrepreneurs
Since 2008, Barents Reunion has offered "inspiration and meetings for the people of Barents", to paraphrase the headline of this year’s meeting. The target group of the reunion is the youth of the region.
The twin towns Tornio-Haparanda lie in the northernmost corner of the Bothnian Bay, on the border between Sweden and Finland. The conurbation can be seen as a great symbol for cross-border cooperation in the Barents region, as the border between the two towns and the two countries is virtually invisible: among other things, the towns have a shared bus station. When arriving at Barents Reunion, a large two-day event organized in the twin town now for the eighth time, the only visible disctincts between Finland and Sweden that is visible is the two types of coffee offered: one is labeled “Finnish coffee” and the other “Swedish coffee”.
The organizer of the Barents Reunion, in addition to the towns of Tornio and Haparanda, is the Swedish furniture company IKEA. The objective of the meeting is to promote cooperation between the peoples of the Barents Region. A special attention is paid to the region’s youth, who the organizers of the Reunion hope to inspire to see the opportunities offered in their home region, and to provide them with a meeting place that gathers the decision-makers, opinion-builders and people from the industry.
“In 2006, when our store in Haparanda was opened, our founder Ingvar Kamprad got really inspired about the Barents region and wanted to establish a meeting that would encourage cooperation in the region. In addition to regional cooperation, the themes of the Reunions have been related to entrepreneurship, something Kamprad keeps close to his heart“, tells Tina Kardum Funnemark, corporate communications manager for IKEA.
Pitching the “bees”
An excellent example of the goals of the Reunion is the pitching competition “the Beehive”, in which the youth of Barents region between 17 and 25 years of age have an opportunity to present their business ideas by pitching them to entrepreneurial businesspeople (the “bees”). The competition, now organized for the second time, was won by 20-year old Jenny Uneby from Boden, Sweden, with a mobile application “Sister to sister” that is meant for girls between 13 to 18 years to share their concerns and to get answers.
“I have been developing this idea for half a year. When I was told about this pitching competition, I applied to participate, got accepted - and won. It was really cool experience to pitch the idea in front of the cameras”, tells the winner, who was in Barents Reunion for the first time.
“It is great to have this kind of forum where we can talk about how to cross the borders and cooperate with each other. I plan to attend the future Reunions too: this is a great event, all the speakers are really good and you learn a lot by just being there, and you meet a lot of interesting and inspiring people”, tells Jenny Uneby, for whom winning “the Beehive” was a great boost of motivation.
“After I have been told how great an idea “Sister to sister” is, I am really excited to get it going in Sweden. Later I would love to take it to the other countries in the Barents region too. Of course I also hope someday I could end up in the stage here in Barents Reunion as one of the speakers.”
“Like a reboot”
The speakers of the Barents Reunion include some high-profile persons, such as the Finnish children’s author and advocate of computer programming Linda Liukas and media personality Arman Alizad. However, also the Barents region youth had their representation among the speakers, such as Oleg Khadartsev from Murmansk. He is the creative director of “Fridaymilk”: a joint platform for media, communication and production companies. The purpose of Fridaymilk is to improve Murmansk as a place of residence and to encourage people to stay in the city.
“All the ideas presented here are like a reboot for me”, says Oleg. “Here you meet new people and gets new reasons to stay on in the region. I have spoken with several persons who were interested in the concept and would like to collaborate with us, so maybe Fridaymilk contribute to the Barents cooperation too. Events like Barents Reunion play a very crucial role in Barents cooperation, especially in times like this. I think it would be a really good experience for anyone.”
Text: Ilkka Tiensuu