|Alumni stories - Veronica Fossa|
Veronica Fossa, an entrepreneur, graduated from JIBS in 2012
What has happened since you graduated from JIBS?
I graduated from the Master in Economics, Management, Technology of Entertainment and Art in 2012. At the time I was already living in Helsinki, Finland, working as a freelance business developer and marketing specialist for some design and fashion brands and attending some courses at Aalto University in International Design Business Management.
Two happenings marked my future career as an entrepreneur in the food industry. First, I was one of the 10 participants of Open Kitchen, a food business course offered by the City of Helsinki and Sitra, the Finnish Innovation Fund where we learnt the ins and out of running a food business for 3 weeks, followed by designing and running a restaurant for 10 days. Second, I participated in the European Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs, a program that brought me to work for a luxury dining agency in Copenhagen.
"I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, so at some point I quit the job."
I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, so at some point I quit the job and moved back to Helsinki. In March 2014, I founded WE Factory (www.wefactoryandco.com) as a nomadic food experiential design agency, made by people for people. With a multicultural, strategic and fresh approach, I curate and help design memorable food experiences to empower, happify and innovate individuals, organizations and brands. Ever since I have been traveling and working for music and food festivals, toptier brands, tourism organizations and institutions in Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Russia, Sweden and Italy.
Tell us more about your business!
Not long after relocating to Helsinki and starting my own company – after Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs – I realized that I cannot settle in one place only. Ever since the second half of 2014 I have been living and working as a digital nomad. This means traveling to clients and exploring cities and communities I am interested in. Of course, it does not come without challenges, but I feel that I can offer an added value to my clients because I am always up-to-date in the latest trends and I can translate them into actionable strategies and concepts.
At the moment, my base is in Veneto, Italy, my native country. I just got back from a month traveling between Estonia, Finland and Morocco. In Estonia I launched WE Factory Academy, an experiential training and gathering that helps food professionals, entrepreneurs, designers, and consultants unlock their inner designer and creative gumption, and evolve their business to meet the challenges ahead. It is a new concept that leverages on the importance of experiential learning.
"My day-to-day job involves everything from concept design to social media marketing, production, PR, sales, etc."
After the success in Tallinn, I am planning to take it to different locations around Europe in the next months. Besides, I am working on a book about food experience design and collaborating on some interesting projects. My day-to-day job involves everything from concept design to social media marketing, production, PR, sales, etc. Sometimes, the amount of work is really insane so I am looking into growing my team. It looks like 2016 will be a pretty busy year!
Have you encountered any challenges along the way?
When I look back at my first year as an entrepreneur, I did underestimate the difficulties one encounters in a country that is not one´s native one. Some cities in the world are definitely big enough and international to welcome a big number of foreign entrepreneurs. Personally, in Helsinki I always felt that not mastering Finnish as a mother tongue was a huge drawback in order to start a conversation with potential clients. That is why halfway through 2014 I started realizing that I should consider moving to other markets – more open minded in respect to my business and my personality.
"In the beginning I had to learn many skills by myself or ask friends for help because I could not afford to outsource."
I do not regret moving away because the relocation and the choice to opt for a part-time nomadism has led to interesting opportunities! Also, often people do not understand what my business is about and they ask me if I am a caterer, if I organize food events or if I am a food blogger. So over time I have spent a lot of energy in pondering over the way I communicate what WE Factory is about and how I can help clients in a totally different way than other agencies. In comparison to medium and big agencies that provide a similar service, the service design – though my unique asset relies on the food industry – I definitely had a much smaller, if any, budget for marketing and brand identity. In the beginning I had to learn many skills by myself or ask friends for help because I could not afford to outsource.
Any insights you would like to share with us?
Over time I have learnt that a business is like a person, it needs to be nurtured with the best care. And as an entrepreneur and a human being you need to be able to accept change and adapt quickly. It is definitely the perk of being a small business in comparison to corporations. Many people expect to be successful since the first day of business but that is not how it works. It takes lot of hard work, patience – and of course – good contacts to grow it.
"Over time I have learnt that a business is like a person, it needs to be nurtured with the best care."
Sometimes it is not easy to be extremely motivated and I loose my inner voice and what my mission is about. Especially when I do something innovative, I need to trust myselft because I know that I am not 100% into it, but nobody can do it for me. When I find myself being exhausted, then I take some time off, surround myself with my best people, travel and start fresh. I am learning day after day to be working “on" my business and not “in" my business.