Izzy Young is extraordinary in all manner of ways but perhaps most famously for having put on Bob Dylan’s first ever concert in 1961. And perhaps most amazingly because now, at 86 years old, his energy hasn’t waned at all and he is still working every day putting on concerts at his unique store in Stockholm.
I will spend the rest of this article convincing you of his greatness – but don’t just take my word for it – you can meet the man himself at one of his rare poetry readings, where as well as reciting some of his own beat flavoured poetry he will no doubt read one of the songs that Bob Dylan wrote especially for him. Although Izzy would tell you his first love is poetry, he is most famous for his role in the New York folk music scene of the 1960s…
“It was a place where you could buy folk music records, books and accessories. But more than anything else it became a sort of clubhouse for the folk scene. Izzy was the switchboard: if anything was happening to anyone on the scene, Izzy would find out about it and broadcast it to the world.”
Izzy became good friends with many of the musicians hanging around the village, including Bob Dylan. In fact he organised the young folk singer’s first ever concert. And Dylan devotes a number of pages in his 2004 autobiography Chronicles to Izzy, describing the Folklore Centre as “the citadel of Americana folk music,” and says:
“Izzy was very sardonic and wore heavy rimmed glasses and spoke in a thick Brooklyn dialect. Izzy was always a little rattled over something or other. He was sloppily good-natured. In reality, a romantic.”
Now 86 years old, and spending every single day in the Stockholm version of the Folklore Centre, Izzy still perfectly fits Dylan’s description.
Izzy left New York for Stockholm in 1973 and has been here ever since. Perhaps like most expats, the reasons for Izzy’s move are complex and can’t be put down to one single thing. When asked why he moved here Izzy responds;
“I can’t answer that completely.”
One of the reasons he gives though was because “Sweden saved my life.” Like a number of Americans who emigrated around the same time it seems Izzy, a proud leftist (though he hates communists), was disillusioned with American politics and of course the Vietnam War.
Izzy had always been involved in political activism and suggests that had he stayed in America his involvement with the anti war campaign would have put his life at risk.
Perhaps the most significant reason though for moving to Stockholm was a love of Swedish folk music.
“It was all Pete Seeger’s fault,” Izzy jokes about his great friend, the legendary folk singer, who sadly died in January this year.
In the late 1960s Pete invited two Swedish violin players to America who, according to Izzy, Pete had “gone nuts about when on tour in Sweden.”
Izzy already knew a bit about Swedish music through his love of square dancing.
“The most popular dance,” he says, “was the hambo, a Swedish couples dance, which I fell in love with. I had no thoughts of Sweden at the time but this dance stuck with me.”
Izzy also became a big fan of Pete Seeger’s Swedish violinists and the two Swedes would begin to regularly visit New York and stay at Izzy’s place.
“Being tall and blonde they were very popular with all my short dark Jewish girlfriends” Izzy adds.
Soon Izzy began visiting his new friends regularly in their home country. By this time Izzy had a French girlfriend and it seems like many expats here realise, Sweden was a great place for them to have a baby. Just ten months after moving to Stockholm they had a baby daughter.
“There was no baby in New York, no baby in France but we sure had a baby in Sweden,” Izzy enthuses.
First Swedish impressions
During his first visit to Sweden, Izzy stayed at his violinist friend’s house. After a couple of days of recovering from jet lag he was awoken at 6am to attend the Santa Lucia festival at the local school. He describes his first Swedish experience:
“I was still sleeping! And then in this big long room, everyone is drinking coffee and eating bulle (buns) and then someone makes a speech about how nice it is to be spending this time with the family. I thought, could you imagine the chances of Americans doing that at 6am!”
“There was nothing to see, just ordinary people talking. But it was nice. And there is nothing more beautiful than hearing Swedish kids singing.”
It was during this first visit that Izzy also got his first Swedish language lesson. Izzy was being provided for with great generosity by his hosts so after a while he decided to go to the bakery and buy some cake for everyone.
“My friends had two kids,” he explains, “So they said take the kids with you but whatever you do don’t buy them anything that says vispad grädde (whipped cream). So we go to the bakery and what do the kids ask for but cakes with whipped cream. ‘Ingen vispad grädde’ (no whipped cream) I said to them, and learnt my first three Swedish words.”
When he moved here permanently Izzy enrolled in Swedish for Immigrants. He loves languages and can still get by in Yiddish, as well as French and German. And Swedish, though he recounts the common expat experience with learning Swedish, “people just want to talk English with me.”
Despite this concern, Izzy reads the Swedish newspapers daily.
“I think the Swedish language is a very good language,” he adds. “There is a whole different rhythm in the Swedish language. And they have much clearer words than English. The Swedes don’t kid around.”
When he first moved here some 40 years ago Izzy says there was nothing he didn’t like about Sweden.
“I’d walk in the park near the library, they keep building new parks all the time, unbelievable, and I saw three or four bums. Their shoes, their jackets were all better than mine and I thought, what a country!”
There are some aspects of Sweden though that Izzy is not a fan of. When he first arrived, he was bemused by people standing at red lights at pedestrian crossings.
“Even if there were no cars. Twelve people would just stand there and not cross!”
Izzy also likes to talk a lot, and complains Swedish people don’t talk enough. He also generally sees things as good or bad and hates the Swedish concept of lagom.
But he thinks Swedish people are nice and also likes the fact there are no bars on windows like there are in New York, although he thinks this is beginning to change in the more expensive areas of Stockholm. He also likes the cleanliness of the city and the good pension “that keeps me alive.”
He also loved Swedish films and went to the theatre a lot. And of course he went to concerts.
“I Like Swedish music,” he says.
“I came here to hear Swedish music. Everything that American music has to say is open and obvious, with simple compositions and melodies. You get it right on the spot. Swedish music takes a longer time to get the whole idea and it is more intellectual in a way. You really have to think about it, but it grows on you.”
Izzy first opened the Stockholm iteration of the Folklore Centre (renamed the Folklore Centrum) on Sveavägen, before eventually moving it to its current location on Wollmar Yxkullsgatan.
“It was probably because Pete Seeger wrote a letter of recommendation to the Swedish government that I was allowed here,” Izzy says. “Pete wrote that if Izzy Young is allowed to live in Sweden he will contribute much to Swedish culture.”
And from the Folklore Centrum Izzy spent the next 40 years promoting folk music in Sweden through regular concerts and via a 20-30 page newsletter in which he listed festivals, dances and courses taking place up and down the country. The newsletter had around 2,500 subscribers.
“I came here to put on all types of music in one place. Before I moved here I had seen that people only promoted the things in their own local areas. I was the first one to bring everything together,” he says.
Despite his connections to some of the most famous names in music (he still gets sent free tickets for Dylan concerts in Stockholm), Izzy has never made much money. This is probably, as Dylan wrote, because Izzy is too much of a romantic. But he doesn’t seem to mind too much.
“If I have enough money in my pocket to buy the paper and get a cup of coffee, I am happy,” he says.
And he is still going strong and can be found in his Folklore Centrum almost every day, where he sells a handful of second hand records and books from the windows. If you go in, you will meet an extraordinary man. He undoubtedly has a heart of gold and often quips;
“I am still a fun loving Jewish boy who grew up in the Bronx, New York and never changed or tried to.”
Maybe just take some advice from Bob Dylan. In his song Talking Folklore Centre, which Dylan wrote for Izzy in the early 60s, and which Izzy now has stashed in a Stockholm bank vault, Dylan writes “Do like most people do. Walk in, walk around, walk out.”
Or you can meet Izzy at the concerts he regularly hosts at the Folklore Centrum – also always intimate and special evenings with the highest quality of musicianship. They are listed regularly on the Konserter page of the website!
With her sparkling smile and tumbling blonde locks you might not peg Mary-Rose Hoja as a scientist with an entrepreneurial spirit. Once you meet her in person, though, there’s no doubt that this is a woman of enormous drive, intellect and charm.
With a PhD in the sciences in her pocket and a good portion of her life having been lived abroad, Scottish-born Mary-Rose Hoja bucked her family’s expectations and ditched a career in the medical world – instead following her natural inclination to become a creative and entrepreneurial powerhouse.
While studying biochemistry at Edinburgh University Mary-Rose grabbed a chance to study for a year at Uppsala University, which led to her being invited to pursue her PhD in crystallography at the University. Unhappy with the program and post-grad life in Uppsala, she went on a two-week biology course in Greece, where she met her future husband, who happened to be studying for his PhD at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. One thing led to another and Mary-Rose ended up leaving Uppsala for Karolinksa, where she studied bio-medicine.
So how did this life of scientific learning lead Mary-Rose to a life of creativity and entrepreneurship? English is the language of science and her fellow PhD students at KI began asking her to check their articles before sending them off for publication. Word spread of her skills as a quick and talented editor and seeing an opportunity, Mary-Rose started an editing business. In addition to that her excellent Swedish skills led to translation offers and before you knew it she had started a company to deal with all the work offers coming her way.
Mary-Rose’s client meetings were often held over drinks but there was no where to do this at Karolinska so, seeing yet another opportunity, she started a pub, which became wildly successful with student, professors and visiting researchers.
Mary-Rose then spent six years in Australia before returning to Stockholm. During those years she had observed at conferences that the average scientist often has a lot to contribute – along with a great desire to do so – but their naturally introverted nature often prevented them from doing so. Another light bulb went off, leading to yet another venture, this time offering mingle workshops, which developed into business networking, both specifically for sales but also for careers. The idea was picked up by Dagens Nyheter, TV4 and numerous corporations and today her company, Hoja Consulting, develops both face-to-face workshops and online courses for general industry (B2B), specifically targeting scientists and technical people.
Many of Mary-Rose’s clients are international and a good portion of her work involves linking native Swedes with ex-pats.
She helps both sides understand cultural differences and how to successfully navigate those sometimes rocky waters; she helps her clients ‘build a tool box’ where they can choose the tool they need depending on whom they’re speaking with, whether it’s an American scientist or an Italian doctor. Understanding how different cultures do business is beneficial to both sides and can only increase success levels – and Mary-Rose’s work is instrumental in facilitating this process.
What’s Mary-Rose Hoja’s best advice to ex-pats, whether they’re here short term or long term? You might be surprised at her answer.
She says take advantage of the fact that Stockholm has excellent lunch deals. Book as many lunch meetings as you can with the most influential people you can get ahold of. She also thinks ‘After Works’ are great for en masse meetings and casual observation and says it’s ok to get happy (just not too happy!).
For the future, Mary-Rose sees more and more movement into the digital world and says that taking advantage of tools such as LinkedIn is key to success, whether you’re an ex-pat or just building a career in your corner of the world.
Today Mary-Rose Hoja lives in the gateway to the archipelago, Vaxholm, just outside of Stockholm, with her husband and two children. She continues to see opportunities everywhere and while she didn’t end up in what her family considered the highest of callings, medicine, she wouldn’t be where she is today had she not spent those years pursuing her degrees at some of the world’s top institutions of higher learning.
Judi Lembke is an experienced editor and writer who, when not shackled to her computer, enjoys reading, cooking and sometimes watching embarrassingly bad reality TV. Judi also works with communications and thinks coming up with clever ideas is about as much fun as one can have without taking off one’s clothes.
Namibian-born Arno Smit has made it his business to help realise the dreams of others. He’s well spoken, intelligent, driven, handsome and, while my mother would call him “a very nice boy”, we at YLC would say he’s downright extraordinary.
Crowdfunding is not a novel idea. In fact, when the Statue of Liberty was being shipped from France in the 1800’s, its committee ran out of funds for her pedestal. Luckily for Lady Liberty, Joseph Pulitzer (yes, him) stepped in and started a newspaper campaign, encouraging the citizens of New York to donate whatever little they could. Over 160 000 donors participated, from children and street cleaners to businessmen and politicians, raising over $100 000 in just five months, enough to finally furnish the statue with her iconic pedestal.
This, essentially, is one of the first recorded examples of successful crowdfunding, a process whereby a large pool of ordinary people each donate a small amount of money in order to fund a project, business or campaign. And it’s also what’s at the core of Sweden’s first ever crowdfunding portal, FundedByMe.
On Funding Funded
Co-owned by Arno Smit and Daniel Daboczy, FundedByMe is the offspring of ambition and frustration. Having followed his Swedish wife to the land of cinnamon buns, Smit found himself working with Daboczy at web agency, Dabber.
The duo then branched off together and came up with an admirable project, “Ideas for Change”, but attempts at gaining funding for it via Kickstarter, the world’s largest crowdfunding platform, were thwarted due to the project not being based in the US. They decided to see this underrepresentation in the crowdfunding market not as a hindrance, but as an opportunity to do something about it.
They used paid incentives to fund the launch of their business, offering everything from 100 sek hugs to 5000 sek speaking gigs.
In just 60 days, they had raised 104 670 sek, just enough to jumpstart their idea. Now, a little over two years later, FundedByMe can be found in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Spain, having already funded around 760 reward-based projects.
On the workings of Funded
Smit explains that crowdfunding has developed into two things: reward-based and equity crowdfunding. Reward-based crowdfunding is the initial funding of a campaign through many investors investing small amounts of money for correspondingly small rewards. “It’s used when you’re looking to launch a product on the market and you need customer validation. You want to see whether someone is looking to pre-purchase or order it eventually.”
So, essentially, before deciding whether to invest your life’s savings into your second-hand sock business, you can test the market to see whether it’s a viable idea.
Equity-based crowdfunding, on the other hand, is mostly for those who are already existing business-owners looking to expand their network, bring in more investors or break into new markets. In these cases, the investors would be rewarded with a share of the business.
On being Flippin’ Awesome
One shining example of the company’s success is that of Stockholm’s devastatingly cool burger joint, Flippin’ Burgers, voted by CNN as the 5th best American restaurant in Europe.
In his previous life Flippin’s owner, Jon Widegren, was just a regular consultant who had the hots for hamburgers when he decided that he was going to quit his job and pursue his passion for meaty buns. After being rejected by banks for a loan to start up a burger joint, he turned to FundedByMe, who gave him the platform he needed to launch his seemingly nutty idea. In just 14 days, Widegren had accrued over 36 000 sek by setting up a reward system of buy one hamburger and get one free when the restaurant opens. “So you had all these people buying it just because it was cool and random.”
“People would tweet: ‘I just bought a hamburger that doesn’t exist!’ It became viral.”
Widegren took this overwhelming response from the market to the bank, which promptly furnished him with a high-risk loan. A year and a half later, business is booming at Flippin’ Burgers. You can tell by the seemingly constant, hour-long queue of hungry hipsters waiting to be seated.
On how to get funded
The recipe for Widegren’s success isn’t just in his secret sauce; it took a lot of hard work on his part. “I always say to people that input equals output, so the more work they put in, the more exposure we’ll give them.” Says Smit.
And if you’re willing to put in the effort and you have a great idea, there’s really no reason not to apply. It’s easy to do and it’s entirely online. All you have to do is visit the website, fill out a few forms and create a presentation (preferably in English). “From there, you have the ability to share it via social media, engage people at an early stage and get them interested, involved and invested.” Says Smit.
On expat integration
And though the projects are primarily in English, Smit very much believes that learning Swedish is an important part of integration into the Swedish culture. When he first arrived, he dutifully attended SFI classes every day for three months and read as much as he could.
“I believe you must immerse yourself in the language to learn it. You have to understand the cultural barriers that are in front of you in order to break through them and language is a good way to do so.”
His language skills have also helped him within his company as he reveals that a lot of their business and board meetings are conducted in Swedish. In fact, he insists that even if you are living in Sweden and applying for a job in a company where English is the lingua franca, it’s still important to be able to converse in Swedish and it’s even more important if you’re attempting to set up a business here.
On starting a business in Sweden
Smit is only too familiar with the tribulations of being an entrepreneur in Sweden, “Starting a business takes a lot of hard work; a lot of sweat and a lot of tears.” But he urges entrepreneurs not to become frustrated and give up.
“Whether you’re looking for your first job or starting your first company here, just remember that things take a lot longer than you expect.”
But in order to bolster your chance of success, Smit recommends that one “attend meet ups, network, find a mentor and build a great team, because a product is nothing without a great team.”
He says this as he glances in the direction of his own team, casually dressed and happily slurping their coffee while they sit side-by-side at their desks, working toward turning more dreams into real, successful businesses.
Kirsten blindly followed her husband from South Africa to the land of snow and snus in 2011 and proceeded to procreate. When she isn’t discovering the 101st use of the humble wet wipe, she can be found writing adjective-laden articles for YLC.
At 16, Lucy Robertshaw was not an ordinary teen obsessing over boys and sneaking out of the house on a weeknight. Instead, she chose the path less travelled by and ended up in the Swedish woods with a successful company of her own.
If someone had told Lucy Robertshaw three years ago that she would be living in the middle of a Swedish forest and heading up her own company, she would have thought they were nuts.
After hopping straight from school into the working world, the then 16-year-old Robertshaw found herself happily working as a Medical Centre receptionist while, at the same time, taking a Business Management course. 15 years of hard work later, she’s living in the Swedish woods and working at her very own business development company, LucyJRobertshaw.
On her arrival in Sweden
Robertshaw first came to Sweden two years ago with the aim of establishing two businesses both in Sweden and Denmark, all the while being based in Lund, south of Sweden.
“I remember arriving at the train station platform at Copenhagen airport thinking ‘this is my first afternoon of the rest of my life’ and feeling really exhilarated,” she tells YLC.
Whilst working in Lund, Robertshaw fell in love with a Swede whom she had met previously in the UK. He was living in Hölö (50 kilometres south of Stockholm) at the time and, in January 2012, Robertshaw decided to take the leap and join him.
“At the same time, I knew I wasn’t going to move there with nothing, so that was the point that I decided to start my own business. I always wanted to run my own company,” says Robertshaw.
On serendipity and starting her own company
On March 1st 2012 Robertshaw’s company was registered with Bolagsverket. Shortly after that she had to figure out how to navigate Skatteverket, file her first VAT return, not to mention submitting the seemingly endless paperwork that comes with setting up a business in Sweden. On top of it all, she had to find clients – as if moving to Sweden permanently isn’t daunting enough!
“The hardest thing about starting your own business in Sweden is holding up the belief that the business would be succesful and getting through the first 6 months of being self-employed” says Robertshaw. “It’s vital to keep believing in yourself and in your idea.”
“But fate and luck really do play a part in how your business will develop,” says Robertshaw. Her client, APL (Apotek Produktion & Laboratorier AB), the largest CMO in Sweden, was found just by sitting next to Mattias Nyström at a UKTI lunch at Berns Salongerand chatting to him about the UK.
“Had I not been there at that moment, I am certain I would never have had the opportunity to represent them as a client,” says Robertshaw.
On overcoming challenges
But conducting business in Sweden is not always that easy, there are plenty of challenges that come with starting your own business in a different culture, including attempting to understand why business practices are the way they are and having to accept that things just work differently over here.
“Swedes, I have to say, are quite slow-moving compared to the British in the way they do business, but once they want to go with an idea, it’s full steam ahead and you never look back.
So being patient with the Swedish process helps, but one piece of advice that Robertshaw sees as gold for starting and maintaining a successful business is to create a personal network.
“I am a member of various different networks around the city and this really helps me get established and be seen by others.”
Robertshaw also thinks that having an interesting backgrounds can help you get ahead.
“I love telling the story of why I moved to Sweden and I think it’s really important to have a good story – as you are always selling yourself, in your current job, if you are looking for new employment – or whenever, really.”
So the Robertshaw recipe for success boils down to four key suggestions: ”Have a good idea of what you want to do, be patient, create a good network and get out there so that you can meet people and be seen at events.”
If there’s one thing we can learn from Robertshaw’s success story, it’s that sometimes the most random and unpredictable things will get you ahead because, as she so sagely puts it, “the truth is, you never know just what’s around the corner.”
Lucy will be a regular contributor to YLC on business and she would love readers’ input on topics they’d like her write about. She also welcomes comments or thoughts via her email: email@example.com.
Emma met Frankie a year ago. This summer they took the plunge, moved to Sweden and set up shop. Only a few months in and they are already taking Stockholm by storm with their unique mobile coffee shop experience.Oh yes, and Frankie is a car.
Originally from Austrailia, but having lived in the UK for the last 10 years, Emma Jenkins met Frankie in London, fell in love and now they sell coffee and cake at the Hornstull market every Sunday. YLC caught up with her to chat about owning Frankie, setting up a business in Stockholm – and salted caramel.
Having studied architecture and design in London, Emma always wanted to own her own company, preferably incorporating into it her design knowledge, but she felt she needed a bit of a break before going on to study toward a master’s degree. So last year, serendipity stepped in and led her to a food truck named Frankie, which was being sold by his doting and eccentric French owner. Naturally, Emma decided to do something some may think is just a little bit loopy…
“I thought, why not take a year off and just do it?, Emma told YLC.
“Summer was coming and I thought, ‘this is an opportunity to do something different.’ I had been to Stockholm to visit friends before and I knew the idea of a foodtruck isn’t very common there. So I thought: if not now, then when?”
So she bought Frankie, shipped him and herself off to Stockholm and opened up a mobile coffee shop.
“Frankie is more than just a motor vehicle; he is also a vehicle to do this unique thing”
Emma once again pointed to the fact that the food truck business is something new to Stockholmers.In fact, the concept is so new to the city that the first food truck license was only granted in the middle of this year. This means that a year ago, there were no regulations. There were also no food trucks.
“Swedes seem to like it, but I get a lot of curious looks a lot of intrigue and confusion. I often have to explain where I come from and how normal it actually is.”
“I think Fred’s Food Truck was one of the first; he actually worked with the council. He got the idea when he went travelling to the US. It’s popping up and it’s a great idea, especially in summer because everyone wants to get outside into the sunshine and walk around, have lunch, take a break. You can follow on social media where food trucks are going to be so you can make a little journey to them and experience them.”
But buying food from a truck isn’t the sum of your experience. It’s also about engaging with nature, different people, alternate cuisines and ideas; adding a whole new dimension to “dining out”. According to Emma, the part about food trucks is that you’ve got to activate spaces. And the thing about activating spaces is getting people together and exposing them to new ideas.
“That’s where Frankie comes in. He’s a great character and provides a talking point for customers. People come up to us and stand around and chat for hours. I get to meet all types of characters.”
Hornstull market is perfect for people in the summer to come down and explore the local community, engage with other people, taste different cuisines… it has a little bit of everything”
It’s a bold move, relocating to Stockholm, but Emma isn’t naive about Sweden and a few of its pitfalls. She’d travelled to Stockholm a few times to visit friends before deciding to move and has experienced it’s icy winter.
“It’s actually pretty exciting. I’m from Australia, so I’ve never had a white Christmas. I am aware it can get very cold though.”
But it’s not only the weather that can challenge an expat. We all know the Swedes are masterful at the English language, so the decision not to learn Swedish at all can be a tempting one, but Emma believes it’s important be able to communicate with locals, especially as she has a business here.
“I’m studying SFIin the evenings. It’s not so difficult; it’s actually fun. People walk past and say ‘Ah, en fin bil!’ and I’ll understand that, but then they might ask questions about the make or model of Frankie and I get a bit lost. I’m starting to understand more now though. It’s all a game of give and take; sometimes I’ll ask people a question and they’ll respond in Swedish and I learn a lot that way.”
On starting a business
Sweden has a system. For everything. You stand in a queue to claim a ticket just to stand in another queue. It all works out somehow, but the bureaucracy can boggle your brain at times.
“The biggest challenge for me has been the bureaucracy.”
“There is a lot of paperwork. It’s more difficult than I expected and it’s more difficult than the Swedish authorities say it is. It all took time, time that I didn’t really have to spend on it. But saying that, I’m sure it’s the same all over the world. The personal number was like gold for me. You really do need it before you do anything else. It was the biggest thing that took away some of the excitement and creativity away from what I was wanting to do.”
It may have been tough to sort out the legal technicalities, but finding a platform from which to launch her idea was serendipitously fluid.
“The people who run Hornstull market want it to be different and unique and colourful and vibrant. They loved the idea of Frankie and welcomed me very warmly. They also didn’t want too much competition between the vendors, so you’ll see at the market that we aren’t all selling the same thing. Each of us brings something new. This is one of the only markets of its kind in Stockholm, hopefully it will expand.”
Pragmatic advice for latent expat entrepreneurs
“Whatever your business is, it motivates you when people get excited about your ideas. So get people excited, get excited yourself and don’t give up when things get tough.”
Starting a business is tough. Starting a business in a foreign country is a whole other level of tough.
“The first and best thing to do is to go to Skatteverket, they have an evening course that they run every week or so on setting up a business in Sweden and it goes through a number of key points that you need to do to set up a business. It’s in English, it’s free, it’s frequent and it’s a good place to meet people starting up their own businesses and going through the same thing as you. Also it’s obviously easier if you’ve been here a while and have your personal number sorted.”
But once you know what’s potting, you’ll have to get yourself out there and spread the word. Stockholm is an especially tough nut to crack when it comes to networking, yet Emma thinks it’s vital to your success as an entrepreneur in Sweden.
“I think my best piece of advice would be to network.”
“Stockholm’s quite a small place, but if you know a lot of people, Swedish or otherwise, tell them what you’re doing, expose them to your ideas because that’s what has made people excited about Frankie’s coffee; it’s word of mouth via friends and friends of friends. That’s how you get ahead here.”
Useful info on Frankie’s Coffee:
You have one month to meet Frankie and sample the food truck experience that everyone’s been buzzing about as he’ll be going into hibernation in October. He will, however, be rocking Hornstull Market next summer.
If you want to go to heaven in just one bite, try out Emma’s homemade Salted Caramel, Coconut and Dark Chocolate Slices.
Kirsten blindly followed her husband from South Africa to the land of snow and snus in 2011 and proceeded to procreate. When she isn’t discovering the 101st use of the humble wet wipe, she can be found writing adjective-laden articles for YLC.
An ex-Honey Monster (yes, really) and Sweden’s only Svengelska stand-up comedian, now bringing his Tuesday Chinwag to the Stockholm Stadsteatern stage – Ladies and Gentlemen, we give you this month’s extraordinary expat – Ben Kersley!
Ben Kersley, British actor and comedian, has been making Linköping life that bit funnier for a number of years. In 2012 he decided it was time to take on the big city on a regular basis and createdThe Tuesday Chinwag together with fellow comedians James McKie and Ben Richards.
On the 24th of August, the Chinwag, a show which is described as “as much fun as it is possible to have with three bespectacled English blokes having a nice cup of tea and a chat”, will play at the Stockholm Stadsteater. YLC caught up with Ben Kersley to find out more about his past, present and future.
On coming to Sweden
Kersley, originally from Birmingham, was living with his Swedish partner in Hackney, London, when they woke up one day and decided to up sticks and move to Sweden. As one does.
“After our baby was born in 2005 we decided that we needed to move away from Hackney – and then we thought ‘why not try Sweden?’,” Kersley tells YLC over coffee.
”We decided to give it a year or two to see what happened. That was in 2006. We had no real idea of what we wanted to do, and we have really ended up doing completely different things than what we thought we’d be doing.”
Having studied drama at Bristol University, Kersley had worked for a number of years both in front and behind the camera, doing comedy gigs and the occasional radio job. Although he had featured on children’s show Brum (”We’ve all done Brum, love”) and frequently played the iconic British role of the Honey Monster, he claims he was lacking real direction and wasn’t leaving too much behind when moving to Linköping, in southern Sweden. Also, he had plans.
”I initially thought I would use my drama expertise to teach people, in English, how to use acting skills in the corporate world but I soon realized that I knew absolutely nothing about the corporate world and the whole idea was sort of lost,” Kersley says.
Having lived in abroad in Hungary and Romania, countries where one needs to learn the language in order to communicate with locals, Kersley didn’t think learning Swedish was as big a challenge as many expats initially fear it will be.
”The vocabulary isn’t that hard and pronunciation isn’t as difficult as people think. To be honest the hardest thing about learning Swedish is that so many people can speak English – you can survive here for ages without speaking Swedish.”
If you are here as a visitor for a week or for a year, learning Swedish is not important, according to Kersley, but to him it is inconceivable how anyone would want to live in a place and not understand the basics – being able to read a sign or follow a conversation. It would be very difficult to get a grasp of the culture without being able to communicate with locals in their language.
“With the exception of (fellow comedian, eds note) Al Pitcher,” says Kersley. “He’s terrible at Swedish, he admits it himself, but he has actually got to the absolute core of Swedish culture, without speaking any Swedish.”
On being a comedian in Sweden
After eight or nine months in Sweden, Kersley stumbled across an open-mic night advertised in Linköping. He had performed comedy in the UK before coming to Sweden, but thought he’d left that world behind him after the move. Nevertheless the seed was planted and he eventually decided to go for it… In Swedish.
”The comedy was good – it was funny, but my Swedish was awful,” Kersley told YLC.
However, the experience of moving to Sweden has taught him that doing what you believe in and are passionate about are the keys to success, no matter where you come from or where you end up.
”Instead of trying to change yourself – you should continue doing what you were doing and find that world in the new place,” he explains.
Today, comedy is a huge part of his life. He frequently travels to Stockholm to perform and he generally does a couple of corporate gigs a month. Earlier in the summer, he held a workshop teaching university lecturers how to use acting skills to make their presentations more engaging.
However, Kersley is modest about his career as a comedian, stressing that it is still not his full-time job and that he couldn’t make a living on comedy and performing alone. For three and a half days a week, Kersley works for a voiceover studio in Linköping, where he writes copy for adverts, manages projects, produces sound and records his voice for different advertorial purposes.
”So I do have sort of a proper job where I go in at 9am and leave at 5pm-ish, or 5.30 if the boss is reading. Which is actually a really nice job,” says Kersley.
Swedes have responded well to the character Kersley adopts when performing in Swedish.
“Everyone has a stage persona; some are tough guys, others are Lotharios. Mine is a sort of dumb idiot who gets things wrong. I have a certain vulnerability through the constraints of the non-fluency, people respond to that.”
However, Swedes don’t have a different sense of humor from English-speakers, according to Kersley, they just have more influences.
“Here in Sweden, people are more open to both UK and US comedy and sometimes both. Swedes have a good sense of humour though – which comes from being well-read and exposed to many influences,” he says.
On the Chinwag
The Tuesday Chinwag came about after Ben Richards and Kersley had performed in small town Örebro, in central Sweden.
“We were having breakfast in our hotel surrounded by deaf footballers who kept cheering on all their team mates by waving their fingers in the air (this is how deaf people applaud – True fact). We had both spoken independently with James about doing something together and so we decided to start a monthly night in Stockholm, which would be 100% improvised. We sent James a text message, shook hands and all the deaf footballers all started applauding spontaneously… or so it seemed!”
After hosting the popular Tuesday Chinwag regularly at a Södermalm venue in 2012 and the beginning of 2013, Kersley, McKie and Richards decided to bring the gig to the Stockholm Fringe Festival in August 2013.
“I was there last year and saw a naked Mexican hermaphrodite singing opera. This, I thought, is the perfect platform for James, Ben and myself,” says Kersley.
“Miles for Miles” is a global story of people from around the world gathering around an amazing little boy. His mother, Leah, tells us the story of her remarkable son, our extraordinary expat for July: Miles.
Miles springs through life like many 6-year-olds but is different in one very big way. Miles was diagnosed with Progeria, a fatal genetic disease which causes accelerated ageing. He is 1 of only 90 children in the whole world with Progeria and is the only child with Progeria in the whole of Sweden.
Children with progeria, who are born looking healthy, age faster than the average person. When they are six years old, it is as if their body is 60 years old. All children with progeria die of heart disease and/or a stroke at an average age of thirteen years. The intellect of children with progeria is unaffected, and despite the often startling physical features, they are just like any other little kid. While Miles may be a very small, thin boy with no hair and a distinctive face, he is full of energy and curiosity.
As part of a Swedish-American family Miles has lived in Italy, the USA, Senegal and Sweden in his 6 years. He speaks three languages, can read and write and loves exploring. His family is focused on providing him with a rich and interesting life. If it’s going to be a short one, let’s make it a full one!
“Miles for Miles” was created by a childhood friend of mine, Stephanie, who, as a mother herself, empathized with my son’s story. Stephanie organized a team to run the Pittsburgh Marathon in the USA in 2009 and under the “Miles for Miles” banner raised over $10,000 for the Progeria Research Foundation (PRF). The PRF was a driving force behind the discovery of the Progeria gene and has developed programs and services to aid those affected by Progeria. Currently the PRF is running drug trials to find a cure for the disease and Miles has been participating in the trial since 2009 with the hope that the medications will ease the disease and one day cure it. It is a very complex research event with daily medications and twice-annual trips to a hospital in Boston USA for extensive testing. All of the medications and clinical research are funded by the PRF, which is primarily supported by private fundraising such as this.
“Miles for Miles” has grown over the years and is now a dedicated brand to raising money through sports and other events to fund the medical trials and to make sure that Miles and other kids like him are given the best opportunity to stay as healthy as possible. After the original Pittsburgh marathon, there have also been “Miles for Miles” fundraising events in California in 2009, the Lidingöloppet in Stockholm in 2010, the New York City marathon in 2012 and the Cape Bike Marathon in South Africa in 2013. Presently the sixth “Miles for Miles” event will take place in Stockholm on September 7th 2013 with the Tjemilen in Stockholm. A team of four mothers will run to raise funds for the PRF and to build awareness in the Stockholm community about Miles and his disease:
The Tjejmilen ‘Miles for Miles’ team of Claudia Dahlgren, Michelle Ng-Eriksson, Anett Grusser-Pettersson, and Nina Wahlberg is a group of mums from Germany, Singapore and New Zealand formed through a family support group in Sweden. Aside from running the Tjejmilen itself, they have also been fundraising through selling items online and at various loppis in the city, including the Solvalla drive-in loppis on the 24th August and the Täby Galopp on the 31st. Nina’s husband, Henrik will also be supporting the ‘Miles for Miles’ team by participating in ‘one of the toughest endurance races in the world’, the ÖTILLÖ. The team states
Our motivations are purely to dedicate our running to Miles and raise awareness about Progeria. We want to bring forth the research surrounding cures and ways that the condition and symptoms associated with the condition may be slowed. We also care about our dear friend Leah, mother of Miles, and her aims to help people see Miles for who he is and to widen his supportive network. Our training and the ‘Tjejmilen’ run are symbolic of the journey that we are taking to help people understand.
Donations to show support for the Tjejmilen team and Miles can be made onlinevia a secured payment site, where the funds go directly to the registered charity: The Progeria Research Foundation. Already around 25% of the 40,000kr goal has been met and there are still 2 months until the race. Beyond the fundraising, Miles’ father and myself are really excited to use these ‘Miles for Miles’ events to raise awareness about the disease and to profile what an amazing boy we have.
We hope that as Miles becomes more recognized around Stockholm we will be able to create a more caring and welcoming environment for him to spend his years in. We invite you all to come meet Miles and his family on the day of the race and thank you all for the compassion and support shown.
Keeping a level head in 40 degree heat, always smiling but always serious about her yoga, Tammy Gaymon is a popular Bikram Yoga teacher. In April she won the Swedish National Yoga Asana Championships and will be representing Sweden in the upcoming Internationals this week.
I met up with Tammy Gaymon just a week or so after the championships in Stockholm, where she won with a practice so beautiful that it quickly became obvious to all who were watching that she would score highest. Winning, however, came as a surprise for Tammy.
“It’s a bit scary, you go through these emotions like – did I deserve this? Did I do that good? How did I win? After watching the video I felt a bit better. But there is a part of me that is SO proud and there is a part of me that is SO humble.”
It is one of the first really warm days of the year and on the recommendation on one of her colleagues, Tammy and I head for Il Caffé on Söder, not too far from the studiowhere she teaches. Generally, I see Tammy in rather hotter conditions, leading a class of about 40 eager Bikram yoga enthusiasts (myself included) in the 26 asanas that make up Bikram’s Beginning Yoga class. But today, we’re talking about events that led to Tammy’s teaching in Stockholm and representing Sweden in the upcoming International Asana Championships in LA June 7th to 9th.
Having always led an active lifestyle, Tammy was introduced to Bikram Yogain the early 2000s whilst working as a social worker for Sacramento County. At that time her main form of exercise was running and aerobics, but this was about to change when a co-worker finally persuaded her take a Bikram class.
“I honestly didn’t go back to the gym after that. I kept my gym membership for a year but I just felt like I got everything I needed from that yoga class,” Tammy tells me.
Bikram Yoga is a form of Hatha yoga consisting of twenty-six asanas (postures) practised in a heated room (38-40 degrees Celsius) for 90 minutes. The founder is Bikram Choudhury, born in India in 1946. In 1973, Bikram arrived in the US and opened a studio in Los Angeles. Since then he has taught the Bikram Yoga-series to millions of students around the world. There are now over 500 affiliated Bikram Yoga studios worldwide.
For Tammy, this was yoga of a different kind than she had ever experienced. She soon started to practise regularly as well as starting to help out at the studio. However, it wasn’t until she was in a car accident that she seriously started thinking of the yoga as something more than just her personal practice. In 2003, while still on sick-leave, her doctor signed her off to go to Bikram’s Teacher Training as part of her rehabilitation.
“After the accident my whole life flipped around. I desperately needed that break; I needed a break from everything.”
Despite the fact that the intense Bikram Yoga Teacher Training is known to be very demanding both physically and mentally, Tammy says she would do it again if she could.
“It was where I needed to be and where I wanted to be at the time. So, I loved it.”
After graduating, it wasn’t long before Tammy made the decision to give up her job as a social worker and pursue a career as a yoga teacher full-time, first in the US, then on to Bangkok, Thailand and in 2008: Sweden. Her parents live in Germany, so Sweden seemed the best place in terms of being able to see family. And in 2009 she met her current partner in Stockholm and they now have a son together.
According to Tammy, teaching in Sweden or in Asia is different than teaching in the US.
“You really have to learn new cultural norms and new rules. When I left Asia and was coming to Sweden, I thought it would be more like the US here – but it wasn’t at all.”
The unwritten cultural rules can sometimes get an expat in trouble, especially in a teacher-student relationship:
“Teaching in Asia I once winked at a male student while chatting to him during class. I immediately felt that I had done something wrong. Afterwards I asked a Thai teacher why the situation had turned awkward – and he advised me never to do that again.”
Though Sweden isn’t the same as Asia, there are still cultural differences. According to Tammy, teaching Swedes is great fun but it can be hard to know when to push people to try harder and when to back off.
“It’s thelagom thing – I don’t get it. Compared to the US you really don’t want to push people in Sweden, you have to tread more gently. At the same time I want to help them develop their practice – so it is a fine line.”
There are things she finds difficult with living in Sweden. The long, dark and cold winters aren’t easy and managing day to day tasks in a different language can make life difficult. But, having lived in Stockholm for a number of years, Tammy isn’t going anywhere in the immediate future.
“I went through those years when I just wanted to go back home to now accepting that I live here and that I am content. There are many things that I love about this country. I have never felt compromised or unsafe in Stockholm. It is an even more comforting feeling as I raise my child here.”
She also tells me how she finds most Swedes she meets very warm and friendly and that she hasn’t experienced the alleged Swedish coldness that many expats speak of. And of course, there are the kanelbullar.
The upcoming 2013 International Yoga Asana Championships in LA kicks off on the 7th of June. One would imagine that representing your new country could be rather nerve-racking for any expat. However, Tammy is unfazed.
“If Sweden is happy to have me – then I am excited to represent Sweden,” she says.
A yoga competititon is in itself something controversial. There are always those who will question whether yoga really is something that can – or should – be competed in. However, according to Tammy, yoga competitions have been around for hundreds of years.
“And I really think that these people misunderstand. It isn’t a cut-throat competition. My yoga practice is so personal to me and stepping out of my comfort zone and getting up on that podium – it is an expression of my yoga. One of our senior teachers once said that it is like ‘telling one’s story’, it might sound cheesy but it is so true.”
Thinking past the upcoming championships is difficult, but Tammy tells me that her short-term plan is to stay in Stockholm. Eventually, in five or ten years, she might decide to return to the US with her partner and son. When that happens she would consider opening her own studio there as well as coaching students who want to compete. That she is dedicated to the practice is certain.
“It’s my job, it’s my life, it’s my passion, it’s my fun – it’s everything.”
Watch Tammy’s practice from the Swedish National Yoga Asana Championships below:
Whatever the future may hold, her students in the Stockholm studios are happy and grateful she remains here for the time being so that we can benefit from both her excellent teaching and the positive attitude she radiates in and out of the studio.
When talking to Josh Thorne, one gets the sense of a tornado sweeping through life. However, instead of causing destruction everywhere, Josh causes production – literally, since one of his many hats is that of film producer. But he’s also a musician, fisherman and chairman of an English football team right here in Sweden. Only happy when he’s busy and learning something new, it was my privilege to talk to this extraordinary expat of Stockholm.
Josh hails originally from London, where he was pursuing his love of film as a producer before his life changed dramatically. Demonstrating the impetuosity and enthusiasm that would mark out his future life, Josh met a Swedish girl in Greece and married her 10 days later. Later still, they moved to Sweden to start a family there. Josh’s first move in his new country was to learn Swedish:
Most people try to cram as many words and as much grammar as they can in as short a time as possible. I was more interested in the sounds of this very sonorous language. I spent a good week just getting to grips with the pronunciation of öl. You see, I work in communication and I know that a really good grasp of the language allows you to get closer to the culture, humour and the way in which the Swedish mind works; what makes a Swede laugh or cry.
Inpsiring for anyone trying to learn this difficult language, but also a great way at looking at language in general. But becoming a father meant an increase in living expenses; Josh needed to focus on work:
Prior to my move to Stockholm in 1989, I had been working as a film producer in London where I had produced many UK TV commercials. When moving to Sweden, I used my background to open up the very first agency producer company in Scandinavia, servicing all the larger agencies such as Saatchi and Saatchi, Grey Advertising, and DDB Needham. The workload soon became too much for me alone and around two years into the company’s life, I needed to look for help. It came in the form of Mark Baughen and William Hicks who had both come from the film/ advertising industry in the UK. Both had moved over to Sweden for the same reason as me: love.
The company went from strength to strength and even though other individuals tried to copy the business idea, Josh’s company held its own. They were involved with one of the very first commercials on Swedish television for ‘YES’, won the Swedish equivalent of a Cannes Lion and ended up producing films for Colin Nutley (a well-known expat director), Richard Petrelius and Joakim Eliasson, to name but a few. With all this going on, the company couldn’t help but grow and soon Thorne Film AB found itself 11 strong, which for Swedish standards, was a good-sized company. But when Josh and his wife decided to split up, it was a turning point for him in many ways. Josh folded the company and worked for another, Strobe Film and Design, where he was responsible for setting up the communication agency for Absolut Vodka. Later still, he started up his own animated short film company againstallodds, which is a thriving concern at Södermalm.
Film is just one of Josh’s many passions and it was when the divorce was final that he felt able to pursue his other interests in a serious way. Football had always been part of his life and, true to form, he decided to go all guns blazing and set up an English football team right here in Stockholm: Albion FC. It was an enormous success with both Swedes and expats; over 12 different nationalities are represented in the first and second teams. They started to attract some really good players and lived up to their aim of having fun whilst winning. After 2 years of being chairman, manager, coach, secretary and treasurer of a football team, Josh wanted to focus on something else close to his heart: music.
The many faces of Josh: A rare moment of peace, fishing; Chairman of Albion FC in Stockholm; Family man, Josh is a father of 4
From a brief conversation with a drinking buddy in the old town sparked a funk band. Ambitious as ever, Josh’s band JBC, was a grand affair of 13 talented, excited and fun-loving individuals who played regularly in Gamla Stan and featured at Fasching, the jazz club par excellence in Stockholm. Initially covering tracks from ‘Average White Band’, Josh was suddenly placed in front of an audience instead of producing behind the scenes, since he was the vocalist. Lots of fun was had, but organising 13 people to be at the same place at the same time was tricky, even for this most intrepid front man. They’re ready to come together at a moment’s notice if a gig comes up, but JBC was disbanded and Josh is now focused on his new musical venture, Easy Riders. I have no doubts that it will be as successful as everything else that Josh has focused on.
Whilst listening, slightly breathless, to this human dynamo who juggles being a father of 4 with front-lining a band; owning a short film company with chairing a football team, I wonder if Josh ever has any down time. I’m relieved to find that he does, but am inspired by the way he chooses to do it. Josh finds peace and calm by fishing in Sweden’s beautiful lakes.
It’s so true, you don’t fish to catch anything, although that’s part of the process. But sitting in beautiful surroundings with your hands occupied, your brain is allowed to rest. It’s a retreat.
That retreat is available to everyone here; from the über-cool vibe of the urban city, we can also explore the beauty of nature in a city that is also composed of 1/3 water and 1/3 green space. Josh’s story is another reminder of what one can do and achieve as an expat in this country: to be successful, to follow your passion and to find peace.
She’s the genius behind Bisou Bisou, a Harvard graduate and mother of two. She’s worked on Club 40/40 for Jay-Z, won the Golden Key award for her efforts on hotels W in Mexico City and Seoul and liaised with Michael Jordan to create his sports bar and restaurant. Now, with her husband Mathias, she’s brought some of her design magic to Stockholm with the new ’3-experiences-in-1′ concept, Tjoget.
Photo Credit: Hiro Tsukue
It all seems a long time ago that Yukiko Krigh was in a girl’s only school in Nagoya, Japan. Whilst her peers talked about becoming housewives and the perfect man, she was dreaming of making a mark on the world. From studying international relations at her hometown university, she went on to be accepted at the prestigious Parsons School of Design, where she completed a thesis in designer restaurants, was ‘honored student of the year’ and was picked out by Nancy Mah to work for her in 1999. She didn’t look back. Globe-trotting around the world, picking up awards and ideas wherever she went, she was working 100-hour weeks in New York until 2001, when the world changed. Her office was opposite the World Trade Centre and she just happened to be out on September 11th, so she was not in danger when the building was hit by suicide bombers but she saw the chaos and carnage and was affected hugely by the impact on life and the city. She decided to take a break.
Not the sort of break that most people would choose. Yukiko applied to Harvard to study a masters degree and was accepted:
After hundred-hour weeks in New York, being given the chance to study was like a vacation. I had worked so hard and under such pressure until that point, that although the course was difficult and the hours required long, Harvard seemed like a holiday. I was able to enjoy it, the study and the surroundings.
The fabulous display window at Hornsbruksgatan 24 (Photo Credit: Naoko Akechi), Yukiko and Mathias – founders of Tjoget and Filippa K at Bisou Bisou (Photo Credit: Naoko Akechi)
But all vacations have to come to an end. Yukiko, refreshed, went back to New York, but this time to start her own business.
It’s so much more than working for someone else; you can’t count the hours that you’re working. You can’t even count the hours that you’re not working. There aren’t any. I’ve never been able to ‘switch off’ the designer in me unless I’m at the beach just looking at the ocean and nature. My whole being is about architecture and whenever I walk into a restaurant, a shop, an airport, I’m looking at the design. My social life and work life are always interconnected.
Social and love life. For Yukiko met Mathias Krigh, the creative director at a marketing company for Levi and Gap amongst other brands and they were soon starting a family together and later, a business. It was another turning point, since they now were looking for the best place to raise a family. They considered Japan at first:
It was a wonderful experience to go back. I found a lot of similarities between Sweden and Japan; there is a socialist attitude to life; people are not keen to stand out and are humble about their achievements. But although I found many similarities, it was still a huge culture shock for my Swedish husband, who saw a lot of the differences. There is a hierarchy and certain way of getting things done that is not typical of Swedes. For example, it is rude in Japan to forcefully decide something, so he was often at a loss as to whether things had or hadn’t been agreed after a meeting. It was difficult for him, so we decided to try out Sweden.
Try out is one word for it. They are a major factor in the transformation of Hornstull as the new arty hot-spot of Stockholm, giving the whole city a new international dimension. Tjoget is conceived by Mathias to be like an old train station, a hub forming a small marketplace where there is a restaurant Linje Tio (run by the awardwinning bartenders and partners; Andreas Bergman and Joel Söderbäck) named for the old line 10 tram, whose route cut through Hornstull. There is also a traditional barber shop named Roy & Son, a homage to original barber Roy (although it is now solely and expertly managed by his son, Peter Mannerstål) and of course, Bisou Bisou.
Bisou Bisou is all Yukiko and it is both beautiful and simple. There are three drinks on the menu (coffee, lemonade, champagne) and one cake, approximating the Swedish rulltårta, but a much classier and daintier affair. They come in all flavours and all designs and are a tribute to both Yukiko’s architectural skills and her love of baking since they please the eye and taste-buds. The recipe is a secret, but you could get custom-made versions should you so desire. Agyness Deyn, Filippa K, Uber and NK already have.
Hornstull as an area has been slowly building itself up as an area to be counted again; it is starting to become a proposition for people who want elegance, good food and something out of the ordinary run. Yukiko is very much part of that movement; one could say a driving force. We’re lucky to have her in Stockholm; our extraordinary expat for March.
If you liked this article, you may also like reading about our other ‘Extraordinary Expats‘. It’s always great to read about people doing well in Stockholm!