Jump to content

A passionate entrepreneur driven to share her kids' sports programme with the world

/ Article

Darlene Koskinen is a passionate advocate for children's physical activities. After moving from Zimbabwe to Espoo, Finland, she started up two enterprises in English, a popular karate club and MoovKids, a company and online platform whose mission is to advance children’s mobility.
Darlene Koskinen grew up in Zimbabwe and moved to Finland about 14 years ago. She has successfully combined entrepreneurial activities with her two passions, namely physical activities and working with children. In Espoo, she currently runs a karate club and MoovKids, the sports club for kids, which also provides online services for early childhood educators. MoovKids enables parents and early childhood educators to instruct children in physical activities through fun exercises.

– Regular exercise, especially at an early age when the child’s brain is developing, is extremely important. It worries me to see children becoming less active physically along with increasing screen time, says Koskinen.

Koskinen speaks enthusiastically about enhancing the role of physical activities within early childhood education. Starting a business in Finland using English as the working language has required passion and a lot of hard work.

Getting the ball rolling with a start-up grant

Koskinen came to Finland initially through her hobby, karate. She met her Finnish husband, Jouko, at the Karate World Championships and decided to follow her heart and move to Espoo.

Koskinen had worked with children and sports from a young age, and in Finland, she was first employed at day care centres. In Zimbabwe, she had been active as a gymnastics and karate instructor, and she missed that work here in Finland.

– When I heard from a friend about the start-up grant, Starttiraha, which is intended for new entrepreneurs, I began to seriously think about this option. Although I was nervous about becoming a self-employed person – I didn’t even speak Finnish! – the start-up grant and a loan made it possible for me to set up a sports and karate school for children. 

To market her business, Koskinen travelled around and visited day care centres, and she learned how to draw advantage from social media. The first customers were primarily English-speaking families, but soon there were also Finnish-speaking children enrolling in the classes. Koskinen learned a way to flexibly mix Finnish and English in her instruction.

Gradually, the karate classes for kids grew more and more popular, and youth and adults also became interested in the coaching offered by Koskinen. She then decided to open a separate karate club alongside her company focusing on kids’ physical education.

– Initially, I coached the karate students myself, but as our popularity grew, I was accompanied by my husband, who also had a karate dojo of his own. Today, we have a number of instructors at our club, Koskinen explains.

KFK Shukokai-Espoo has been in operation in Espoo for about ten years, and is currently one of the largest clubs in Finland that specialises in Shukokai style of karate. Its members compete actively up to the national team level.

Videos take the classes all over the world

Koskinen’s karate lessons are so popular that they take up a major part of her working hours. One day a week is reserved for MoovKids clubs, and for some 5 years now, she has offered the MoovKids programme also in the form of videos through an online platform.

– When I realised that I hardly had time to run the kids’ clubs, I began to think of other ways of sharing my knowledge and passion. Now, the MoovKids videos are used as a tool by teachers, early childhood educators and instructors at kids’ clubs, Koskinen explains.

Koskinen dreams of having the programme in use at kindergartens and day care centres internationally. In addition to those in Finland, current customers include kindergartens in Vietnam, Romania, Mexico and Colombia.

– I’ve spent a lot of time and money to build the online platform, so at some stage it would be nice to further promote it in co-operation with partners, Koskinen visions.

In a dream job

Koskinen is especially happy about being able to contribute to children’s well-being and health by sharing her competence. She feels she is in her dream job.

– I am driven by the satisfaction of seeing kids deal with their problems, develop and gain self-confidence by taking part in regular physical exercise.

For Koskinen, freedom is the best part of entrepreneurship.

– I love being my own boss. Nothing, however, comes free for a self-employed person. But at least I can do what I most enjoy, Koskinen sums up.

What have I learnt as a self-employed person - Tips by Darlene Koskinen

1. Success follows passion. If you have an opportunity to start a company that will enable you to realise your passion, do it.

2. Determination takes you forward. As an entrepreneur with an immigrant background, it has required a lot of determination to push myself through difficulties and try different ways of promoting my business and reaching customers.

3. Believe in your own business idea. Especially, if you are starting up a business in a foreign country, as I did, you may have to work even harder for the success of your company. That calls for passion and a strong belief in your own idea.

4. Trust your instincts. If you have partners or investors involved in your company, ensure that all parties share your mission.

5. Market analysis and customer research is important. Is there truly a demand for what your company offers? Who are your competitors and how can you do things better than they do? When you are thoroughly familiar with your market, you can effectively reach and engage your customers.

Latest articles and news

<noscript><iframe src="https://www.googletagmanager.com/ns.html?id=GTM-P23HWQ" height="0" width="0" style="display:none;visibility:hidden"></iframe></noscript>