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Entrepreneurship in Greenland


“Entrepreneurship must be taken seriously, and there must be proper support.”

Greenlandic Steve Mathæussen and Napaartoq Isak Petrussen are both entrepreneurs in Nuuk, Greenland. NUKIGA met the two for a talk about the challenges and advantages, they have experienced when it comes to starting your own business in Greenland.

What is the best part of being an entrepreneur?

Steve: The best part is being your own boss, but being an entrepreneur also means that you need a lot of motivation to keep the energy levels high at all times, and you must be curious. Furthermore, it’s very important that you have a plan, otherwise your business will fail.

Napaartoq: The joy for me is that I myself decide what to do with my own time. If you work for a company, you use your energy for someone else. You can be fired, and then what you’ve created belongs to someone else. Now I decide my own future.

What would make it easier to be an entrepreneur in Greenland?

Napaartoq: all entrepreneurs are very passionate people, who can create unique products, and they help develop their own country. They help solve problems that can’t be solved by the public sector. Not to mention the joy that comes from having a thriving entrepreneurial community. Entrepreneurs should receive way more support than what they do today.

Here in Nuuk, for example, there is a lack of locations for entrepreneurs. And the local food lab closed because of lack of funds. This is a way to destroy something that is otherwise running really well. Entrepreneurship must be taken seriously, and there must be proper support.

Napaartoq Isak Petrussen (right) And Steve Mathæussen in Nuuk, Greenland.

Steve: The banks must be involved as well. Right now, there are very high interest rates. We pay 9% interest rate, which is money we could have used to grow our business instead. There are funds where you can borrow money at a lower interest rate, but the requirements are so high that almost none of us smaller businesses can meet the demands. There is definitely a need for cheaper loans.

What challenges have you personally experienced?

Steve: You feel alone sometimes, and we lack a place to meet physically. Innovation Greenland sometimes hosts events, but as an entrepreneur you need to be able to talk to likeminded people about the challenges you face on a regular basis.

Napaartoq: I agree. When I started out I had so many questions, and I would have liked to talk to someone who was more experienced than I was, but there really wasn’t a place to go. I’m now the chairman of a group of entrepreneurs called Sakkut. We meet once a month and have a Facebook group. But it’s on a voluntary basis, so we don’t get paid for our time.

Steve: A good idea would be to create a community where new entrepreneurs can get advice from more experienced entrepreneurs who in return get paid for their time. Many new entrepreneurs just have a good idea, and if they’re not able to get the help they need, a lot of them fail. Of all those who start a business, perhaps 10-15% make it. Along the coast of Greenland, new entrepreneurs have even more limited possibilities if they need help.

Can you use inspiration from other parts of the Arctic?

Napaartoq: Yes definitely, for instance Iceland and Canada have the same sort of geography, we have here where everything is far away, and everything takes a long time. In Scandinavia, a shipment can be available within a week. We have unique challenges that may be difficult to understand elsewhere.

Do you have any advice for others who dream of starting their own business?

Steve: I would say that they should wait until they have finished an education. My best advice is to go to the municipality and the tax authorities to get help before you start. I started without knowing the rules and regulations, and I got a huge tax bill the following year. You must be brave, you must know what you are best at, and be able to stay motivated when the going gets tough.