“It was always a mission of mine to start a business,” says Will. “But I couldn’t start something in a country where I had no connections, no network and no concept of the language so I worked first and built up relationships, which I found to be the best option.”
Gray relocated to Sweden with his partner after spending several years in Asia. Originally they were considering other Nordic countries, because of his partner's desire to get a Master's degree and the many English-language options available in the region.
After sending out dozens of CVs, he was finally offered a job at a communications agency in Växjö, a small town in the picturesque Småland region which he has grown to love.
“Everyday in Sweden feels like a holiday,” he says, laughing. “It’s a great mix, you can work really hard during the week but then also disappear into nature and just relax.”
“I want to find world-changing companies or individuals to work with to tell their story, whether that be in the medical field or environmental, it doesn't matter. It just can't be any old business trying to sell any old product. Marketing in particular is a very competitive business and you need to be unique,” he says.
His clients currently include award-winning med-tech company Solutions for Tomorrow, which creates mobile X-rays, and the video below shows Will's work for them:
Will was surprised to discover how easy it was to start a business in Sweden compared to the other countries he had worked in.
“Sweden really helps you establish a business, you get so much support from the government,” he tells The Local. “There are so many different agencies that you can use to gain advice and information.”
He says that this support network was very different from his experiences working in Beijing and Taiwan.
“Sweden really wants you to start a business; that's not the same everywhere else. In Asia you had to do it all by yourself and the UK and other countries I’m pretty sure are very different from Sweden in that regard.”
“In Asia, as an employee I felt like the work environment is often dominated by people who don't want to be perceived as 'the first to leave the office',” he explains, adding that he put this down to the fact there is “a much higher population, and therefore the risk of you losing your job is higher if you refuse the office culture”.
Photo: Will Gray
The previous experience working abroad gave him confidence that has helped in Sweden, says Will, who has embraced the focus on free time in his new adopted nation.
“In Sweden the work and life balance is fantastic and much, much healthier. Job security is good, and the unions are there to protect you and give you knowledge about your rights,” he tells the Local.
Although he found Sweden welcoming to entrepreneurs, there were still hurdles to overcome, not least the language.
“I didn’t know the language at all before I got to Sweden, because I got a job right away. So I tried to learn as I went which was extremely difficult,” he says, but after five years in the country he is now comfortable communicating in Swedish with clients and friends.
“There are days I wonder ‘what the hell am I doing?’ But you really need to challenge yourself. One of the biggest tasks you’ll find in business is maintaining your own motivation,” he claims.
“I tend to push myself but at the same time I know when to take a break; Free time is really important, especially time spent studying and educating yourself. You have to be able to help yourself, not just others.”