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International schools: Meet Sweden’s next-gen impact entrepreneurs

Sweden is internationally recognised for its technology-driven start-up scene – and the education system plays a crucial part in making it possible. Schoolchildren today aren’t just asking themselves which jobs might suit them; many are actively exploring how to turn their entrepreneurial ideas into reality. 

International schools: Meet Sweden’s next-gen impact entrepreneurs
School administrator Gaël Rosén with three of the entrepreneurial students behind CEFEA. Photo: Futuraskolan

The Local spoke with Grade 9 students from the new Entrepreneurship and Young Business Leaders programme at Futuraskolan International Kottla in Lidingö, to find out more. The school is part of Futuraskolan’s network of 13 pre-schools and schools in the Greater Stockholm region.

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The power of impact entrepreneurs

“With the climate crisis, everyone wants to do something,” says Mauritz Cato, CEO of Chashmal. “But it’s not easy.” The crucial thing, according to his colleague Adam Simonsson, the product developer and coder, is to “make things simpler, faster and easier” for people.

With the energy crisis making global headlines, the two friends wanted to help people save money by cutting electricity usage. But how?

Their answer is a user-friendly app that connects with household goods, such as lamps, washing machines, and dishwashers, via bluetooth. It will empower householders to turn off unnecessary consumption and schedule usage for off-peak hours.

Offshore wind has become an important power source but Adam says much of what it produces at night is wasted. “How many people are willing to get up at 2am to put on their dishwasher? Not many. But how many will take five minutes to set up a system that can save them money and help Sweden control this energy crisis?”

Raising awareness to save lives

“It’s about creating something new and helping other people in the process,” says Felicia Lejon, joint CEO of CEFEA, which she formed with Evelina Åkerlund, Clara Hellman and Aylin Irvanian.

Together, they’re working to develop upper body mannequins that educate people about breast cancer by mirroring the changes the disease causes in the human body. A combination of silicone and hard plastics will be required – along with an immense amount of hard work!

Like Chashmal, CEFEA began in autumn as the teenagers formed small groups within the entrepreneurship programme.

A smaller version of the programme, consisting of a unit from the International Middle Years Curriculum, part of Futuraskolan’s framework for teaching 21st century skills and lifelong learning, had run in previous years. But this is the first academic year with the expanded project, which also incorporates learning goals from the Swedish National Curriculum, as well as requiring students to take into account the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

“I know a lot of people who have had breast cancer and they usually discover it later on,” says Evelina, joint CEO and lead designer at CEFEA (the name comes from the initials of the founders’ first names, plus an extra E). “If people learn what the changes feel like in the early stages, it wouldn’t be as dangerous. We want to spread awareness and potentially save lives if we’re lucky.” 

Ready for a new standard in education? Discover Futuraskolan’s international and innovative schools in the Stockholm region

Coding is crucial 

Both projects benefit from a school support network that includes teachers who act as mentors and an ICT team that gives students the means and know-how to thrive. It all begins with an introductory talk by Shaun Shilton, ICT development leader at Futuraskolan, about entrepreneurship and the tools that can turn ideas into reality.

“The school helps us to understand code,” says Adam. “ ICT also helps show us how to scale and have product plans, so we don’t run around like headless chickens.” 

“We’ve used programmes and apps the school showed us to design the prototype app and we think it’s great,” adds Mauritz. They also get training in how to use a 3D printer at Futuraskolan, which they’ll use to make their hardware prototype.

Students at Futuraskolan International Kottla sharing ideas and learning about 3D printing. Photo: Futuraskolan

Students have also had the opportunity to pitch their ideas to parents in the school community who are themselves entrepreneurs, and who provided practical advice and constructive feedback. Several projects are contesting entrepreneurial competitions for young people with backing from the school.

“The school built a very good foundation for us,” says Evelina of the support system. 

How tech fuels imagination

Using digital technology to support creative problem-solving and make learning fun is hugely important at Futuraskolan, starting from pre-school, says Shilton. “We have a red thread from the pre-schools up to grade 9 and having the ability to code in Python is where it’s going,” he says. “All our schools also took part in Hour of Code, which is about involving students you wouldn’t usually expect to be interested to see what happens.”

But could children today get too much screen time too soon? “Our use of technology is planned, thought out and integrated into a theme,” explains Shilton. “In our pre-schools, we use Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Green Screen as an extension of imaginative play. It’s exciting to see how the kids respond.”

The first time he used such technology in a pre-school was after hearing children discussing their newfound love of skiing following a winter break.

“We made skis and ski poles out of cardboard and found a 360 degree VR video on YouTube,” says Shilton. “The kids wore goggles as they used their cardboard equipment to re-live going down the slope.”

At Futuraskolan, even pre-schoolers can start coding with the codeSpark Academy app. One popular game recreates a water balloon fight. “You put your line of code in to get the character to go left, right, throw or jump,” says Shilton. “It’s a good marriage between the fun of the game and learning.”

Taking flight

Both sets of entrepreneurs face tricky decisions about how to limit costs while finding the right materials for their prototypes and hardware. But the challenge isn’t capping their ambitions.

Shaun Shilton with student entrepreneurs from CEFEA: Clara (left), Evelina (second from right) and Felicia (furthest right)

“In one year, we’d like to get our first customer,” says Mauritz. In three to five years, he hopes Chashmal will be saving people lots of money and making a profit “so we can ‘escape the Matrix’”.

Evelina says CEFEA hope to be reaching out to clinics and hospitals a year from now, as well as selling their product to schools. The team are also developing a fact book about cancer to be published in multiple languages, including Braille, and want to produce a male mannequin to highlight that men can also get breast cancer.

Gaël Rosén, school administrator and French teacher at Futuraskolan International Kottla, leads the entrepreneurship programme. “I think there’s a little bit of an entrepreneur in every student,” she says. The intention over the next three years is to get all Futuraskolan’s schools involved and to increase collaboration with local companies and municipalities.

Shilton wants students to “feel confident” about taking their ideas into the outside world. “We want to point them in the right direction without holding their hands all the way.” 

And why keep holding their hands when Futuraskolan’s young entrepreneurs are growing wings and seem ready to take flight?

Want to give your child a head start? Explore Futuraskolan’s network of 13 progressive pre-schools and schools in the Greater Stockholm area

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LIVING IN SWEDEN

What you need to know about owning a second home in Sweden

In most countries owning a second home is a luxury reserved for the wealthy, but in Sweden it's very common to have a summer home or 'fritidshus'. Here's what you need to know.

What you need to know about owning a second home in Sweden

What is a fritidshus

In Sweden, second homes are generally either classified as a fritidshus, literally a “free time house”, or a permanenthus or permanentboende.

A fritidshus is defined as “a house which is not set up for all-year-around living”. Rather confusingly, this does not mean that you can’t live all-year-round in a fritidshus, or, indeed, that you can’t use a permanenthus as your summer house. 

The difference comes down to how the two types of property are treated in Sweden’s building code, with fritidshus allowed, among other things, to have lower ceilings, smaller bathrooms, more basic kitchens, worse accessibility for disabled people, a lower standard of insulation. 

If you decide to live permanently in a fritidshus, you do not need to get approval to do so, but the building committee at your local council can, if they learn of what you are doing, demand that the building be changed to meet the requirements of a permanenthus (although this rarely happens).

There is also a subgroup of fritidshuskolonilott, which are houses with a small amount of land which should be used for growing food (although lots of people just use them as attractive gardens). This is different from an odlingslott, which is just an allotment, essentially a kolonilott without the house.

These are usually in designated kolonilott areas close to or in cities, and are not intended for year-round living. In most kolonilott areas, water supply and drainage is cut off outside of the growing season, and you’re not allowed to register them as your permanent address, for example.

Relaxing outside a summer house. Photo: Doris Beling/Imagebank Sweden

How much does a second home cost? 

The average price of a fritidshus fell by about 6 percent in 2023, following a 1 percent fall in 2022, and now lies at about 2.2 million kronor.

But a search on the Hemnet website for fritidshus under 1 million kronor shows that many sell for a lot less, particularly outside the most popular areas. 

As a rule of thumb, anything within an hour’s drive of Stockholm, Gothenburg or Malmö is likely to be more expensive, as is anywhere on the coast (particularly on Gotland), next to a lake, or near one of Sweden’s more popular skiing areas. 

A report from Länsförsäkringar Fastighetsförmedling, out in mid-2023, found that summer houses were cheapest in Kronoberg country (the southern bit of Småland), followed by Örebro, Värmland, Norrbotten and Västernorrland, and most expensive in Gotland, Stockholm County and Halland. 

What’s the point of having one? 

Despite its vast expanses of unspoiled nature, Sweden is very urbanised, with nearly 90 percent of people living in built-up areas and 63 percent in the biggest few cities. It’s much more common to live in an apartment in a city than in the sort of suburban sprawl of houses with their own gardens so common in countries like the UK and US.

This means that most urban Swedes leave any gardening to their summer houses or allotments.

Given the cold, dark winters, that probably makes sense. 

Fritidshus and other second homes are also at the centre of the long Swedish summer break, when people often take three, or even four, weeks off back-to-back. If you don’t have your own fritidshus, you can spend much of the summer visiting people who do. 

What’s the downside? 

Aside from the cost, it’s a lot of work. Owning a fritidshus means weekends spent at out-of-town building supply shops, and brings a whole new list of chores like cleaning the gutters, mowing, trimming hedges, raking leaves and chopping wood.

If you like foreign travel, and have a lot of other passions and hobbies, you may find owning a summer house squeezes them out. 

A summer house in the Stockholm archipelago. Photo: Sara de Basly/Imagebank Sweden

How common is it to have a fritidshus

There are about 607,000 fritidshus in Sweden, and according to Statistics Sweden, about one in three children (35 percent) have access to one.

It most common to have access to a fritidshus in the north of Sweden, with more than half of children having access to one in 51 municipalities north of Dalarna, and it is least common in Skåne, where in some municipalities only 10 percent of children have access to a fritidshus. 

Is it best to have a second home in a fritidsområde or on its own? 

Many municipalities in Sweden have set aside areas, often near a lake or by the sea, specifically for the building of fritidshus, selling off plots, or tomter, on which people can either build a holiday cottage themselves or get a builder to do it.

According to Statitsics Sweden, about a quarter of fritidshus are in such an area, with Stockholm County boasting the most fritidsområde, or holiday home areas, followed by Västra Götaland (near Gothenburg) and Skåne (near Malmö and Helsingborg). 

If you are building your own summer house, the advantage of doing so in a fritidsområde is that electricity, water and sewage has normally already been run along the edge of the plot, making these services cheap and easy to connect. 

If you want to get a summer house near the coast or a lake, it is also cheaper if you buy one in a fritidsområde. 

On the downside, they can feel a little like living in a housing estate, you have to be careful not to make too much noise, and can end up getting complaints from the local neighbourhood committee if you don’t maintain your property in the way they expect. 

As many fritidsområde were set up the 1960s and 1970s, with a lot of the houses then built by enthusiastic amateurs, they can also be in desrepair and have structural problems. 

The plots that have yet to be built on, meanwhile, are often the worst, for instance with ground that is damp or prone to flooding. 

Renting out your second home

One of the advantages of your second home being classed as a fritidshus is that – so long as you’re only renting it out short-term — you are not covered by Sweden’s strict rental law or hyreslagen.

This means whatever rent you agree with the tenant is valid, there is no requirement to ask for a “reasonable” rent, and tenants cannot contest the rent with the regional rent tribunal.  

Airbnb makes renting out your fritidshus extremely easy and on the other side makes it a lot cheaper and easier to rent a summer house for three weeks in the summer than to own one all year around.  

If you earn more than 40,000 kronor in a year from renting out your fritidshus, though, you are required to declare it to the Swedish Tax Agency. 

You can then subtract a 40,000 kronor ‘standard deduction’ from your rental revenue and a further 20 percent deduction for rental income, before it gets taxed. See the guide from the Swedish Tax Agency here

This means if you receive 60,000 kronor in rent, you subtract first 40,000 kronor, then 20 percent of the 60,000 kronor, which comes to 12,000 kronor.

This leaves you with 8,000 kronor to be taxed as capital income at 30 percent, leaving just 2,400 kronor in tax due. 

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