Student entrepreneurship in Laurea: passion for travel gave birth to an own company

Eerik Rusanen and Tommi Lehtonen, who completed their studies of Bachelor of Hospitality Management at Laurea, have turned their passion for tourism into a profession for themselves. Already during their studies, they founded a company called Villada, a holiday villa rentals service.

Villada is a go-between service for holiday villas and provides company and private customers with hand-selected villas in different parts of the world. Currently, there are about 200–250 destinations in 11 different countries on offer; among the countries are Spain, Italy and Thailand. Villada aims to provide a national, easy and reliable channel for an individually-tailored holiday.

- We got the idea three years ago when on a student exchange in Barbados, Eerik Rusanen says.
- We both love travelling, and our dream was to be able to work with tourism in the future.

The original business idea was to offer Russian clients luxury package tours to Finland. Eerik and the other founder of Villada, Tommi Lehtonen, participated with their idea in the Cambridge Venture Camp and the Innovation Express entrepreneurship camp organized by LaureaES in Europe.

Soon Eerik and Tommi saw that the original idea would not work out the best possible way. A year ago, they switched to a new concept, and now the business has really taken off. The founders, who completed their hotel and restaurant management studies in 2013, divide the work between them in such a way that Eerik assumes the responsibility for Villada's company clients and Tommi for private customers. In addition to them, there are two other Laureans working at Villada: Joni Prokkola and Anastasia Manner.

"The best time to become an entrepreneur is when you study"

- Already before studying I was interested in entrepreneurship, but at that time it didn't seem to be achievable, Tommi Lehtonen describes his path to become an entrepreneur.
- During my studies and especially in the entrepreneurship camps I finally noticed that actually there was nothing to prevent me from establishing my own company.

Eerik and Tommi actively participated in those venture camps and other LaureaES's events. In fact, they emphasize the importance of students' own active outlook at the beginning stage of the path towards entrepreneurship.

- Without a doubt, the best that the study offered were the different opportunities that opened up through placements, student exchanges, camps and other events. It was important also to hear career stories and get hints from other entrepreneurs, Eerik Rusanen tells.

The Villada entrepreneurs also are adamant in their opinion that the best time to establish one's own company is during studies. Students have a good support network around them, and the threshold into entrepreneurship is lower. Also, in their opinion, a student can contact various relevant parties easier as well as get help and advice.

Work is rewarded

According to Eerik and Tommi, one of the biggest challenges in entrepreneurship is that you must work long periods and hard before a business idea starts function properly. You need strong faith in your own idea and perseverance when hitting your head on the wall. Eventually, also the work for Villada was rewarded.

- Suddenly, we didn't have enough hands to deal with the offers. It definitely was the great moment of success, Tommi Lehtonen describes.

The best thing in entrepreneurship is freedom and the possibility to take your own thing towards a direction chosen by yourself. It motivates one to see that in your own company the opportunities are endless – everything depends on you yourself.

- It is also nice to be your own boss, but for this also a goal-setting mentality is required. It is of utmost importance to be able to set clear goals for yourself and your company, Tommi says.
- An entrepreneur must also be aware about when to change the course. Learning of mistakes is a vital skill for an entrepreneur.


Read more about Villada at

Modified 4/24/2015 12:48 PM

​Tommi Lehtonen and Eerik Rusanen.