Considering starting your own business in Sweden? The idea might seem intimidating at first to a non-Swede, but the process is actually quite straightforward. Amy Ariya Johansson presents her ‘Start-up Guide: Sweden’, written for the aspiring expat entrepreneur in plain English.
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Step 1: Be Legal
Register with Migrationsverket. This may seem like common sense, but your legality and visa type are very important. You need to have legal permission (uppehållstillstånd) to reside AND work in Sweden. And the basis of this is to get a personal number (personnummer), which is a touchstone for everything, basically. Sweden has a business culture that prides itself on its legitimacy, fairness in practice and transparency. Start off right by being legally allowed to work here.
Step 2: Get the Idea
Maybe this is the easy part for you because maybe you’ve had a vision for a small business in your head for a long time; in my own case, this was a difficult step. I brainstormed a lot and researched a lot of different start-up ideas before I honed in on my own (a retro design vintage shop for children). Here are some areas to consider if this step is a stumbling block for you too.
Maybe the business idea you have is a hobby that you already do like baking, making clothing, buying antiques or gardening? In this case, think of ways you could make a profit with it.
Maybe the business is a service that you appreciate but has not made its début in Stockholm? Or maybe you are already qualified to provide a particular service (massage, teaching, architecture) that you would like to practise here. In this case, find out if you need to be accredited in Sweden first to do this and if so, how do you transfer your qualifications. You might need to get re-accredited (validerad) through the Swedish system (Universitets-och högskolerådet) or do a traineeship (praktikant) at a Swedish equivalent authority.
Maybe you are interested in importing and distributing a product that has not made its way to Sweden? In this case, contact your home country’s main office and ask them about the possibility of importing to Sweden. It’s possible that they already have a distributor up here or for the Nordic region. If not, it’s a good idea to also register with the Swedish Trade Council or check with your home country’s Embassy or Consulate in Sweden. They usually offer good concrete advice on best practices of import/export.
– Buying a business or a merchandise inventory
There is also the possibility that you are interested less in the idea of the business and are looking for an existing one to buy. The Swedish national business portal has a guide on how to buy an existing business in Sweden (in Swedish only) and where to find businesses for sale. It is also possible to find businesses for sale on Blocket, but this is less regulated. If you go down that route, do have a trusted Swedish spouse/friend/confidant check over everything in the advert carefully to limit the risk of being caught out by dishonest dealers.
Step 3: Write a Business Plan (and translate it)
Ouch. Writing a business plan sounds intimidating. Add translation into Swedish and this part might make you want to shelve your idea entirely. Luckily, there are so many ways nowadays to make the business plan writing step of the process easier. A coherent business plan is important, both for you as the founder and any potential employees or partners, since they provide a clear outline of your professional goals. If you will be seeking outside funding, the business plan also serves to show your backer that you are indeed serious about your plans.
Online, it is easy enough to find printable 1 page PDF business plans and business plan templates to plug your ideas into. Here are a few ones that I recommend and of course, google is also an option!
- The Swedish business registry Verksamt has a page on business plans and even an area where you can write a business plan online (however this last service/page only seems to be available in Swedish).
- The Lifehacker website has a great guide to writing a business plan
- The One Sheet Business Plan by Chris Guillabeau
- For craft-creative entrepreneurs, The Lazy Owl is a great resource.
If you are planning on presenting it to Swedish people, I recommend that you translate the business plan to Swedish. This will help prevent any misunderstandings, which might put the support you are trying to garner at risk. For those who have Swedish partners or family, you can ask them to translate it. In my case, I wrote it in Swedish with my native-speaking husband’s help, and then had a Swedish friend who works as an editor correct it for me. In Stockholm, there are countless translation services if you do not have a friend or family member who speaks Swedish at a professional native level.
Step 4: Get Registered
Verksamt.se is the site that you officially register your business with. They have a general site in English, but if you require more in-depth information, the Swedish site is much more comprehensive. Also, the documents for business registration are in Swedish. When you register with verksamt, your business information is automatically registered with Forsäkringskassan (the Swedish Social Insurance Agency) and Skatteverket (the Swedish Tax Authority).
The good thing about this is that you can do the process entirely online. The bad thing is that most of the real concrete information is in Swedish and if your contact person (handläggare) rings you for further information, he/she might not speak very good English and you might require assistance from a Swede or another expat who speaks very good Swedish.
Bolagsverket is where you register if you would like to trademark or register your business name.
Step 5: Start Up!
Ready, steady, go! Have fun. Be wise, but also enjoy the destiny that is yours. Observe what is around you and what is missing. Being a great listener and keenly observant to your environment and [potential] customers’ wants are keys to your success. Utilize what exists already and just build, grow, flourish!
Swedish Links/Resources/Places mentioned in this article:
The Swedish Trade Council http://www.businesssweden.se/en/
Amy moved to Sweden in July 2011 with 1 child, 1 Swedish husband, 2 large suitcases and no idea what she was going to do with her new life in Swedish subtitles. Two years and two more children later, she is starting up a retro-modern vintage children’s store.
You can find out more about her experiences at www.expatmompreneur.com.
Amy Ariya Johansson
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