Networks cannot be emphasized enough in business. Especially, for small business owners and people working alone, the role of networks become even larger. In a panel discussion Women Entrepreneurs from South-Savo Taking over the World, which was a part of the Global Entrepreneurship Week 2020 and DigiSYKE working life event, three creative entrepreneurs emphasized the power of networks. 

The most important things received through contact networks are usually the intangible ones – not just generating leads and growing the customer base. Of course, marketing is an inseparable part of the process of networking – people should know who you are and what you are doing. Yet, promoting your business should not be the only outcome of it. Networks can bring you so much more in the form of peer support, learning new and personal development. It is about sharing ideas and meeting people like us.

Piritta Parkkari from Xamk Small Business Center interviewed Graphic Designer Jenni Koponen, Light Designer Elisa Hillgren and Jewelry Designer Kirsi Manninen on Friday afternoon (November 20th). The women shared their stories about taking their business international and how active networking – live and online – has been an essential part in the process.


Graphic Designer Jenni Koponen has her own online business, She is an active networker locally and she has wide networks in the whole Finland as well. Social media is a natural platform for networking for her. 

same globe, same people

Kirsi Manninen’s art is on display all the way in Brazil at the moment. The international project kicked off through a Finnish jewelry art association and finding the common interests and right international connections there. Manninen sees going international as a natural part of her doing and she has experience in exhibiting abroad already from the time when she was a metal artisan student.

I think internationalization is easy, especially nowadays. Our planet is one home, not like I’m here, you are there and everybody is doing their own things. We are one


, Manninen explains her vision about the world. She says, that being in the jewelry art association has helped her a lot in the internationalization process. It is so much easier and more importantly, more fun, to carry out the projects together, not alone.

Graphic Designer Jenni Koponen is an active networker locally in South-Savo and she has wide contacts in her industry in the whole Finland as well. The online shop owner masters networking in social media, and that is where she received her first international customer. Her online shop was discovered overseas in the summer and the first international orders came before she actually started promoting abroad.

I almost fell down from the couch, when I got the message on Instagram; Greetings from New York. I loved your products, do you make deliveries here?


, Koponen tells about the successful incident.

The discovery would have not been possible without the skillful and effective content production and networking in social media. Koponen is building up her international online shop now and the platform will be ready next year. She does not have a particular target market on her mind yet, and thinks the decisions for the further steps will be made based on careful analyzation of the user data.

Light designer Elisa Hillgren shares the ideas of the active networking, open and united globe and the benefits of the social media with her designer colleagues. Participating different conferences, seminars and worshops in her industry has been Hillgren’s method of going international. In a special industry, the global networks offer insights and inspiration.

Even though I was only a lamp shop keeper, I participated the international conferences in the industry. You have to be active and brave


, Hillgren remarks. At the moment she has her business aside and she is working as a coordinator in the city of Jyväskylä’s Light City project.

Hillgren’s work trips have taken her all the way to Senegal. She thinks that networking is the best part of the different events. She has learned a lot from her trips abroad, but it has also been interesting to see that many things and people are eventually the same everywhere.

All the three entrepreneurs are located in South-Savo and they are a great example, that it is possible to run international business and projects from the area.

We have to understand, that we don’t have to always leave, but people want to come here too. Finland is interesting abroad


, Manninen reminds, who is organizing an international jewelry exhibition in Lappeenranta the next year.

Listen the recording of the inspiring panel here (point 4:00, duration 45 min, in Finnish).

Check out the work of the amazing designers on their webpages and follow them on Instagram – and network!

Kirsi’s website and Instagram

Jenni’s website and Instagram

Elisa’s project’s website


The panel discussion was part of Creative Ports project. Creative Ports is funded by the Interreg Baltic Sea Region Program of the European Union, running from September 2018 to August 2021. It is a flagship project of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR). You can find the results of the project and learn more about Creative Ports on the project’s website.


Elina Pöllänen

Writer is RDI Specialist and one of the Global Entrepreneurship Week coordinators in Xamk Small Business Center