Wednesday, 29 April 2009

A celebration of the success of Nyföretagarcentrum. Thanks to Maud Olofsson for earmarking 1 million SEK!

Monday night was the Final Gala held by Nyföretagarcentrum in Gamla Stan here in Stockholm. Nyföretagarcentrum is a non-profit organisation with offices around the country, sponsored by government and businesses. Their goal is to promote start-ups and support small businesses in general - which it does with huge success. Of those who start a business with their support less than one percent have gone bankrupt after three years and 80% are still active and on average have 2 employees. That is pretty impressive results!

During 2008-2009 SNC has made a particular effort to encourage women not only to start businesses but to make use of the resources that are available - largely thanks to the money that has been eartagged by Maud Oloffsson. Våga Språnget, Starter Programmes, networking groups and inspiration evenings have been the focus of their Investment In Women campaign.

Monday night we were invited to attend a celebration of what SNC have achieved so far. We were treated to red carpet attention, champagne, dinner and a night of celebrating successful women.
The red carpet into Nalen.

A few of the Våga Språnget group from the spring of 2008.
Karin, Anne, Monica and Theresa

After the initial introductions from the evening's mediator Lydia Capolicchio, and Anna Nedeby Bar-Am, CEO for Stockholms NyföretagarCentrum we listened to a discussion on women in business held by a panel.
Carin Holmquist Professor Handelshögskolan in Stockholm
Mikael Wolf CEO Swedbank
Kicki Theander Founder Middagsfrid
Sten Nordin kuhiphr Stockholm Municipality

Some 350 men and (mostly) women listened and contributed with their own reflections - inlcluding the myth that it is difficult to start a business in Sweden.

While I was listening a security man walked up past me to the front of the audience - odd I thought. A few minutes later Maud Olofson Minister for Enterprise and Energy, Deputy Prime Minister, Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communications stepped up onto the stage and I realised - ok, yes, I am in the presence of a national politician and I guess they do need their security force.

Maud was presented with a Thank You card by CEO for SNC Anna Nedeby Bar-Am on behalf of SNC as a thanks for ear-marking 1 million crowns to promote women in business. Maud went on to read some of the comments on the card written by the women (me included) who have benefited from this 1 million crowns.
As I listened to her speech about women, entreprenurialism, business, the recession and Sweden I couldn't help but be reminded of Pippi - seeing her standing there in her red shoes.

And finally, after dinner, wine and music the winners were announced and presented with their awards according to four categories.

From left to right
Angela Monroe, Monroe Design
Anna Kjellgren, Strå
Maud Olofsson, Näringsminister
Maria Rindstam, Båtskroten
Leyla Anabestani, Freja Assistanstjänst AB

And I didn't come away empty handed either - I got a nice diploma for participating in Våga Språnget.Monday's event was to celebrate the results:
  • 1 666 women have started a over 1000 companies
  • SNC have conducted 4 925 advisory sessions
  • 388 women have participated in the Starter programme
  • 60 women have participated in Våga Språnget
  • Almost 300 women have participated in networking events.
Do you have an idea brewing away in your mind? Are you a small business in a period of change or in need of support, advice, expertise? I can't recommend SNC enough - they are a fantastic resource! Not only are their staff skilled and knowledgeable but they have endless contacts and have a huge range of experts available to assist those in need - all that and it is free too!

Sunday, 26 April 2009

The beautiful Asknäs Gård - now being run by our friends Robert & Sandee

is a gorgeous property out on Ekerö, one of the islands of greater Stockholm, that dates from the 1700s. It includes a pub/cafe, a function room for up to 90 people, a bed & breakfast, rentable cottages, stables, a farm shop, stables, beautiful gardens with old apple trees, a fully functioning asparagus farm and all with a view of Lake Mälaren. It is on oasis close to the heart of Stockholm city.
This year our good friends Robert & Sandee will be running it with their friend Abbe. After last year's roaring success running Kafe Kajak, this season promises to be an exciting one - both for them and their guests! They opened this weekend for the summer season and let's hope this was a warm start to a long hot summer.

So if you are looking for a place to escape, head out to the idylic Asknäs Gård. Take a walk in the gardens, eat great food and explore. There are not many places like this around anymore, not this close to town.

You can also follow their adventure on their Catering Allt blog or on Twitter.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Twitter and Business In Sweden

I wrote a little while ago about Twitter and ever since I became a Twitter groupy and spoken positively about it. It's kind of like when everyone joined Facebook. Friends and family in Canada nagged and I said "yeah, yeah, yeah" until I joined, not only Facebook but the nagging committee too.

And I have to say I still speak positively about Facebook - it has put me in regular contact with some people who were and are very dear to me. It has had a huge value in my life but ultimately I see it as a part of my personal sphere - even if there are some great company sites I still tend to keep it fairly private.

Twitter on the other hand offers entrepreneurs, organisations, companies, students, researchers etc etc a fantastic opportunity to have a voice in big wide world - at least on the world wide web. And there is a ton of material out there telling us why Twitter is good for business - Google it yourself!What is interesting to see is how Swedish companies are getting into Twitter and through Twitter this morning I found this blog listing the who's who of Twitter profiles. I'm sure the list of small business/entrepreneur profiles would be oh so much longer...

But you know when the big guys get into the groove it just might be worth looking at. It offers enormous potential to communicate with those who want to be kept in the loop - your open hours, your service updates, product updates, immediate problems or opportunities, what you need or what you can offer. I suspect it just might overtake our B2B and B2C communication. Check it out!

Thursday, 23 April 2009

24 Hour Camp this time in Sörmland

Did you read my post about the 24-Hour-Camp or the Geek Girl Meet-Up and think, WOW, that's sounds like a real buzz - i want to go to one of those?

Well your chance just might be here!
The 24-Hour-Camp has inspired a spin-off 24-Hour-Sörmland, this time to be held in Nyköping, Katrinehom and Eskilstuna the weekend of May 29-30.

The basic idea is the same - entrepreneurs from the region meet and develop web-based services within 24 hours. The goal is to encourage more people to start web-based businesses, but also, perhaps more importantly to give innovators and enthusiasts an opportunity to both meet and exchange and develop ideas.

And take it from those who know! Lilla Gumman Karin says it is the most fun and most inspiring experience she has had and that you do not need to know how to program or use the term css in every sentence. A normal blog built on a free platform can also be the basis of a great business idea!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Successful Business Women Seminars in Uppsala, Kalmar, Karlstad, Växjö & Linköping

Next Monday will see the start of a number of seminars around the country offering solid advice and exciting examples of how you can be successful in business even in difficult times. Take the chance to mingle with old and new business acquaintances.
What sort of business thrives in difficult times?
Strategies from the small business organisation Företagarna reveals what works and how to turn your business around as a result of the crisis.

How do your customers think when times are tough?
Trend Analyst Ida Hult reveals what people really do when we are in an economic downturn, what we buy, what we pay for.

How do you sell yourself and how do you get paid well paid?
Sales Expert Ulla- Lisa Thordén gives simple advice which has a big impact on your profitability.
Program and prices
For the program, contents and prices - click on the following link to the town that interests you:
April 27th Uppsala

May 4th Karlstad
May 6th Kalmar
May 8th Växjö
May 13th Linköping
Members of have the opportunity to attend this seminar which is sure to be both inspirational and a vitamin kick for business - at a discounted price (one that makes it more than worthwhile to join is a great Swedish resource for women in the early stages of starting a business. Membership is free and includes a regular newsletter, access to experts who write a wide range of articles, great information about what is happening in the world of small business, and a forum providing an excellent opportunity to ask questions, share advice and experience and an opportunity to both market yourself and network.
I have written before about, Beautiful Business and Sofia Bergenstjerna and Frida Haavisto and have full respect for anything they are involved in.
So if you are worried about where your business is heading as times toughen up, in need of encouragement and inspiration or just starting out - sign yourself up for a seminar and get ready to network with like-minded women!

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Frog Season is upon us in Sweden

Spring is here in all its glory, and so are the frogs. A warning was just released from Stockholm City Council that it is now that frogs, toads and salamanders are in the process of migrating, especially on warm, damp nights and that we need to watch out for them while driving.

At this time of year there are countless amphibians on the move from their winter hibernation in forests and gardens, to their summer residences in lakes, ponds and streams. They are particularly vulnerable crossing roads where they fall victim to traffic, bicycles, pedestrians and even curbs that are too high to climb.

In greater Stockholm there is plenty of water for our amphibian friends and they can easily be spotted crossing the road, especially around Spångavägen in Bromma, around the Kyrksjön (lake) and Kyrksjölöten (nature reserve), as well as around Gubbkärrsvägen near lake Judarn and on the roads around Långsjön on the border between Stockholm and Huddinge in the south. Other vulnerable areas include Järvafältet, Isbladskärret on Southern Djurgården and the forrested area of Solbergaskogen.

Want to help? You can join FrogFriends by donating either time or money. It is one of the many frog groups around the country.

And if you see a friend on the road - gently pick it up and carry it to the side, or better still, down to the water. You should be very gently with these delicate creatures, have gloves on (for their sake not yours) and/or put them in a bucket to transport them. That's just what we did with this sleepy little guy we found over Easter.

And last of all, take photos and report your observations to Stockholm's species catalogue.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Busy, busy, busy and the mind ticks away - impatient that the rest of me can't keep up...

I don't think I have been this quiet since I started my blog, that is unless we've been away in Australia or Canada.

We had a pretty good Easter, filled with friends, parks, Skansen, BBQs, sunny days and chocolate, followed by a very, very busy week.

Work was pretty full on last week as I juggled the different sides of my professional life. I went from discussing cultural implications of the English language to chatting with 11-12 year olds about spring and 14-15 year olds about suspension from school. And in between negotiating with landlords and agents like never before, all day every day. Several of my relocation clients seem to be suffering difficulties and need help sorting them out - lucky me.

Apart from the fact that my days have been long, varied and demanding leaving me with little energy to write in the evenings, I haven't really had all that much to say......unusual even for me...

I am also trying to run 4-5kms every couple of days to get my fitness level up, boost my metabolism and prepare myself for Vår Ruset. That coupled with my attempt to stay away from the sugar and the carbs keeps me busy on the home front - summer is on its way!!

My mind is also too busy thinking about my website and wanting the chance to work with it, about wanting to find someone to bring into the project (or several), about the seminars that I want to get out and sell, and about some of the big things on my "To Do" list, about the summer holidays coming up with my mother and my mother-in-law - who will meet for the first time. The mind is ticking too much to even be able to absorb what is going on around me. I flick through the newspaper and think "wow, that's interesting" and put it aside.

But my busy week is behind me, the conflict is sorted out and I have a little more space this week to take control over that "To Do" list. Hopefully I will get a little more space in my head to get back into writing.

Until then, have a good one.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Has the Swedish Pirate ship sunk?

The entertainment industry will be cracking open the champagne after today's victory. The four men connected with The Pirate Bay have been found guilty of being accessories to copyright infringement, using technology to take illegal file sharing to new heights.
Pirate Bay has some 22 million users worldwide and as I write this their Bambuser press conference has already had over 87 000 views this last hour(!) For their popularity the four men connected to The Pirate Bay have each been ordered to serve a one year prison sentence and pay 30 million Swedish kronor.

Will this ruling set international precedence?

Want to learn more? Check out the following:
The Local, The Local 2
Radio Sweden
The Pirate Bay Blog

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Swedish Education Debate Heating Up

While I read about the latest proposals today (and welcome them) I have unfortunately not had a chance to write and will have to leave you to listen to Radio Sweden's English coverage of the debate.

I've expressed my opinions in the past with these blogpost 1 & blogpost 2 and while I welcome these proposals I am skeptical about whether or not they will ever be used given the competition for students.

The opposition to the proposal is about as predictable as the sun rising in the sky each day (be it behind clouds or in full view) but it is refreshing to hear that the Teachers' Union gives it the thumbs up. Hopefully it will spark a full blown debate about the discipline and disturbance issues faced by both students and pupils.

SvD1, SvD2, DN, The Local

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Easter in Sweden

Easter lillies (as they are called in Swedish) have their name for a good reason.
I love Easter in Sweden - it is so symbolic of spring and regeneration.Click here to listen to Radio Sweden's coverage of all the Swedish Easter traditions.

Holy or Maundy Thursday is Skärtorsdag in Swedish

And Skärtorsdag literally means pink Thursday (not too sure about that one).

According to folk law today is the day the Witches flew to Blåkulla to consort with the devil. This resulted in all sorts of activities to make their journey more difficult, such as hiding broomsticks and rakes so the witches could not fly on them, painting crosses on their front doors and lighting the odd bonfire to scare them away.

These days the tradition is for kids to dress up as Easter witches, with scarves on their heads, brightly colored clothing, rosy cheeks and painted on freckles. The go from door to door in their neighborhood handing out hand-made Easter cards and wish their neighbors Happy Easter.
We had a little Easter witch knock on our door this morning, only to return a few minutes later to collect her friend. Once the two of them announced they were heading off their brothers wanted to join them and it wasn't too long before they all headed off.

30 minutes later they had handed out all their cards and had 2 baskets filled with candy, chocolate, sultanas, chips & apples!

But they are so cute, how could anyone refuse them?

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

The Australian-Swedish abduction case an embarrassment for the Swedish police?

Melbourne dad finds kidnapped sons and shows up Swedish cops

Interesting and scary to read some of the responses to this story on the expat forums around the place...... The Swedish authorities have not gained a whole lot of credibility from this case.

Who cares enough to help look for Thor Danielsson Wang?

On the 14th of February 2009 a Swedish child Thor Danielsson Wang, just one year old, disapeared during a visitation with his father Yen-Cheng (Andrew) Wang in California, USA. Chances are the father has already left the country with the child, to Taiwan or Argentina.

His mother Mia Danielsson has sole custody and they are both registered as living in Sweden. Seven weeks have now passed and Thor's case seems to have fallen between the cracks, nothing is being done.

The American authorities say that it is the Swedish authorities responsibility to assist their own citizens. The Swedish authorities (UD) say it is not their problem.

Consequently an online petition has been set up demanding the Swedish Foreign Affairs Department (UD) act on the matter of Thor's disappearance and that the Swedish police become involved in the case. The signers of the petition do not accept that our Swedish citizens should find themselves helpless and without rights when in another country. Help is needed immediately to find this little boy so he can be reunited with his mother.

The petition is in Swedish but the above text gives a general translation. If you want to sign the petition and put pressure on the Swedish government and police to act, write your name in the left box, and the place you live in in the right box. The tick, or checked box means your name will be visable on the list, Skriv under means sign.

Why is this important? Apart from the fact that it is yet another case of child abduction, which is terribly traumatic for the child/ren, it is a matter of responsibility. We live in an international community, we move around and might be somewhere else for months at a time. But we still need to know someone will come to our aid in times of trouble. It is not enough to stand back and say - well it didn't happen here, they were out of the country at the time, not our problem.

Sign here.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Looking for a competition in southwest Sweden to test your business idea?

Business ideas are a dime a dozen, I have met many who have one of two, and plenty who seem to have an endless supply of them. Unfortunately not everyone gets the opportunity or has the courage to take an idea through the steps and actually realise it, but then you don't need to start a business and launch into full-scale production either, not with the competitions that are available to budding entrepreneurs.

I discovered a new one a couple of days ago called MyMission 09 hosted by Brewhouse Innovation. This Göteborg-based incubator supports people in the start-up phase with business ideas in the creative industries.The goal of the competition is to bring focus to ideas, new thinking and potential. The winners are perfect for anyone starting up: start capital, office space, coaching, as well as a long list of special prizes from already established businesses.

The competition is open to all, regardless of age, gender or background. It is naturally not open to companies who already do business as described by the plan or idea in the application. It is permissable to submit several applications covering different ideas (independant applications), and teams may apply together. It is not necessary to submit a full business plan, but plans and ideas are limited to the creative industries.

So, does that get your brain ticking? Are you sitting on an idea? One that is close to the service and just waiting for some kind of springboard, or one that has been stored in the archives waiting to see the light of day?
If I have tempted you you need to act swiftly, the closing date is April 13th, just one week to go! Remember it does not need to be a full business plan, but the more thought you put in to your idea the better your chances. You will need to be able to navigate around the site in Swedish - and if you want to submit your application in English you might need to check with them first. Contact information is available on their site MyMision 09.

Best of luck to any budding entrepreneurs out there reading this!! Please let me know how things go.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

The Southern Cross Club, The Canadian Club and other expat communitites

We went to Djurgården today for an Easter egg hunt put on by the Canadian Club for the kids. I saw the event last year and thought about going so when it came around again this year I had already decided and was not going to be deterred by the drizzle this morning!I set off with the kids and Ty - who complained about having to go out but dutifully followed along. He didn't ask any questions until we were almost there, and I was glad, I knew what the reaction would be.

When I first moved to Sweden I knew I would only be here for a set period of time - 15 months. In that time I had no desires to meet other Australians - that was not what I was coming to Sweden for. And rightly so I met plenty of Swedes, but no other Aussies.

When I moved back here in the mid 90s I knew I would be here for a few years, and I didn't feel quite as willing to absorb myself in the Swedish culture at the expense of my own. Consequently I started the Southern Cross Club - Servicing Aussies in Stockholm, which later opened up to the New Zealanders too. I still had a number of Swedish friends but became active in building an Australian community. It was a great time, we had a lot of fun and I made many life long friends, the type of friends you make not just because you happen to be the same nationality living in some faraway place, but the type of friends you would choose at home too.

That's part of what happens in these international communities - you have one thing in common - your nationality. You have the same frames of reference, watched the same stuff on tv as a kid, listened to the same music as a teen, your mum cooked the same type of food for the family, you went to the same type of school, you often know or can at least relate to where the others come from, if you don't know it well you might have been there or know someone who lives there, generally you a product of the same sort of culture. You can laugh at each other's stories, you understand each other's humor - you are a product of the same culture, pretty much. While the social aspect might be nice for a while, ultimately there needs to be more than the fabric of our culture that binds us together.

Since the SCC disbanded a few years ago I have met a several Aussies that have been here for many years yet never came in contact with the club. They had no need, no desire, no interest. There are those who say they have never had to go out looking for friends, those who say they never had time, those that had no interest in socialising or networking with their countrymen. I also met many both through the club and independently who lived a very Swedish life until one day they reached a point where they started yearning for their countrymen, for their roots. It was then that they went in search of a club.

That time often comes with children and wanting your young ones to have a balanced cultural upbringing. It is no longer either politically correct or accepted as the right thing to do - to absorb children in one language, one culture. These days it is generally accepted and understood that our language and traditions are a part of who we are, that we want to pass them on to our children and that it is enriching to do so.

While many say they don't have time for new friends, I love to get out and meet new people. And when you go to these events, with your countrymen, it is freaky, but fun, to meet someone who was born in the same hospital, someone who was also standing on the banks of that same river during the Millennium, someone who has mutual friends, someone who has had similar experiences since moving to Sweden, someone who also has a three-nationality family. And all the time I thought I was the only one.......

I really miss the Southern Cross Club, especially now I have children. Luckily I am still surrounded by plenty of great Aussie friends so my kids get their fare share of the culture, the humor, the warmth. Today was a nice chance to give them a little taste of Canadian culture - well as much as you can get racing around on the grounds of Rosendal's Palace with other Canadian-Swedish kids.It is great that there is someone organising events, things that the kids think are fun and that give the family an outing, events that create both variety and tradition. Going to events like this where you don't know people and you mix around anyway is one of the things that makes life here in Sweden feel more normal than it does otherwise. And one of the important things the kids learn from this is to mix with kids they don't know, something they don't get a whole lot of in everyday life. Its good for their social skills.

Yey for the Canadian Club of Sweden! - and aren't we lucky to have three countries to choose from? We are also lucky to live in a city where there is a whole range of clubs. Wouldn't it be cool if someone did a register of who lives where around the country so you could find other expats when looking for fun things to do throughout the year......

Friday, 3 April 2009

Spring is finally here for the start of the school holidays

No parent loves that time between winter and spring, real spring.

The snow melts and creates puddles everywhere (that the kids love to play in - along with damp sandpits), they come in with wet, muddy boots leaving a trail of dirt, water and sand behind them. Their outside clothes need to be hung somewhere to dry (great if you live in an apartment!!) and inevitably the sand from daycare and the gravel from the paths manages to find its way into your home, which then needs to be vacumed or at least swept everyday to stop it from being spread around the entire home.
Swedish kids are pretty well decked out when it comes to wet-weather clothes, that's because they tend to be outside everyday, rain, hail or shine. And they love it - kids love playing in the rain and the puddles if they are allowed, and Swedish kids are allowed. If they weren't there's a chance they wouldn't go out for weeks on end......
But it sure is nice when things dry out a bit and the roads and paths are swept of gravel, it is suddenly so much easier to keep the place clean.Yippppeeeee!! Spring is finally here, for now. And its a good thing too, as the school holidays, or the spring break starts today. I think we can safely put the snow gear away, even if not the wet weather gear.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Swedish-Australian kidnapped kids found

A Swedish mother accused of kidnapping her children and stopping them from returning to Australia and their father has been arrested.

I wrote about the case back when they disappeared in November, the whole international custody issue and kidnapping makes me feel ill.......

Parents need to know that in the event of separation - the children stay in their country of residence - unless the parents can come to some other agreement - which rarely happens.

news24, GP, aftonbladet

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Podcasts In Stockholm's Underground Railway

Since some time in March carriages on the green line in Stockholm's subway have been decked out with podcast boxes.

I didn't think that much about it when i stepped on to the train last week, except that I noted it was one of the new trains with advertising on the outside. But getting on the train it was apparent that this was no ordinary carriage and there was an overwhelming feeling of red. Every single advertising opportunity in the carriage was taken by SR's new podcast posters.

Under every second or so window there was a box and the poster above the window told you what podcast was available - just insert your headphones, press the reset button and listen to the podcast available from that particular box.

Both a cool idea and a clever marketing concept. You can download other Swedish podcasts from SR's website, including a range of podcasts available in English.

Why sit and stare at the wall, the paper or out the window when you are on your way somewhere when you can listen, learn and be entertained? It makes perfect sense to me - now I will just have to remember to throw in my earphones.