The Immigrant Entrepreneur of the Year Award competition aims to give the stage to entrepreneurs who have moved to Finland from abroad and showcase their input in the Finnish business scene.
Perniön Rullakebabtehdas Oy | Migrant Entrepreneur of the Year 2023
Rizah Veseli, the founder of Perniön Rullakebabtehdas Oy, has been selected Migrant Entrepreneur of the Year.
Rizah Veseli came to Finland by bus, travelling for nine days following the conflict in Kosovo at the start of 1992. The then 23-year-old Veseli intended to stay in Finland for a few months and return to Kosovo, but the trip has now lasted over 30 years.
Veseli has owned a company in Finland since 1996, first a kebab restaurant in the centre of Perniö and, in addition, the Perniön Rullakebabtehdas Oy (“Perniö roll kebab factory”) since 2008. Last year, the company had a turnover of €1.5 million, and it currently employs 15 people from five different cultures.
In December 2023, the Finnish SME association Suomen Yrittäjät and the pension provider Elo awarded Veseli the Migrant Entrepreneur of the Year 2023 title. The award is a recognition of the entrepreneur’s resolve and ability to expand his business into new, unexplored areas. The competition showcases migrant entrepreneurs and their significance for the economy and Finnish society. The winner of the Migrant Entrepreneur of the Year competition was announced on 14 December 2023 at the Business Unplugged event in Helsinki.
This was the fifth edition of the Migrant Entrepreneur of the Year competition. The pension provider Elo funded the €5,000 prize. There were 25 entrants to the competition from all over Finland.
27 years of going from work to home and back
“For 27 years, my life has consisted of leaving home to go to work, coming back from work to sleep, and then going back to work. The kebab factory is growing, but it needs a lot of investment. I’ve hardly paid myself any salary at all. I’ve always invested everything the company has made. I’m constantly thinking about how I can make the company grow,” Rizah Veseli says about his entrepreneurship.
The factory operates on premises of about 800 square metres and manufactures the roll kebabs developed by Veseli. It differs from other kebab products in its shape and the type of bread, and it is sold in supermarkets around Finland. The family, which in addition to Rizah consists of his wife Adilje and their four children, still has a kebab restaurant in Perniö.
Two of the adult children work in the company. They have inherited their father’s work ethic.
“From the age of 13, I sold eggs, peppers and tomatoes at the market. During my school holidays, I sold food at the market.”
When Veseli arrived in Finland, he lived in a reception centre in Perniö for a year and a half. He received permanent asylum, a flat and training. He originally got the idea for his own kebab shop when he got to be a trainee in a Turkish restaurant and learnt how to cut kebab meat. Before he came to Finland, Veseli had a small bar in his native village in Kosovo, which he left behind him. He also left his parents and other relations behind in Kosovo.
“I thought about going back to run my bar in Kosovo, but my parents told me they were constantly being visited and interrogated about my political opinions, being told false accusations that I didn’t want to hear any longer,” Veseli says.
Migrant Entrepreneur of the Year
Who: Rizah Veseli, 55
What: Entrepreneur, CEO of Perniön Rullakebabtehdas Oy
Family: Wife, four children, four grandchildren
Hobbies: Table tennis
Company: Perniön Rullakebabtehdas Oy
Established: Restaurant 1996 and factory 2008
What next: Expanding the Perniön Rullakebabtehdas factory and considering continuing the restaurant business
Enkora Oy, a family company owned by Ukrainians, wins the Migrant Entrepreneur of the Year competition
Vassili Goutsoul and his two sons, Artem and Anton, have won the Migrant Entrepreneur of the Year competition. The family came to Finland in the 1990s. Ruth Franco of the company Lin Psychological Services Oy received an honourable mention. The Finnish SME association Suomen Yrittäjät, in cooperation with occupational pension provider Elo, organized the competition for the fourth time. Elo rewards the winner with a prize of €5,000. A total of 44 unique entrepreneurs from around Finland entered the competition. The jury had the challenging task of selecting one winner from among them.
The purpose of the competition is to showcase migrant entrepreneurs and their significance for the economy and Finnish society. The winner of the Migrant Entrepreneur of the Year competition was announced at the Suomen Yrittäjät Business Unplugged event on Wednesday 7 December 2020 in Helsinki.
Strong business competence and work over the long term secure victory
The Goutsouls run Enkora Oy, an IT company providing customer service system solutions, which allows municipalities and businesses to connect various support equipment, such as for access control and customer self-service, to software components.
Most people in Finland have used Enkora products at some point, as the company’s work is seen in swimming pools, gyms, hospitals and universities nationwide.
“Starting our own business was a natural choice for us. When we started our business, our goal was to bring something genuinely new and innovative to the market. The idea was profitable, and today we are proud of the corporate culture we have created and of the ethics of our operations. We’d like to thank Suomen Yrittäjät and Elo for this honour and we intend to donate the prize funds to the Ukrainian Association in Finland,” says the company’s CEO Anton Goutsoul.
The company founders have had to make great efforts to win their clients’ trust in a traditional and closed sector, and they have resolutely made progress towards their goals. Enkora is growing profitably, employs 40 employees and is a leading company in many market areas.
The jury was impressed by the business owners’ culture of collaboration, their sustained and planned work with their clients, and Anton’s, Artem’s and Vassili’s courageous and fruitful participation in public tenders.
Turnover: €4.3 million
Registered in: Helsinki
Cafetoria Roastery Oy | Migrant Entrepreneur of the Year 2021
Ivan Ore is the Migrant Entrepreneur of the Year 2021
The winner of the Migrant Entrepreneur of the Year award is Ivan Ore, originally from Peru. Ore’s company is Cafetoria Roastery Oy, based in Lohja. The other finalists were forestry entrepreneur Eduart Shehu and experience travel provider Theo Turner.
Ore has also launched his own Cafetoria Roastery coffee brand. In addition to the roastery in Lohja, the company has coffee shops in Helsinki and Espoo.
Ore moved from Peru to Finland over 20 years ago to study engineering, and after graduation he worked at Nokia for almost 12 years as a research engineer. When Ore visited his native country during that time, he got to know Peruvian organic coffee farmers. He wanted to import the coffee to Finland and at the same time help the coffee growers secure a more reliable income.
Ore started out as a part-time entrepreneur, registered as a sole trader while still in employment, and began importing and selling coffee, first raw and then in the form of organic coffee he had roasted himself. When Ore and his wife began running the business full-time in 2012, they registered the Cafetoria Roastery Oy company.
The jury was particularly impressed by Ore’s dedication over the long term to expand his business and make his dreams a reality. The company has grown and operated profitably.
“With the competition, we got to see inspiring entrepreneurial stories, and Ivan Ore has shown great perseverance and courage in his actions. There are great examples of migrant entrepreneurs, which we want to highlight and at the same time encourage others to take a leap and become entrepreneurs,” says Marketing Director Joni Tikkanen from pension insurance company Elo.
The jury felt that Ore’s story, business strategy and profitable business deserve recognition with the Migrant Entrepreneur of the Year 2021 award.
In addition to serving great coffee, the company wants to help foreigners find employment in Finland. People from over 13 countries have worked at Cafetoria Roastery over the years.
Pension insurance company Elo funded the €5,000 prize. The members of the jury were Ali Giray, Chair of the Suomen Yrittäjät immigrant entrepreneur network, the 2020 winner Ioan Canta, Marko Hara, Director at pension insurance company Elo, and Petri Salminen, Chair of the Board of Suomen Yrittäjät.
The Migrant Entrepreneur of the Year contest aims to present migrant entrepreneurs and highlight how important they are to our everyday lives.
Cafetoria Roastery Oy
Founder: Ivan Ore
Year of foundation: 2012
Form of business: limited liability company
Industry: Wholesale of household articles
Local society: Lohjan Yrittäjät ry
BNA Flonel Oy | Migrant Entrepreneur of the Year 2020
Strong story and responsible business paved the path to victory for Ioan Canta
Ioan Canta, originally from Romania and the owner of the company BNA Flonel, was chosen as the winner of the competition in 2020. The jury was particularly impressed by Canta’s hard work over many years to grow his company. BNA Flonel began with domestic cleaning services and then expanded to office cleaning, construction cleaning and removal cleaning. The company also provides labour-only building contracting, protective materials and contractual labour. The company has consistently grown and operated profitably. It has a staff of 45.
The company’s employees have enjoyed working there for many years. Canta invests in corporate social responsibility by supporting causes such as disabled children and their families through the Finnish Association of People with Physical Disabilities and cancer research.
Canta has faced prejudice because of his Romanian background and has had to work twice as hard to grow his business and build his clients’ trust. The jury felt that Carina’s story, attitude, business strategy and corporate social responsibility deserved to be recognized with the €5,000 prize and the title of Migrant Entrepreneur of the Year 2020.
BNA Flonel Oy
Founder: Ioan Canta
Year of foundation: 2015
Form of business: limited liability company
Industry: General cleaning of buildings
Amanihoiva Kotihoito Oy | Migrant Entrepreneur of the Year 2019
Story and attitude decisive – Faisa Egge is the Immigrant Entrepreneur of the Year
The Immigrant Entrepreneur of the Year 2019 award was given to Faisa Egge, from Central Ostrobothnia, the founder of Amanihoiva Kotihoito Oy. The other finalists were Rajkumar Sabanadesan of Kaksi.nolla Oy from Pirkanmaa and Douglas Castro of Darkglass Electronics Oy and Neural DSP Technologies Oy from Helsinki. Almost a hundred entrepreneurs from all over Finland were nominated for the award.
“The strongest argument in Faisa Egge’s favour was her story of coming to Finland, educating herself and becoming an entrepreneur. I also value the fact that she operates in a city that is not very large. Immigrant entrepreneurship can also be found outside the handful of big cities,” says chair of Suomen Yrittäjät and jury member Jyrki Mäkynen in explaining why Egge won.
The winner received a cash prize of €3,000. The funds were donated by pension insurance company Elo.
“Faisa Egge has commendably brought the light and positivity of the culture of her former homeland to a sector which needs more skilled, motivated labour. Egge’s hard work, her caring approach towards people and the positive attitude she has learned back in her childhood represent just the kind of entrepreneurship we want to highlight through this competition,” says Satu Huber, CEO of pension insurance company Elo.
To Finland with two suitcases
Faisa Egge came to Finland in 2008 from Kenya with just two suitcases. She started her career collecting bottles for refunds and working in a pizzeria. She studied to be a nurse, but finding a permanent, full-time job was difficult. So she took a risk, said goodbye to on-and-off employment and became a full-time entrepreneur without any experience of the world of business, where the red tape was of a completely different order to that in her homeland, Kenya.
Her company offers home care services for the elderly and personal assistance to the disabled in their own homes. The business, which began in 2012, became a limited liability company in 2015 and now also employs other immigrants in the care sector. The company is growing its profits, customer base and employee numbers year by year in Central Ostrobothnia.
As well as running her business, Faisa Egge has been active in her community and has stood for election in the municipal elections in Kokkola.
A finalist with world stars as clients
The jury had to make a difficult choice between three business owners whose businesses vary greatly in nature and in size. Both Sabanadesan’s and Castro’s businesses are growing strongly, with a good turnover and effective business concepts.
The bass gear made by Castro’s company, Darkglass, are sold worldwide and the company’s clients include several big international names. The company has found its niche, in which it does business globally.
Sabanadesan’s Kaksi.nolla Oy caters to a range of societal needs by offering senior services, catering and meal services, in addition to training and consulting. Sabanadesan himself is a change management expert and has grown his company’s field of operations profitably.
Competition highlights immigrant entrepreneurs
The features that were highlighted in choosing the immigrant entrepreneur of the year were profitable business operations, growth opportunities, the strength of example and attitude.
“This competition puts immigrant entrepreneurs and their significance to the Finnish business sector front and centre,” says Aicha Manai, Network Manager at Suomen Yrittäjät.
An open application was used to find candidates who had been successful and created something new in spite of language barriers and a different business environment. Almost a hundred candidates from all over Finland were nominated.
The winner was chosen from among the candidates by Ali Giray, Chair of the Suomen Yrittäjät immigrant entrepreneur network, Pamela Spokes and Reggie Rusan, entrepreneur members of the network, Marko Hara, Director at pension insurance company Elo, and Jyrki Mäkynen, Chair of Suomen Yrittäjät.
Faisa Egge / Amani Hoiva Kotihoito Oy
Founder: Faisa Egge
Form of business: limited liability company
Industry: Home help services for the elderly and disabled
Local society: Kokkolan Yrittäjät ry – Karleby Företagare rf