Irina Klevtsova is not only an exceptionally brave woman, a gentle mother, loving wife, and my good friend: she is also a successful entrepreneur managing a dog grooming business in Finland together with independent entrepreneurs Alexandra Toronen and Irina Turchina, who work beside her in her salon. She is also a woman committed to continuously developing her strengths, Irina tells FIF readers how she found her path as an entrepreneur in Finland.
From where and when did you move to Finland?
Our family moved to Helsinki six years ago from Russia. We were born and raised in Moscow where we worked before moving here.
What did you do before coming to Finland?
I worked in an international consulting company, recruiting personnel for the field of IT.
How did your family end up in Finland?
My husband was offered a job in Finland and we decided to give it a try. First, my husband moved, then my daughter and I followed. At that time, my daughter was a little over 3 years old. Before moving here we were already familiar with the country as tourists: we went skiing almost every winter, mostly to the northern part of Finland, of course. So, we knew the country to some extent.
Tell us about your life experiences in Finland? What was a pleasant surprise or disappointment in Finland
Initially my impressions of the country were extremely positive. While our daughter and I were getting a residence permit, we explored Helsinki and found out how everything works. We tried to make new acquaintances, for example, by walking with my daughter at the playground. We were given a place in the day care fairly quickly, and I was able to attend Finnish language courses. I found the courses pretty quickly and there were no problems finding them at that time. At first I attended an intensive courses for 6 months, then 3 months of other courses: I studied the language for 9 months. I can’t say that I began to speak Finnish fluently afterwards, but of course, the courses gave me the opportunity to at least communicate and understand the Finnish language on a basic level.
After completing the course, I had gotten experience in several companies. Despite the fact that my spouse had stable work and income at that time, I always tried to find a job. However, after a rather lengthy search, I began to despair, because I could not find work in my field. This was the first and strongest disappointment that I encountered here. In Moscow, a large metropolis, I never had such a problem.
You worked in HR before arriving in Finland. Why did you decide to try a completely different industry?
As a result of long and unsuccessful attempt to find a job in my field, one day I sat down and thought: what else could I do? What do I like? What could I possibly do? The answer didn't take long to come since I really love animals, particularly dogs. I grew up in a family of pedigree and Rottweiler dogs breeders so I began thinking how can I turn my hobby into work.
Why did you start your business? What made you become an entrepreneur?
Initially, I didn’t plan to open my own grooming salon. After graduating from courses in 2 large grooming schools, I got a job at a salon here. I was lucky to have been given practice for 6 months and there I was able to continue my development and training as a master groomer. At the same time, I have the opportunity to improve the Finnish language, for instance by communicating with customers in Finnish. After the training, the (now former) owner of the salon moved to another city for family reasons and I had the chance to continue her business by opening my own company. Simply put, the former owner of the salon moved out, and I, weighing the pros and cons, began my work.
What are the challenges of starting a business? What is the secret to success?
I did not have any problems with starting a business in Finland, on the contrary, the state encourages and supports small business at the stage of opening a company. There are entrepreneurship courses where they provide all the necessary support. They will also help to prepare a business plan, which is essential for the successful functioning of the enterprise in the beginning and in the future. All this support is absolutely free and the courses give a basic idea of accounting, marketing, law and so on. For more information on these courses check this.
Who is your typical customer?
It is usually the typical loving dog breeder who has a four-legged friend requiring professional care.
Do you have some advice for similar entrepreneur?
Despite the great support of the state at the initial stage, being an entrepreneur is not easy. Especially for those who have never had such an experience. Therefore, I would recommend not to be shy and contact the business support centers like YritysEspoo or NewCo in Helsinki, and draw up your business plan as carefully as possible.
It is also worth considering that Finland is a welfare state. And you should clearly understand: the more you work and earn, the higher your tax will be. Therefore, it is worth considering the optimal balance for you. And do not hesitate to take risks and to develop and learn constantly.
It is also worth understanding that at first you will have to invest a lot of time in the company, perhaps even to the detriment of the family.
Please tell me how do you combine family and entrepreneurship?
So far I am only trying to find the right balance between work and family and working on it all the time.
What are your plans for the near future?
To increase the number of grooming masters in my salon and to further develop as a master by attending all relevant seminars and master courses. I am also planning to participate in the groomer competition next year.
Interview by Elena Popova
Pictures by Juha Roisko