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Empowering women entrepreneurs in sparsely populated Northern communities

The writers' faces.
4.11.2021 14:00

Authors: Anne Saloniemi, Bachelor of Natural Resources, project manager & Reeta Sipola, Master of Natural Resources, project manager | Lapland University of Applied Sciences, Future Bioeconomy Expertise group

The Final Seminar Week culminated the 3 years of the W-Power project

For three years, the international W-Power project has provided support and encouragement to women to set up, develop and identify the business potential of existing companies. For the last time, the project brought together female entrepreneurs and stakeholders in Joensuu in September 2021, for the final seminar week.

The event was organized as a hybrid implementation where some of the partners had the opportunity to travel to Joensuu and some participated through a virtual platform. The North-Karelian partners Karelia UAS and Business Joensuu had arranged a generous three-day seminar including inspiring panel discussions, workshops, interesting keynotes, and virtual networking. Through the online platform, all 68 registered participants could network internationally and find new contacts and customers.

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Picture 1. Karelia UAS project team Helena Puhakka-Tarvainen, Satu Mustonen and Heidi Vartiainen hosted the final seminar in Joensuu.

The International Peer to Peer Networking Programme supported networking even during Covid

Peer to Peer Networking programme (P2P) piloted during the project, has offered opportunities to women entrepreneurs in sparsely populated regions for networking across borders. Programme has been a great possibility to find new contacts and partners, to learn new ways to work, and to discuss everyday challenges with a peer entrepreneur.

P2P- programme has been very helpful for many entrepreneurs even during the Covid-19, as face-to-face meetings have been forced to change into online meetings. The project has published a podcast presenting the P2P programme and its results. (Karelian Podcast 2021.)

In the final seminar in Joensuu, one of the pairs told their experiences and benefits of the programme in a panel discussion. Megan Burns, founder of Scoop Digital and Anu Ruusila founder of Cordial Communications told how committed they were in scheduling and planning the themes for their meetings in advance, and how valuable the peer support had been. They also had plans of keeping in touch in future and helping each other out. (Burns 2021; Ruusila 2021.)

The panel discussion was hosted by Päivi Sainio-Rohner from Strukturum I Jokkmokk, the Swedish project partner who has also coordinated the P2P programme. During the project, 23 enterprises have participated the programme, of which four from Lapland.

Promoting woman entrepreneurship

The project has also had many other activities and support measures, such as an innovation platform for new pre-startups, and a gender-sensitive coaching concept for business advisory bodies including a Business Model Canvas. Project regions have adopted these piloted methods and practices in ways appropriate to each region and will continue to develop them in the future. The project has had to adapt its activities to the pandemic situation, but it has still managed to reach hundreds of woman entrepreneurs during its lifetime with events, trainings, seminars and networking opportunities.

The project has encouraged woman entrepreneurs in sparsely populated areas to set up or develop an existing business. The driver behind the project have been studies showing that especially young, educated women move out of the rural areas, which can have negative effects on the vitality of rural regions. Promoting women's entrepreneurship can have a positive effect on the demographic balance of rural areas and the social structure of the communities. (ESPON 2013.)

In the Final seminar, the Region Mayer of North Karelia, Markus Hirvonen, said in his speech: “I hope that the project will continue because, without the success of women, we cannot survive”. The sparsely populated areas will continue to need actions to promote entrepreneurship.

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Picture 2. Bisnesleidit, the network of women entrepreneurs operating under the North Karelian entrepreneurs hosted a cocktail- and networking event after the seminar.

Project outcomes are available on the project website. After the project, the international sharing and networking site in LinkedIn remains available. The W-Power project group invites new members to join the group at https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8725639/.

The international W-Power project was coordinated by Karelia University of Applied Sciences and Lapland University of Applied Sciences was a partner from Northern Finland. Other areas involved in this project were Northern Sweden, Iceland, Scotland, Shetland Islands, and West Coast of Ireland. The project was funded by the EU's Northern Periphery and Arctic Program 2014 - 2020.

w-power northern perip EU hankelogot


Burns, M. 2021. founder of Scoop Digital. W-Power final seminar. Panel Discussion: The Peer-to-Peer Networking Programme 29.9.2021.

ESPON 2013. Gender Imbalances in European Regions. https://www.espon.eu/topics-policy/publications/maps-month/gender-imbalances-european-regions.

Karelian Podcast 2021. The Success Stories of W-Pwer -project: Episode 1 Peer-to-Peer (P2P) networking programme. https://soundcloud.com/karelianpodcast/w-power-podcast-episode1

Ruusila, A. 2021. founder of Cordial Communications. W-Power final seminar. Panel Discussion: The Peer-to-Peer Networking Programme 29.9.2021.

W-Power project. Capacity building needs for woman entrepreneurs in the Northern Periphery and Arctic. 2019 http://w-power.interreg-npa.eu/subsites/W-POWER/Capacity_building_needs_for_woman_entrepreneurs_in_the_Northern_Periphery_and_Arctic.pdf

W-Power project. Mapping the challenges for female entrepreneurship in the Northern Periphery and Arctic. 2019. http://w-power.interreg-npa.eu/subsites/W-POWER/Mapping_the_challenges_for_woman_entrepreneurship_in_the_Northern_Periphery_and_Arctic.pdf


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