From Iceland — Doing it For Themselves

Doing it For Themselves

Published September 1, 2009

Doing it For Themselves

Students of the University of Reykjavík have been doing good by their peers. This spring five of them—Haukur Guðjónsson, Peter Rydahl Mols, Þórunn Jónsdottir, Jóhanna Dýrunn Jónsdóttir, and Þórdís Katla Bjartmarz—identified a need among young people for something to do during the summer, so they dedicated their time to creating a course so that they, in turn, can create jobs for themselves and others. Organised in cooperation with Innovit and KLAK, the entrepreneurial course brought young people together twice weekly to brainstorm and bounce ideas off each other, listen to input and advice from business owners, entrepreneurs and teachers, and go through the process of starting their own companies. More than 200 people attended the first lecture at Hugmyndahús on May 18th and attendance stayed strong throughout the summer.
“It’s the situation in Iceland now, I’m in school and most of the people organising this class are as well. We noticed that there aren’t a lot of opportunities now, it’s difficult to get a job now over the summertime,” explained course creator Haukur Guðjónsson. “We saw that a lot of students have nothing to do over the summer and thought about what we could possibly do to help the situation. We had a little bit of background in starting companies ourselves, so we thought it would be a good idea to help people start their own companies so they could be using their time wisely.”
A business student, Haukur, 27, started his first company in 2005: a small service business that leased coffee machines and water coolers to other companies. He has since been involved with several entrepreneurial endeavours in Iceland and abroad. After some rough calculations, Haukur and his peers were optimistic in May that the course they organised would result in the establishment of approximately 50 new companies and, a few years down the road, the creation of nearly 200 new jobs in Iceland. Once all was said and done the reality is that more than twenty companies are in the process of being established, some of them having already started up.
“We’re hoping that if those companies continue to grow, the number of jobs may increase to 400 or so in the next two years,” Haukur projected. “The average aluminium factory has about that many people and the government is always implying that big companies are the solution, but we at the seminar agree that the solution lies in the small ones.”
The course is considered to have been a great success. It wrapped up at the end of July with a small ceremony to present certificates to those participants who had submitted completed business plans.
For future instalments of the course the young organisers are hoping to get sponsors onboard to invest 500,000 ISK toward the start-up costs of the most promising companies. “That is the minimum amount of capital you need to start a company, so we want to take away that obstacle. Plus sponsoring these new companies would be a good way for larger companies to advertise, since they would be associating themselves with helping the community.”
Haukur admits that planning and running such an endeavour takes up a significant amount of time for the young organisers, all of whom are doing so entirely without pay. With the response to the premiere seminar so positive, there is already a waiting list for yet to be planned future instalments. It is likely that the course will be repeated in the autumn or next winter.
For more information about the entrepreneurial seminar or to get on the waiting list for upcoming seminars, check out their blog,

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