“Northern Stars 2017”: an international students’ success story

What is Northern Stars Seminar?

An annual event (organized by Lapland UAS and InnoBarentsLab) combining experts, practitioners and youth entrepreneurship, “Northern Stars” was held this week for the fifth time, with a focus on the Arctic. The seminar was a great opportunity for students from Rovaniemi and Tornio to learn about Arctic innovations, policy and business solutions, as well as real-life entrepreneurship stories delivered by renowned speakers from Finland, the United States, France and the United Kingdom.


“The main aim of Northern Stars is to awaken and encourage the interest among young people in entrepreneurship in the Arctic – in the region where we live —; to help them to discover the opportunities that we have here in the North. Sometimes, we don’t really realize or know ourselves all the opportunities the Arctic offers. I feel that we have opened new doors and perspectives for our students. I am sure the presentations have inspired the audience and probably some of the students will start their own business or simply further explore what’s happening in the Circumpolar Arctic,” says Anzelika Krastina, lecturer in business administration.


Northern Stars project leader Katarina Holla, an international business student from Slovakia, said the feedback was very positive: “the most important thing for the team behind the seminar is that participants and speakers liked the seminar and learned a lot. We’ve had theoretical presentations on business and entrepreneurship in the morning, followed by more practical stories and advice after lunch.”

Raivis Aire, a senior-year international business student from Latvia, added that many benefited from the particular format of the seminar: “the start-up pitching contest in the afternoon has helped students take the theory into practice. This was a great learning experience that, hopefully, will keep on going in the next years.”

Mikå Mered, a market analyst from France and visiting lecturer in Arctic business at Lapin AMK, said the seminar was of very high quality: “the wealth and diversity of content offered by Northern Stars enabled the students to broaden their perspectives on the Arctic and on entrepreneurship by bridging theory and practice. There were more participants than seats in the auditorium and all were really engaged throughout the day. It was a true success.”


Now let’s do this!

From clear morning to sunny afternoon on 5th of April, Jokiväylä campus was the centre of hustle and bustle. It was a day for Northern Stars Seminar, a seminar dedicated to encourage youth entrepreneurship among school´s students by bringing together business and science specialists from different walks of life to talk about the possibilities and challenges of the Arctic. There was also an afternoon session where student groups got to pitch their business ideas and a jury specializing in the business field would give them valuable feedback.

As a surprise for the audience to kick off the day, Lapland UAS student Bogdan Molchanov performed live beatboxing in the auditorium! Amazing talent, which the audience rewarded with loud applauses afterwards.



First speech by the host of the day Mikå Mered (Arctic/Antarctic analyst, lecturer, professional speaker) was about topic why entrepreneurship in the Arctic matters. As a person, who is not originally from the Arctic region, he followed his roots in Sweden and started his business there. Related with politics, he sees opportunities what could be developed here in the Arctic. Helping others with his knowledge and sharing his experience he was able to be quite successful.


Next speaker from Finland, Jonna Jakkila shared her experience about what encouraged her in life to be exactly where she is right now. Dare to dream or dare to disagree with me was the main topic what she talked about. Main quotes from here speech was:

“Don’t be afraid to dream. Follow your dreams and it’s ok if you fail. Keep practicing and chase your dreams. Share with people what you want to do, they might help you to make it happen. Courage other people to do things. It’s not going to be easy to make your dreams come true. And it’s definitely worth it to go through some struggle. That’s the moment when you learn a lot.”

Jonna also shared her life experience how important it is to participate in student organizations. That’s the best place where to learn new things, be active, meet new people, develop more personal skills etc.

In conclusion, she gave us some tips from her experience:

  • Find your passion or find your irrigation.
  • Tell people about your dreams.
  • Don’t limit yourself, if you think that something is not possible. It is possible, but it’s not easy.
  • Believe in yourself.
  • Read books, listen to audio books, podcasts.
  • Chase your dreams.


Next speaker Dr. Lassi Heininen from Finland gave speech about The globalized Arctic as an exceptional space in international politics with ‘uncommon instabilities’.

This speech was not only about sharing his own work experience, but he was talking also about global issues. Arctic region (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Canada) have to co-operate to make things happen. It’s all about political relationships between countries to develop together. And in this context key words are to develop together. Pollution and climate change is a huge issue nowadays. That is something what first of all affects Arctic region. For that reason, Arctic region countries have to co-operate and offer rest of the world solution. Like he said: “We can offer something for the rest of the world what they don’t need yet, but might need soon”. All Arctic region countries is part of 8-10 biggest economies in world. Other big economy countries like China, USA, invest in Arctic region with goal to help avoid climate changes. But they are missing one important point that they are the countries, with the biggest CO2 emissions. They should start with investing in their own countries how to help environment and how to reduce pollution. They have to start with themselves!

Another good point what Dr. Lassi Heininen mentioned was about business in Arctic. If few years ago only people from Arctic actually operated their business here, then nowadays region’s future is no longer in the hands of Arctic local actors alone. People who have never lived here, they have superficial understanding about this region. Arctic region is quite unique by itself. Before you start to do something here, you have to understand its nature.


Elba Horta, Sales Coach, and Business Mentor, shared her experience from Silicon Valley. Her topic was “Insights from my Silicon Valley Experience: Human potential, entrepreneurship and staying here. “

Elba’s experience in Silicon Valley was 16 years ago from 1996 till 2001. As a geology student with big passion about IT she ended up there. Like she said- I joined the movement and became a part of one start-up company called DSL Networks who operated their business in Silicon Valley.

Lessons what she learned there:

  • You don’t know what you can do until you start
  • Business is personal transformation
  • Wellbeing above all

Sometimes we are unaware what we can actually accomplish. Maybe we are too afraid to fail, or we think that we don’t have enough knowledge in some fields. All these are just excuses why we shouldn’t do something. Just try and see what is going to happen. Give chance to make things happen!

Like Elba said- “Just start doing something! That first step is all what you need!” And also about wellbeing that’s something what we shouldn’t forget about. It’s not worth it to burn out. Stay healthy! “It is not about being in the right place at the right time. It is about building your reality.” That right moment is right now!


Her career Elba is continuing here in Finland. The main reason for that is family. But also in Finland there is lots of opportunities for building business, lots and different kind of support new start-up companies can get from Finland. Lots of people with high level IT skills. This is perfect environment for being a mentor and sales coach. Her presentation she ended with quote from Niklas Zennstrom, CEO of Atomico VS:

“It’s a competitive advantage to be from the small countries. If you have that mindset from day one you are better equipped for tomorrow.” Small countries think global from day one, which is not that common for big countries. Big countries like USA, Canada, China, Russia, etc. They have enough sources to operate business locally. Going global is not the main point. They could probably survive without that as well. But in nowadays world is global, internet makes everything acceptable for everyone from everywhere. That changes view how companies should look at world nowadays- Global!


Heli Huhanantti “From Lapland UAS into Sales Manager!”

Heli shared her experience how from student in this university she became sales manager in Arktikum and Korundi. Tips what she gave to students:

  • Get degree
  • Work hard and always do your best
  • Have courage
  • Remember to stay humble
  • Surround yourself with smart (er) and inspiring people
  • Be yourself and authentic
  • Travel as much as you can
  • Being a boss is not easy
  • Help others when you get chance
  • In order to succeed you need to accept the possibility in making mistakes and failure
  • Have fun

She is really passionate about Rovaniemi and Lapland. She encouraged students why we should stay here. It’s worth to see it at least it once – Lapland is really magical place with lot of opportunities!


Last but definitely not the least speaker Dr. Dwayne Menezes talked about “The UK, the Commonwealth the Arctic: Opportunities for Trade and investment”.

In this speech, there was more information about trade and investment opportunities in the Arctic Region. Dr. Dwayne more talked about commonwealth countries, what are the benefits and trade opportunities. Some interesting facts what he shared with us was:

  • When both bilateral partners are Commonwealth members, they tend to trade on average 20% more and generate 10% more FDI flows that otherwise;
  • The Commonwealth trade advantage implies that bilateral trading cost between Commonwealth partners are around 19% lower than other country pairs.

Commonwealth Trade with EU:

  • 3 EU member states are also with the Commonwealth the UK, Cyprus and Malta
  • In 2015, the EU accounted for around 23% of Commonwealth developing countries overall exports.
  • The UK absorbs about 18% of Commonwealth developing countries exports to the EU
  • Commonwealth members aim to expand trade with EU while exploiting the unique trade advantages the Commonwealth offers

UK trade with Arctic states:

  • Trade between the UK and Arctic states already significant.
  • In 2016, the UK’s to 15 trading partners included the US, Canada and Sweden
  • Trading with the UK is still key for its historical partners. In 2016, the UK was the 3rd most important trading partner for Canada and 7th most important trading partner from US.
  • Close ties with Nordic neighbors. In 2016, The UK was the largest export market for Norway (20,7% of total Norwegian exports), 2nd for Iceland, 4th for Denmark (6%), 6th for Sweden (5,9%) and 7th for Finland (4,3%).
  • Trade with Russia UK exports of goods and services to Russia grew by over 75% between 2009 and 2012


All these numbers are grate for UK, but big political issue BREXIT will affect trade for sure. Since UK, left EU and Canada is ratifying CETA between Canada and EU countries, trade could change quite rapidly. He also mentioned that UK absorbs about 18% of Commonwealth developing countries exports to the EU. If we think about this and put all numbers together, UK is not going to be part of EU, most likely EU is not going to give benefits for UK. Other EU countries is going to be more available for trade, at least for Canada. Lot of things can change in the nearest future.

In conclusion Dr. Dwayne mentioned opportunities for Lapland:

  • Lapland and Finland hold positive image in the UK and the Commonwealth
  • Forest Industry
  • Metal Industry
  • Mining
  • Tourism
  • Vehicle testing
  • Biofuels
  • Food industry
  • Creative Industries (Film, Music, Gaming, Design)

Everything starts with good communication and wish to co-operate with each other. Will see how all political factors will affect trade and investment in nearest future.

After Dr. Dwayne’s speech started the coffee break, during which Joona Jauhiainen played some relaxing music by the piano. That brought people together in the main lobby and created nice atmosphere before the pitching competition.



Pitching competition

Startup Lapland and InnoBarentsLab organized a pitching competition for Arctic Young Innovators during the afternoon part of the seminar. 7 teams in total took part in it to pitch their business ideas for the jury (members Mikå Mered, Anete Krastina, Elina HolmHeikki Tikkanen and Elisa Lahti) who then had the power to decide the best and most innovative business idea. The opening speech of the competition was held by Anete Krastina, Winner of Startup Sauna and Kickstart.



The groups´ names were Smart Kitchen Surface, Go Dili, HAGI, Team of one, Arctic Innovators, Kolartic Transportation Solution and Arctic Lifestyle. One by one the student groups presented their business ideas in 5 minutes. Smart Kitchen Surface wanted to combine normal kitchen appliances to one surface for easier use, Go Dili proposed a hostel that puts together accommodation and bar, HAGI presented hand-made gifts, Team of one showed outdoor activity equipment selection system, Kolartic Business School expressed their want to keep the youth in Rovaniemi and put efforts in the development of the region and finally Arctic Lifestyle gave insight into how to enter Chinese market and provide services to their liking.

Each presentation was broken down by the jury and they gave challenging questions to the groups. In the end there could be only one winner group which ended up being Hagi, a Vietnamese hand-made card ´company´. Naturally the winners were excited as they gained the possibility to further promote their products in Turku in May, all travel costs covered by the grand prize.


The winning team of the pitching competition – HAGI! Members: Judy Thai, Nou Nguyen, Grace Luu and Quyen Ha.


Northern Stars Seminar 2017 core team: Dilxat Polat, Anastasiia Guschina, Nina NiskalaIrina Sergeeva and project leader Katarina Holla.

Once again – the whole core team would like to thank everyone who participated in the seminar! The amount of positive feedback really made our day. And we really hope to see many of you again next year!

Special thanks go to our official  sponsors of the event:

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lapinamk_rgb_lomakekoko  SantaPark_Arctic_World_logo_with_stars

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Arctic Light Hotel, Smart Practice, Lapland UAS, Santa Park Arctic World, Cafe & Bar 21, Kahvila Kauppayhtiö, JC Jeans Company


PLEASE GIVE US FEEDBACK (WILL ONLY TAKE A SHORT MOMENT): Northern Stars Seminar 2017 – your experience?


Authors: Anete Krūmiņa, Mikå Mered, Anzelika Krastina, Laura Ukkola, Nina Niskala

Photos: Anete Krastina, Katarina Holla, Berni Diószegi, Hoàng Yến Hiền, Oleksandr Shybinskyi