1 December, 2017

Swedish Worklife – Stories from International Founders, Freelancers and those with Fresh ideas


This weekly interview blog by Barry O’Brien, aims to highlight the stories of those who have come to Sweden and shaped their business life, delivering new services, fresh ideas and professional standards to the Swedish market and beyond. We hope it helps to motivate you to achieve great things here!

#1. Erika Szentmartoni – Freelance Event and Conference Director

Erika is very active in the Swedish startup world, as well as on the corporate side, organising and managing events. Her busy business life includes responsibilities in producing, scheduling, and budgeting for breakfasts, lunches, meetings, seminars, after-work parties, conferences, private events and lots more… Here is her story:

Which country are you originally from?


How long have you lived in Sweden?

3 and a half years

In one sentence, tell us about your current business. 

Event services – I produce and manage high standard international conferences as well as local startup events. I am also the Program Coordinator at Founder Institute Stockholm, a Silicon Valley originated startup launch program for early stage ideas and founders.

How would you rate your Swedish language skills for the workplace? (1 being lost tourist level – 10 is sauna conversational!)


What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in growing your business, and how have you overcome it? 

Time! Once offers had started to roll in, I just said yes to everything. Of course, money is one reason, but I also wanted, and still want, to contribute to all of those events.

Working on numerous events at the same time, managing five different email addresses, being a mum to my 2.5 year-old daughter, and a fiancé is not easy.

Startup weekend FemTech

Final group pic from Startup weekend FemTech

I have had really bad days when I broke down and cried in the corner because my phone just kept ringing and I could not even get five minutes to myself all day long. As well as being away from home, missing out on important moments with my child, arguments raising in my relationship, I have realised that “I have fallen over to the other side of the horse”.

This didn’t only just effect my personal life, but had an effect on my work. Mistakes were made, things forgotten, not knowing what to prioritize and trying to do everything at the same time.

So now I am scaling back. I had to make a choice, and start to say no.

But, which ones to choose ? That one is still putting me in a bit of a pickle as I want to work with all of these different, amazing, events and people!

Who has been your biggest guide or inspiration in Sweden, and helped you to reach your current situation?

I didn’t really have one at first, as I knew no-one in Sweden! Everyone I have met, and everything I do now, is the product of really hard work. And role models don’t just happen overnight for me.

An inspiration to me is someone that I get to see on a regular basis and follow his/her expertise at something, and live their energy. So I have to say, my inspiration is Jessica Stark, Co-founder and former CEO of SUP46. I worked at SUP46 for 7 months as my first real ‘thing’ in Stockholm. I have admired her energy, ambition & positivity. She has been a great supporter to her team and generally a really nice, warmhearted person, which also is very important to me.

Name TWO tools that you use in your business, to help you succeed. 

LinkedIn and

Salmon plated - Gravlax

Salmon plated – Gravlax

If you could export one Swedish thing, back to your previous country, what would it be? 

Gravlax 🙂

What do you know about Sweden, that no-one else does?

IKEA pays all of their employees just from the income of all the meatballs they sell in their stores! 🙂

Where can people find more info about you and your work?

I can be found on LinkedIn mainly, so feel free to connect with me here but also please send me a connection request message so I know a bit about you and why you would like to connect.

Many thanks to Erika for her story and tips! Check out our second interview in the series, here!

Written by: Barry O’Brien

Barry has been in Sweden over ten years, working with marketing and sales in both large and small companies, as well as founding his own consultancy company. Currently he is the Head of Growth Marketing at, a content marketing technology company based in Stockholm. Barry is a coach and mentor at events such as Startup Weekend and the Founder Institute, has delivered talks at Hyper Island and Berghs School of Communication, and enjoys sharing his business experience with like-minded entrepreneurs. You can contact him at

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