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FACE Helsinki: Having a startup doesn’t mean working 12 hours a day

FACE Helsinki: Having a startup doesn’t mean working 12 hours a day

Our last stop in this amazing journey through fears among entrepreneurs took us to Helsinki. At the headquarters of Microsoft Flux we had the chance to talk about one fear that is latent in entrepreneurs and, sooner or later, comes up: fear of not having free time. Thanks to great speakers like Nina Ignatius, Elina Uutela, Claudia Nagel, and Joe Haslam we learned about how to balance work and free time in order to be more productive and most importantly, happier. 


Spare time? Now you can choose when to have it!

Moderated by journalist and entrepreneur Michaela Von Kügelgen, the panel about free time was full of anecdotes and stories that helped the audience to understand that being an entrepreneur doesn’t mean giving up your private life, nor does it mean working 24/7. That was the reflection of Nina Ignatius, mother of one and confident entrepreneur who was very clear about her goals from the beginning, “I didn’t want to sacrifice my child for my job.” What’s the translation of this? That she understood that there’s time for everything.  

With sometimes very difficult situations in her personal life, Nina Ignatius proved how entrepreneurs can manage their own time in their own way. “I have days where I don’t feel well and I can decide to go to sleep. There’s no boss.”  

This fear of not having free time was present in Claudia Nagel as well. She grew up in an entrepreneurial environment so for her it was natural to go that way in her professional life even though she admits she was afraid at times, “there was this continuous fear of not having time but my interest and passion were bigger than my fear.” 

After working for nine years as a consultant, Nagel made the decision to start up her own company. Her secret is to organize her time so she can focus on just one thing for as long as it’s necessary. This multi-tasking new wave that seems to be all around doesn’t go well with productivity, and that’s something our panelists agreed on.  

That philosophy is also the one that Joe Halsam explained, an entrepreneur who has started up six companies so far and knows a bit about business, “the worst day working for yourself is better than the best day working for someone else. For me it’s freedom and self expression. I can say whatever I want on Twitter, for example. It’s also organization of my time.”  


Family and entrepreneurship 

On paper it may sound like an easy task. But try to add family to the equation and you’ll see just how complicated it can become. As soon as you say free time most entrepreneurs think of spending more time with their loved ones. However, that might not be so easy at times like Nina Ignatius said, “it breaks my heart when I speak with my daughter on the phone and she says she wants to be with me. I didn’t feel like I was a bad mom but how can you explain that? I told her that all those hours were to have a better future.” 

In this panel we saw the many diverse situations you can face when starting up. But the common rule is that you shouldn’t have to give things up in order to start up, as Joe Haslam explained. It doesn’t matter if you’re a woman or a man. 

That was another topic during FACE Helsinki, the situations that women had to face because they were entrepreneurs and mothers. In order to put an example to this, Nina Ignatius told a few short stories of her dealing with male prejudices. The four women agreed that they had to face criticism and condescension from their male partners. 

It was clear that, even when discrimination against woman has decreased over the past decades, there’s still a long way to go before we see full equality among genders. “Things are changing and there is a new environment growing up. There is value in diversity. For example, Berlin is doing so well in entrepreneurship because we are fighting stereotypes,” told us Claudia Nagel.


The permanent rollercoaster 

It’s not the first time the ‘emotional rollercoaster’ has come up. It was a main concern among the public and the speakers. Because going through the development of a startup is a challenge in many ways, especially on an emotional level. But there is also good news: you can fight that. For example, for Elina Uutela it works well to call a friend and catch up. It’s the importance of having people close to you and also asking for help. 

For Joe Haslam sport is an alternative that works great to disconnect. Read a book, take a walk… the lesson here is that you won’t be more productive because you spend more hours at the office. Sometimes it’s just the opposite. 

So, if you’re looking for one main insight from this event, think about the idea that free time is not optional but instead a necessity that you should take care of If you want to be productive… and happy! 


As usual, after the main panel the audience participated with the speakers in a workshop that put on the table what entrepreneurs are afraid of. Financial fear, self perception fear… Led by Joe Halsam, the workshop worked as a brainstorming of strategies to face all these fears. In his words, problem solving isn’t an individual task, it’s a group effort.  So, as a group, the audience members shared the obstacles that they are facing or have faced and together the group of expert and aspiring entrepreneur came up with ways to work around, over come and move past the difficulties in order to continue down their path to entrepreneurship.

All in all, we can honestly say that there are no excuses for not starting up. It’s worth it! 



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