Thirty-three-year-old Arvid grew up in Höör, a small town in South Sweden, but moved to Stockholm to study industrial economics. After graduating, he worked for large companies such as Ericsson and Spotify for a few years but grew increasingly frustrated by the slow pace of work. “I wanted to make a booming career but that just couldn’t happen” he says. He took up many hobbies trying to live a more meaningful life, however, when he realised he could no longer cope with an uninspiring job, he decided to quit and become his own boss.
Arvid moved back to his hometown and in spring of 2017 registered Grön Sol, a company which sells and installs solar panels to private and commercial clients. Initially Arvid believed that the future of the energy sector was nuclear power, but then he became aware of the potential of the renewable energy sector in Sweden when his brother, who was working for a solar power company, was struggling to meet client demands as he couldn’t find enough people to employ. In only three years, Arvid moved from being a sceptic to running a successful solar panels business.
As with every start up, the beginning was hard. For Arvid, the biggest challenge was being alone:
“I was told that I couldn’t wait for the perfect moment, because then I would have to wait forever. So I started and it was very hard to do completely on your own.”
When the first order arrived, he had no carpentry experience and his first employee was refugee who arrived from Syria in 2015 who “did not speak more than five words of Swedish and couldn’t use a folding rule”. However, they worked hard and successfully completed an installation worth €20,000.
For the first year, Arvid worked over 100 hours per week, had no salary and moved back to his parents’ house. Luckily while he was working as an employee, he had managed to put aside some savings, which in addition to a small loan from his wife’s family, was enough to pay for setting up the business and cover his personal expenses for the initial period. The beginning was hard for his family too and he appreciated his wife’s patience: with the birth of his daughter Majken exactly one year after registering Grön Sol, life was getting even busier.
Anna, one of Arvin’s first customers, put him in touch with the local office of NyföretagarCentrum, where he received professional business advice. Two and a half years later, Grön Sol is a profitable business with an estimate turnover of €1M for this year. Arvid finally moved out of his parents’ garage, rented a warehouse and employs eight people. He recalls:
“One year ago, I started taking out salary for myself – then it went from a hobby to a company. That’s when it all became real”.
Arvid is also very proud of the impact his small company has in his community:
“Ziad, my first employee, now has received permanent residency because I could offer him a fulltime employment. Yakup come to Sweden 2017 and has become a really appreciated part of the company. My latest recruitment is a single mother who has really had to work hard in her life: this is the first job she got where she doesn’t have to work weekends or nights”.
Arvid has ambitious plans for his company: he’s keen to expand his business while the solar panel industry is booming in Sweden, focusing on getting more commercial contracst as these have a better financial return. To keep up with his target, Arvid needs to hire more administrative staff to help him run and grow the company.
Arvid’s single piece of advice for young entrepreneurs is:
“Go! Probably you’ll have a much better life with freedom and possibilities. If your company doesn’t make it, then you’ve at least learnt a lot and improved your CV more than any other job”.
NyforetagarCentrum is a not-for-profit organization in Sweden that supports entrepreneurs to start new viable businesses providing individual information, sessions, counselling, training and mentoring. It is part of the Youth Business Europe programme, a regional initiative supported by the Citi Foundation to help young entrepreneurs to start or grow a business.