The American comedian W.C Fields coined the well-worn phrase ‘never work with children or animals’. He clearly would never have understood Finnish entrepreneur Loviisa Maasson, who happily admits that ‘if a room is full of people, adults and children, you will find me sitting on the floor playing with the kids’. In fact, she loves the company of children so much that her first business, Näpp, is a platform supplying babysitting and childcare services for international families around the Netherlands where she studied Creative Business.
How the business idea was born
As a 24-year-old foreign student in need of extra cash, Loviisa found a part-time job as a babysitter with a family who wanted a Finnish-speaking nanny for their baby. Seeing how much she herself gained from the arrangement as well as the linguistic and cultural benefits for the household led Loviisa to the idea that other expat families would also value having a native speaker looking after their children. Being uniquely positioned as a student, Loviisa began by recruiting other international friends and in 2018 Näpp was born – its purpose to help children connect to their native culture, no matter where they lived.
“I approached Näpp a bit like a school assignment,” she says. “I had no limits to my dreams of what it could be. I went big immediately and imagined a large international company. I think this was a good thing because I realised quite quickly that the idea had potential and from researching the market knew it also had a chance to grow into something significant.”
Losing the joy
Näpp found early success but the company began to stall and Loviisa lost the initial “freedom and Joy” she felt from its birth. For future growth and continued success, Loviisa knew that while her sense of purpose hadn’t changed she had to make some changes.
“I needed guidance. I didn’t have any business knowledge when I started out and I didn’t know what to do or where to go for help. It was also difficult to balance between ‘am I a student, or am I an entrepreneur?’ This became particularly challenging after graduation when suddenly I was only an entrepreneur and there was more pressure on succeeding.”
As for so many small and medium-sized businesses, Covid also proved to be a stumbling block.
“Nobody wanted babysitters in their homes and finding new customers became difficult. This put the brakes on our good growth and all my future plans were put on hold. I avoided talking about the issues and felt a bit lost with myself and my own identity.
“If you get the right support to take the next step and begin to recognise what lies ahead and sometimes small adjustments can bring back freedom, joy and therefore, growth.”
So what changed? What gave Loviisa her lightbulb moment?
“I decided to leave my self-doubt behind!” she explains. “I remembered why I had started the business in the first place and how much potential it really had. I made space for what was important to me and how I could clearly translate this into my company again.
“I began to understand that the past is not the future and that Näpp had entered a new era of growth. It was no longer a start-up but an established company. This helped me gain self-confidence, especially with Julie telling me during the entry level to the ‘Your Journey’ training programme that I had everything I needed already within myself.”
So, with things back on an even keel and new clients coming in, what advice would Loviisa give to other young entrepreneurs?
“Even though it was a struggle sometimes to be a student and an entrepreneur, I still think it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I was quite risk free to start a business while studying because you didn’t ‘lose’ any time and you could test out different business plans, while still building your knowledge in school.
“I always tell other young entrepreneurs to just go for it. Then I tell them what my husband said to me back in the days when I was thinking of starting. He asked me: ‘what if, in five years, you see someone else being successful with the same idea that you had. How would you feel?’ I would have felt devastated – so go for it! Leave the self-doubt behind.”
To find your own lightbulb moment, why not start the entry level to ‘Your Journey’ right now? Click here to find out more about the Lift-Off programme.