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Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development – Learnings from the United States

USA flag

Jussi Leponiemi, Key Account Director (ICT) at BusinessOulu, sends us the first of a series of reports from the United States as he participates in the International Visitor Leadership Program.

I have been spending some time in the United States focusing on entrepreneurship and small business development. Now, I’d like to share practical insights, observations, and noteworthy practices discovered during my exploration of these themes throughout January and February 2024.

I had the joy and privilege of receiving an invitation to participate in the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), courtesy of the US Embassy to Finland, with the specific focus on Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development. Alongside a compact group of European professionals dedicated to this theme, I embarked on a three-week journey across various states, engaging with numerous representatives from organisations in the field.

Given BusinessOulu’s role as the business development unit of the City of Oulu, my motivation to join this program was only natural. Our objective extends beyond borders as we work on strengthening connections with the United States, aiming to enhance export opportunities and foster collaborative ventures for Oulu-based companies. The program seamlessly aligned with these goals, offering a comprehensive blend of experiences to further our objectives.

Skyscraper in the United States
New America building

What is the IVLP? Briefly, it has a significant role in fostering international connections. Managed and funded by the US Department of State, specifically the Office of International Visitors, the program has been a catalyst for global understanding since its inception in 1940. Operating under the principle of carefully curated professional visits, the IVLP brings together professionals from diverse fields, aiming to build mutual understanding between the United States and nations worldwide.

Annually, over 4500 IVLP participants, selected by US embassies globally, embark on journeys to meet and engage with their professional counterparts in the States. The program themes vary greatly, encompassing government, politics, media, culture, technology, business development, and beyond.

Handshake statue
The flag of the United States of America

There was a ton of information to process during the program, so I decided to break down the outcomes into smaller pieces, organised by the places we visited, in the form of a kind of travel journal. Despite some restrictions on what can be shared from the program, I’ll do my best to summarise the key learnings for anyone interested, hoping it might be useful to some. Everyone mentioned in the upcoming texts has given their consent to be referred to in future publications.


All of Jussi’s reports from the USA