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MY SWEDISH CAREER

CAREER

‘Sweden has the best infrastructure I’ve known’

Hamed Khoramyar worked for household names in Iran for more than a decade, but forged a new career as an IT entrepreneur after fleeing his home country and seeking asylum in Sweden in 2010.

‘Sweden has the best infrastructure I’ve known’
Hamed Koramyar at Sweden's political festival, Almedalen. Photo: The Local

Five years ago Khoramyar was living in Iran and working in IT for Swedish cosmetic firm Oriflame, following stints with multinational firms including the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (now Airbus) and Apple.

After setting up the Tehran branch of Oriflame in 2004 along with one other employee, he had helped the business take on some extra 200 staff and reach an annual turnover of more than 50 million euros a year. 

“It was the most successful national launch in 43 years for Oriflame and we were the most profitable country in 62 markets,” he tells the Local as we meet during Sweden’s annual politics and business forum, Almedalen.

“Then there were some political problems in 2010. Oriflame bumped into some difficulties and I had some problems with the government, so I ended up coming to Sweden,” he says calmly, as if describing a tricky drive home from work, or a mix up with an online order.

Khoramyar barely elaborates on the experience which led to him fleeing his home in 2010 after the Iranian government shut down the Swedish firm's operations in Tehran in a move that made global headlines.

The company said at the time that it understood that Iranian authorities had disliked it hiring women for certain positions, while officials in Tehran accused the company of fraud.

“I had some serious issues and I was in prison for 96 days,” is all Khoramyar reveals.

“I left after paying a serious bail sum. I already had some friends and family in Sweden and connections from spending eight years working for Oriflame.”

In the five years since he’s been living in Sweden, Koramyar has worked hard to develop his own business, an IT start-up focusing on both data hosting (“we rent servers to companies and work with data centre services”) and security consulting for companies seeking to protect their own data.

“Sweden is a great market to work in because the infrastructure is so good – the best I have known,” he explains.

“There’s fibre optics everywhere, online banking is easy and accessible,” he adds.

The entrepreneur says the situation as “about as far as you can get” from his first start-up experience, trying and failing to launch an e-commerce firm in the Iranian capital when he was just 22.

“I had the ideas then but I couldn’t make them happen because nothing worked yet in Iran, the online payments, other logistics…just nothing worked.”


Hamed Koramyar at Sweden's political forum on Gotland, Almedalen. Photo: The Local

From his current Stockholm base he now has clients in Germany, Sweden, the US and the Middle East, although he admits that his new home market has been the toughest one to crack.

“The HR costs in Sweden are so much higher. Power is very expensive. Also I think that even though there is a strong start-up scene, Swedes tend to want to work for or with familiar big companies, they want to feel secure and stable.”

“It’s completely different to in the US or the Middle East where everyone wants to make their own way,” he says.

He also accepts that the somewhat sensitive nature of his business is an additional barrier.

“In the end we are dealing with data and so I can see why people might have some trust issues, it takes time to develop relationships.”

But relationship building is exactly what he has been busy doing at Almedalen, the annual debating conference on the island of Gotland that welcomes some 20,000 visitors a year from businesses to politicians, lobby firms and charities.

“I’ve been really impressed so far,” he tells The Local as we meet on the cobbled streets of Gotland’s medieval city Visby, on the fifth day of the forum which runs for just over a week.

“Businesses are represented here in a more informal capacity, so you’re meeting people at networking events rather than say going up to a stall because you’ve spotted a big Swedish name like Tetra Pak or Volvo, so you have to know where to go,” he says.

“But it’s been interesting to be here and I have enjoyed it. Because Sweden has a small population it kind of works to get this group of people together in a small space in a way that I could never see happening in Iran – which has 80 million people – or in say Germany or the US, although I know that discussions have been taking place this week about exporting the concept elsewhere.”

As for how successful his own mingling has been, Khoramyar is hedging his bets.

“Swedes are very polite. They will talk to you. But whether that turns into real contacts and business in the future…that’s a separate thing we’ll have to wait and see about,” he smiles.

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MY SWEDISH CAREER

My Swedish Career: How I became Swedish Lapland’s first local wedding planner

Lisa Tousignant’s Swedish journey began with her taking a teaching job with IES in Stockholm. This month, she launched Arctic Lapland’s first wedding planning company.

My Swedish Career: How I became Swedish Lapland's first local wedding planner

Tousignant’s new company, Arctic Weddings of Lapland, opened for bookings on July 1st, and she is now focusing on arranging weddings for the coming winter season. You can see some images of weddings Tousignant has done on the company’s Instagram account. 

The idea came to her after colleagues she worked with while employed as the wedding coordinator at Icehotel, in Jukkasjärvi outside Kiruna, told her they often got weddings queries from both abroad and within Sweden.

“The photographers and the florist that I work with said they got calls all the time from people wanting to plan  weddings, but who had no idea where to start,” she said. “There’s no one doing destination wedding planning for Swedish Lapland who actually lives here and this area has so much to offer.”

Icehotel, the big international tourist draw in Jukkasjärvi, hosts dozen of weddings each year and Tousignant is set to continue her relationship with the hotel next year by doing wedding day coordinating. She hopes that Arctic Weddings of Lapland can build on the success that Icehotel has had with their customisable packages by offering different options for adventure within the whole region for winter and summer as well.

“I just had all this support from local people encouraging me to do it, because there’s so many options up here for beautiful weddings and adventure elopements. It’s hard to know where to start and how to navigate all the possibilities.” she says “The overwhelming support made me realise I have been building this idea in my heart for so long and wedding planning is what it is.”

 

A wedding at the Björkliden Mountain resort near Kiruna. Photo: Rebecca Lundh

She wants to what she calls “adventure weddings”. This week she was visiting the Nutti Sámi Siida offices to discuss collaborations. She plans to work with Fjellborg Arctic Journeys, who arrange dogsled trips and have a beautiful lodge camp that could accommodate large wedding parties. With her connection to Tornedalen, she plans to work with Huuva Hideaway, who specialize in Sami food, culture and history, and is also hoping to collaborate on events at Lapland View Lodge and Art Hotel. “i’m going to work my way down Norrbotten from Kiruna to Luleå connecting with all the venues and suppliers, “ she laughs.

 Tousignant’s journey towards being an Arctic wedding planner began 15 years ago when she left what she describes as “a successful career” doing public relations for CBC Television in Canada. 

“It just felt like life was supposed to be more than going back and forth to a job I didn’t love anymore,” she remembers, “I quit…sold all my stuff and went to Central and South America where I worked in hostels and roamed around for nearly two years getting to know myself in my mid-30’s.”

After her two years of travelling, she applied for teacher training college in Canada, got hired by Internationella Engelska Skolan (IES), and moved to their school in Nacka outside Stockholm. She thens taught at IES, and then at Futura Skolan International, for nearly 6 years, before following her sambo Martin Eriksson to the far-North of Sweden. 

“My sambo and I decided to have kids, “ she explains. “Making this decision really pushed him into wanting to change careers and follow his dream of becoming a shoe maker. We really try to support each other in following our dreams, so he moved up to Övertorneå in August while I stayed to complete my teaching contract.”

She moved up to Övertorneå in December, a week before their daughter was born. 
 
For her, moving to the far North of Sweden felt like coming home. “I immediately loved the North! People up here are chatty and friendly and very open.”
 
They lived in Övertorneå for almost three years, while Eriksson built up a successful bespoke boot business. But the Covid-19 pandemic reduced custom, and Eriksson took a job in Malmö shooting videos for the local police. But Malmö did not suit them. 
 
“After living in such a sleepy town, having two kids in the city was overwhelming and everyone missed the snow, so we took the first job opportunities we could in Norrbotten, my sambo [shooting video]for IRF (The Swedish Institute of Space physics) and me for Icehotel,” she says. 
 
 

An image from the website of Arctic Weddings of Lapland. Photo: Arctic Weddings of Lapland.
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