10 Questions: Mia Kemppaala


  1. What did you want to be when you grew up?

I was always a bit jealous of all my friends who knew exactly what they wanted to do when they grew up. They seemed to have a very clear path ahead of them. I, on the other hand, had no clue. How could you possibly choose only one thing out of the many wonderful things to learn and discover?! As I loved studying, I figured becoming a teacher would be the most logical thing.

  1. What time of day are you at your most productive? Why?

Definitely at night. I guess I am a bit of a night owl. I love it when the entire house gets quiet and your thoughts have room to fly because nothing interrupts you. Another good time is right after I’ve woken up. It is easier to focus with a clear mind.

  1. What is the best compliment someone has given to Polar Bear Pitching?

It was great to hear that Polar Bear Pitching was used in another part of the world as a good example of place branding, because it manages to encapsulate some important features that all place branding efforts need to have – authenticity and differentiation.

However, the best compliment has definitely come from the participating entrepreneurs who have said that the experience has helped them to discover the potential within them and believe in themselves. Many have said that the experience has given them the assurance that they have what it takes to make it, even in challenging circumstances.

  1. What advice do you have for someone stepping in to an ice hole for the first time?

Attitude is what matters the most! My very first time in an ice hole was absolutely horrible. Right before stepping in, I kept repeating in my head: ‘I’m so going to hate it. It’s going to be awful. I won’t be able to make it.’ And, as often happens in life, what you are looking for is what you end up finding.

When another opportunity to step into an ice hole presented itself, I decided to change my attitude completely and instead kept repeating to myself: ‘I can do this. It is going to feel great. I’m going to like it.’ And it worked like magic – I really did like it, I felt confident afterwards, and the warm euphoric feeling you get after ice swimming was really energising and relaxing!

Another tip, which also applies to life in general, is to just keep going regardless of the challenging circumstances. Do not stop and hesitate, just bravely keep on going. You might feel as if you’re out of breath, but just relax and take a deep breath. It will pass. You will be able to deal with it.

  1. What makes a perfect startup pitch?

A good pitch is authentic, captivating and focuses on the essentials. It clearly explains what the product or service does, what kind of a problem it solves and what its competitive advantage is. A perfect pitch does not leave the audience cold, but also manages to touch emotionally and make the audience want to learn more.

  1. What are three must-sees/dos in Oulu?

The Nallikari beach is definitely worth a visit regardless of the season. Walking on the sandy shore or on the frozen Baltic Sea is always refreshing. Biking or rollerblading along the hundreds of kilometres of well-maintained bicycle lanes around the city and its surrounding nature is also a must-do. But most importantly, it is the people that make the place special. Get to know a few people from Oulu and let them make you feel at home.

  1. Is it true that people in Oulu put mayonnaise on their pizza?

Yes, it really is! I guess this really describes well the Oulu attitude of not being afraid to do things your own way and embracing even the weirdest of things. After all, stepping out of the box and the regular ways of doing things is the way to discover something truly unique.

  1. What is your favourite Finnish TV show?

I am really waiting to see Invisible Heroes, a thought-provoking true story about Finnish diplomats in 1970s Chile. I believe it will be an inspiring example of the positive impact a few courageous individuals can have in the world.

  1. How do you prepare before giving public presentations?

I try to find a moment for myself to collect my thoughts and concentrate for a bit. I also try to put myself in the shoes of the audience. What are their needs and how can I address them the best?

  1. What has been the best piece of advice you have received?

When you have an idea or a thought, you should act upon it. Just trust your intuition and take a leap of faith, even if you’re not exactly sure how to do things. You’ll eventually figure out the how along the way.

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