Three times in one week I was described as an entrepreneur in the media and I suddenly looked at what I was doing and rather than simply running a small business as a solopreneur I saw that there was more to it. I launched my business as a relocation consultant very quietly last year and I just thought it was a pipe dream to run my own successful business. Fast forward eight months and people now see me as an entrepreneur. Back when I lived in the UK I dreamt about leaving my corporate job and becoming freelance but there seemed to be so many obstacles in my way.
Photo credit: Thomas Rousing
I really believe that the Danish way of life has enabled me to be able to launch a successful business. Denmark currently has a strong culture of start ups, big and small, and I can really see why. There are many lessons that can be taken from Denmark in making it more possible for women like me to start their own businesses. In fact every year since 2012 Denmark has been voted the easiest place to do business by The World Bank.
Open culture of support
There is a very open culture of helping others. There are a number of supportive networks for solopreneurs as well as small businesses. Lively and innovative co-working spaces are popping up all over the city offering affordable options for people like me to get away from our kitchen table offices and into a more professional environment and to be inspired by others in the same situation. Whilst at first it can be frustrating to be in a 'who you know' culture once you start to make connections a whole new realm of knowledge and support opens up.
Value of a positive work/life balance
Work/life balance is valued so much more so than in the UK and the US, where it seems to be a badge of honour to say how busy you are and how many hours you work but there is the question of how productive that time is? Danes value their free time so make working hours count so they can slip off a little early to enjoy the sun or spend time with families. I set my own hours but it is important to me that I have time to be present with my son. When I explain this to clients they totally understand the hours I have to dedicate to work and those that I dedicate to my personal and family time. In fact a client rang me recently around 4pm and apologised for ringing me during my family time, I doubt I would ever get that if I was working in the UK.
Although Denmark is a country with high taxes, this in itself makes being an entrepreneur possible. So many times I hear from friends in the UK with under school age children that they would love to start their own business but the costs of childcare are so prohibitively expensive that it simply isn't worth it. With state-run childcare available to everyone in Denmark and costing less than £250 a month for all day care, it makes it so much more possible to balance your family and running a business. My son can stay to after school club for less than £3 a day giving me more time to work after his school day finishes at 2pm.
One of the things that scared me about starting my own business in the UK was the amount of red tape I felt I would need to wade through from tax, registration and insurances. The business bureaucracy I have encountered so far in Denmark has been pretty minimal, it only takes a few hours to officially register your business. With everything tied to your personal identity number paying tax is a simple process. I can concentrate in my actual business and not mindless bureaucracy.
Funding and business building support
Funding and business building support
As it is important to the economy that as many people work in Denmark as possible, there are tons of ways the local authorities and the government support small business from funding to open access courses. I have been lucky enough to attend a number of short lectures and courses to help me set up my business and having spent eighteen months in free Danish classes I can also speak the language as well.
Photo credit: Rochelle Coote
Danes have a phrase for people who, like me, have taken the chance to start their own business -- self standing -- and I certainly do feel I am that and I am proud every time someone calls me that, or an entrepreneur. I wish I'd done this years ago.
Melanie Haynes is originally from the UK and has lived in Copenhagen for eight years. She writes about life in Copenhagen on her blog Dejlige Days and after experiencing relocation to Copenhagen and Berlin, she runs a settling-in service aimed at helping expats called Dejlige Days Welcome.