Johannes Karjula is a serial entrepreneur. His core expertise includes optimisation of digital sales and marketing as well as concept design and productisation. His efforts have already been successful – in 2019, Karjula was named Central Finland’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year. He is currently working in seven enterprises – in most of them as part of the management team – and as the CEO of Trustmary Group. A turning point in his career was when he started studies at the University of Jyväskylä, in the Faculty of Information Technology.
Johannes Karjula was born in Raahe. As a child, he dreamed of becoming a doctor, just like his mother was. Although he graduated from upper secondary school with good marks, he lost interest in being a doctor after the matriculation examination. His next step was military service in Sodankylä, which he found to be a positive experience.
After his military service, it was time to consider a new direction. Karjula moved to Helsinki, where he worked as a roof painter at construction sites. The summer on the city’s roofs went well, but in autumn when it was time to move to work indoors, the job lost its interest.
“I started to truly think about what interests me,” he explains. “Below the bottom line, there were visual things and computers, because I played games a lot. I pondered what subject would combine these aspects and started to submit applications to various study places in these fields.”
The application to the University of Jyväskylä was successful. In 2009, Karjula began his studies in information technology. A year later, he moved to information systems science, where he felt at home. His studies showed up even in his dreams, and the thirst for learning seemed endless.
“The courses on www publishing and programming were stunning! For the first time in my life, I did homework and demos voluntarily.”
In 2010, Karjula became an entrepreneur alongside his studies by building websites for companies. The aim was to finance his own and his fiancée’s studies. “We started to plan for our wedding about that time,” Karjula says. “In Jyväskylä, it was hard for students to find evening jobs beside studies; competition for jobs was harsh. There was no other option than to become an entrepreneur.
Karjula called through familiar and half-familiar companies, got a number of jobs, and gradually this line of business engaged him completely. Customers started to appear in increasing numbers and soon studying became the side job. Karjula added digital marketing to his company’s service offering. He did Google search word marketing and social media marketing for his customers.
“I had business studies as my minor. The course on productisation was also an eye opening experience. Certain courses are clearly still in my mind – project management, agile methods, argumentative skills and knowledge acquisition – everything that is needed in a modern organization each day.”
In 2012, Karjula and his brother launched the widely known Satokausikalenteri concept (“Harvest Season Calendar”). About the same time, he became a partner in a number of other companies as well and took charge of marketing.
“During my studies, I chose courses largely on the basis of my own interests – and the spectrum was a wide one,” says Karjula. “I couldn’t think of those particularly as a whole, but now I have understood their meaning from the perspective of entrepreneurship.”
In his opinion, it would have been great if the University had offered, alongside information systems science, courses pertaining purely to issues in entrepreneurship, such as sales demos. He argues that private entrepreneurship has become much more common, and wage-based work can no longer be taken for granted. You have to be able to sell your own competence and expertise.
Now, after more than ten years of entrepreneurship, Karjula has gained insight into various issues. He has learned to appreciate university education more and more, and he is also pleased that he did complete the degree, even if the world of work nearly took him in another direction:
“As my role as entrepreneur has gained depth and my responsibilities have increased, I realise that lessons from my study years keep emerging from the hidden corners of my memory. I can now view the big picture much more clearly. Year by year, I find this skill to be increasingly valuable.”
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