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Motherhood & Entrepreneurship.

Updated: Aug 17, 2021

How to find your work/life balance.

Holly Conolly moved to Finland about 3 years ago with her family from the UK when her husband came to study at the University of Oulu. They wanted their children to experience a different way of life, language and culture in their childhood. The pace of life in London was exhausting and Holly’s family was looking for a change.

Finland seemed like a great destination for many reasons and I’m really happy to have found myself here in Oulu!”

Holly’s career path was an interesting journey. She started off in procurement for large corporations and then retrained in business sustainability. She worked on various projects but found the greatest satisfaction helping to direct corporations in their mid to long term sustainability strategy. The huge motivating factor for Holly was that she was feeling that making a change to the way the big business operated. Conolly was challenging traditional assumptions about how business should be run.

Then Holly became a mother and decided to stay at home to concentrate on being the primary caregiver. At this point, she set up a small business baking bespoke celebration cakes and supplying cakes to local cafes. This worked perfectly with her need for a more flexible approach to work. Holly enjoyed the control of her work/life balance as an entrepreneur.

“Life took a new direction for me when I had children. ”

Back in 2017 when Holly moved to Oulu, she didn’t speak the Finnish language but was keen to learn about the culture and to find her place in the community. Finding her role in the community was challenging but it opened her mind to new experiences and pathways.

“I met Minae through the university — both our husbands were studying on the same course and I knew immediately that I had found someone I could share my frustrations and passions with! We had a similar situation and values plus a deep shared love of food! It was through this we bonded and started the journey to where we are today. The idea for Zestii came from a desire to help people in our situation to earn an income.”

Holly and Minae have always recognized the huge benefit of having someone else there as a co-founder! Founding a business is a hard job that requires a wide range of skills and an enormous amount of emotional resilience. Differing perspectives and skills with a partner enrich the business and can help create a strong foundation. You can exchange ideas and split the work according to individual skills and experience. It can be difficult when progress is slow or you have inevitable setbacks. Business partners can help each other through these challenges — it’s true that “a problem shared is a problem halved”. The international background (Holly is British and Minae is Japanese) became a perfect starting point for Zestii: setting a business in Finland and seeking those who love to cook and eat international cuisine.

“An increasingly global society can only benefit at our workplace, our dinner plates and our lives. We appreciate that an international profile adds a richness of experience, perspective and possibility.”

Holly and Minae planned to start a lunch delivery service but then realised the potential to create something bigger that could both benefit the community and meet a market desire for home-cooked food. It was Minae who came up with the idea of a market place for home cooks (she literally had a dream about it!). They knew immediately that it was the right direction to take.

Zestii Kitchens is a food service that connects people. It is an online marketplace where domestic cooks can market their services and sell their food to paying customers. As a market place Zestii has 2 sets of customers; home cooks and people buying the food prepared by home cooks.

To the home cooks Zestii will offer:

  • a digital platform with online ordering and payment

  • business support (hygiene guidelines, legal and financial support)

  • marketing services creating a professional online presence

  • training with opportunities to develop new skills

To customers buying food in the market place, Zestii offers

  • a choice of home cooks preparing speciality dishes from their own kitchens

  • simple ordering and payment system

  • food pick-ups at convenient local locations

  • customers can order a range of products including:

1. individual meals

2. meal boxes for families/gatherings

3. bespoke event catering with a collaboration of Zestii home cooks

4. workshops run by Zestii experts.

Zestii puts sustainability at the centre of all decisions. At the moment, food delivery is arranged in compostable or reusable containers. They are partnering with Kamupak to give regular customers the choice to be part of a reusable container scheme in the Helsinki region.

“As a mother, I want to set an example of the way business can and should be run — where society and the environment is valued as much as turning a profit. I feel this is my duty to my children and society.”

Holly shared a few tips to consider when starting a new business:

1. Passion! “If you have a good idea that you really believe in and if you are truly committed to making it work then you have as much chance of success as anyone.”

2. Confidence and Courage! “You may not end up where you had anticipated. In fact, it’s likely that your journey will take you on unexpected paths. But simply the act of starting something has real power.”

3. Support! “Starting a business in another country is always going to be a challenge but we have found that there is always help out there if you ask. That’s definitely something to be bold about! Arming yourself with as much knowledge and support as possible is really important. Start with amazing organisations such as Business Oulu and Uusyrituskeskus and take advantage of all the training, workshop and networking opportunities that are out there for startups and entrepreneurs.”

“ I have a quote from Geothe on my fridge to remind me of this every day “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now”. A fantastic boss shared this with me at the beginning of my career and I have come back to constantly over the years.”

Author: Holly Conolly

Editor: Arina Lykova

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