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My JA Story: The best thing about JA is that you learn by experience

Joonas Ahola, Founder and CEO of MeetingPackage.com

“At secondary school, we started a JA Company called Digitime. At that time, the analog signal for television had ended in Finland, so you had to either buy a set-top box to watch TV or buy a new TV. We had the idea to import set-top boxes from Germany to Finland at the age of 14-15. We made some profit that we used to have a better graduation party. We could even rent a Limousine…. 

At the time, we considered this a big success since we did not have any family background of entrepreneurs. Today, I’m still wondering how a company like Schneider did a deal with 14 year-old guys from Finland who had no idea about business!

This moment still represents a big milestone in my life and I am very grateful for the teachers who were pushing us and giving us the material and the support we needed when we were facing problems. Despite the lack of entrepreneurial background, the JA experience enabled me to develop my entrepreneurial mindset. I’m still learning about it today even if I’ve been an entrepreneur for the past 13 years. But it all came first from the learning-by-doing method which came from the JA Company Programme. When you are sitting in school, you see and hear what people want you to hear, but when you jump to that level of doing things by yourself, dealing with the unknown, taking risks, learning from failures and lifting yourself up from there; that’s what keeps you motivated and brings you the mindset you need to be an entrepreneur.

From that experience, I’ve met some people who encouraged me to go the extra mile and become an entrepreneur for real. I started my event agency back in 2007 and ran that business for 7 years. What happened is that inquiries increased a lot during 2012-13 but the number of events remained stable, so I was looking for different solutions on how to upgrade the booking process of event spaces and venues. At that time, I didn’t find anything on the market. From there I decided to take a leap into the unknown. I had never had a technological company, but I thought that if it doesn’t exist, maybe some other people have the same problem.

So I decided to build it myself in 2014 and establish a new startup company. We started off with a different product, which was combining venues, catering and additional services but that didn’t fly. From that first half a year of trial, we learned that the B2B business is actually the one that breaks new ground, so we made the decision to focus only on the B2B side; meetings and events for corporate clients and all on their supply side. We tried it out in Finland until 2015, and through this experience we began to build the global perspective and global marketplace which was launched in 2016.
We currently offer over 250 000 meeting rooms in 91 countries to be booked online.

Winning the AmCham Award last year has been another big milestone for us; a recognition in the sense that four global Presidents or Vice-PDT from big corporate companies have helped us as mentors. My advice to this year’s candidates would be to have a clear pitch. Realize that you are pitching your idea to an investor who listen to 700 pitches in the same week. You need to bring your personality to the table, learn how to pitch, learn your pitch by heart and keep it shorter rather than longer, because if it’s too long you’re not highlighting the main selling-point of your business itself."

Category : Entrepreneurship, JA Alumni Posted : 7 June 2017 10:29 UTC
About the Author
Joonas Ahola, Founder and CEO of MeetingPackage.com

Joonas joined the JA Company Programme provided by Junior Achievement Finland when he was 14 . At that time, the mini-company he created with a few classmates was selling set-top boxes for TV’s in Finland. At 16, he became a real entrepreneur in the meetings & events industry of the Finnish Capital Region.

 

Since 2014, Joonas has been on the journey of building MeetingPackage.com into the global marketplace for booking and managing off-site meetings & events. Joonas has grown the team to more than 35 people and has persuaded many well-known advisors and investors to join his mission of shaking up the meetings & events industry.

MeetingPackage.com won the AmCham EU Youth Entrepreneurship Award in 2016, organized by The American Chamber of Commerce to the European Union in collaboration with JA Europe.

Meeting Package is on Startup100.net a platform ranking Finnish startups monthly, based on online marketing activities and performance

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