Most of our readers are experienced business men and women. But are you entrepreneurs? How would you fare with the following challenge? Along with a few likeminded strangers, throw EUR 40 each into a pot. Then build a successful business using only that money as capital.

Sounds difficult – and slow – does it not?

This is just what four young men and women participating in member company Junior Achievement‘s (Nuori Yrittäjyys ry) Company Program have successfully done by winning the JA’s ‘entrepreneur of the year’ award in 2016. They went on to represent Finland in the European Championships. The non-profit led by Virpi Utriainen celebrates its 15th anniversary this year, and the I’m Blue soda story is a shining example of the experiences Junior Achievement enables for young people.

In 2015, C.E.O. Ida Salo, Production Manager Patrik Pyöriä, C.F.O. Otto Korhonen and Marketing Manager Helmi Nurkkala joined forces with the challenge to build a successful business with just EUR 160. The ideation process was crucial: what was missing from the market? What could you offer that was cheap enough at first and with a quick turnaround?

“Coming up with the idea took one month. We thought of Finland as a brand, which is linked to nature, and that took us to health trends, specifically functional foods. Personally, I love anything with blueberries in it, and with a bit of research we discovered that the wild, Finnish blueberry is something of a panacea – a source of numberless health benefits that simply grows in the woods. And it’s delicious,” says Ida Salo.

The result was I’m Blue soda, the first batch of which was made by hand at their school, Etelä-Tapiolan Lukio, and produced 89 bottles. With those sold to good reception, the recipe and production process were tweaked, and the batches have grown. The latest was 5000 bottles, most of which were sold before a single one had been bottled.

All of this involved rigorous work. It took the foursome six months to research the laws governing the food and beverage industry and how to set up an Oy company; they searched for subcontractors with the best prices and highest quality; they perfected the recipe, for example lessening the amount of citric acid and adding more lime.

“This showed each of us that anyone can be an entrepreneur. You just have to come up with an idea and then work hard to carry it through. It teaches self-sufficiency, time management, knowing what you can and cannot expect from others, and a certain attitude – to know that you can demand what is rightfully yours,” continues Ida.

Junior Achievement Finland’s goal is to advance entrepreneurial attitudes and an active lifestyle among Finnish youths. Aimed at 7- to 25-year-olds, this is done through programs in cooperation with schools, universities and other educational institutions as part of their own curricula.

Behind the programs is a belief that schools should be encouraged to open their doors to surrounding society. Business volunteers help bridge the gap between school life and working life by providing mentorship and encouragement.

Many of the programs are run in Finnish or Swedish, but opportunities for English speaking volunteers and youths also exist. If you are interested in cooperating with JA Finland’s well-established programs, click here for more information.

“My respect for all entrepreneurs has grown incredibly,” says Ida. “They’ve managed to find something they’re good at and passionate about and made it become reality.”