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My Journey in Missio 2023



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This essay is a reflection towards my own personal journey in Missio competition 2023. I competed in the competition and made it to the top 10 finalists, and wish now to share my journey and insights with you.

 

Missio Background:

 

Miss Helsinki competition has gone through some major changes since it’s new owner Mirella Merivirta took over. When I entered the competition, it was called Miss Helsinki New Era, indicating for big changes. On 4th of August, the competition got its new name: Missio, referring to the mission the organisers have about pushing new female entrepreneurs to the world and helping them grow.

 

According to an interview given to MTV, the reason behind the name change was that the owners of the competition Mirella Merivirta, and Veronika Wirtanen felt that having the word Miss, in the competition name, still referred to a beauty contest. Merivirta felt that beauty contest just isn’t for 2023 anymore. (MTV, 2023)

 

I must agree with this statement as Widdows discusses in their book Perfect Me, about how the beauty ideal is getting smaller and smaller. According to her research the beauty ideal is becoming more global, and less accepting of variety. Some forms of this ideal include thin, smooth, toned, and light tanned. Widdows argues that this beauty ideal is present in how we view ourselves, and how beauty has become an ethical dilemma – something that is expected of us. (Widdows, 2018)

 

With the changes done in Missio competition, the focus has truly been fully transformed from beauty to talent. Us competitors get training on entrepreneurship, through various workshops, ranging from website creatin, and social media usage to taxation, and business strategy creation. During the competition we’re being sparred by our co-competitors, the owners themselves, and the coaches we meet along the way.

 

This change from beauty to entrepreneurship, has also allowed us competitors to truly support one another. Based on what I’ve heard, the women in beauty pageants, can be brutal to one another when aiming for the crown, whereas we have been truly became friends with one another, and are all focused on doing our own thing, yet helping each other succeed.

 

These changes also open doors to more women, than ever before, as the women competing can be married, have kids, and there is no maximum age for a contestant. Minimum age of 20 was set to make sure, the people participating the competition would be mature enough, when establishing a business, which is a huge commitment. This allows space for variety on looks as well, someone with flaming red hair, and strong feminist ideals, and twerking as her business can now participate in a competition to take her career and business forward.

 

My journey begins.

 

In the end of April 2023, I decided to send my application for Missio (or Miss Helsinki New Era as it was still called then). A few days later I received an email letting me know I had been chosen for the casting from thousands of applicants. The casting day was held on 13th of May, and I was so excited to meet the judges who would decide the top 20 to continue, from the 50 women chosen. I remember when I stepped in the room and saw all those beautiful women – most of whom where blond, I thought for a second, that I must have been misplaced somehow.

 

In that moment, I did not have a clear image of what I wanted to do as an entrepreneur, I just knew I really had the passion to be one. My pitch was based on telling the judges, why they should pick me for the competition. Sharing stories of my past as the daughter of entrepreneurs, and making my passion heard, I clearly did something right to impress the judges, as two days later while I was walking the streets of Paris, I get a call from Veronika telling me, I had been chosen to compete.

 

1/3rd of the competition

 

First two months it was the 20 of us getting more knowledge on entrepreneurship, how to use social media, and innovating our businesses. Everything was new and exciting. At this point I travelled to all gatherings in Helsinki, from Tampere. There was a photoshoot of the semi-finalists, and we had to keep our participation a secret, which was so hard when everyone kept asking, if I got in or not.

 

Picture by: Tetiana Sanzhak

 

During the first period, we had 3 training days:

  1. Startup – which focused on innovating our business ideas.
  2. Social Media – How to use social media platforms, how to grow on these platforms.
  3. Content Creation – How to create content for social media.

 

On top of this, we had meetings with our mini teams, to help each other move forward with our businesses. I think my business idea had changed in each meeting with my mini team, as I bounced around multiple ideas I could work with. Before realising what, I was supposed to do, I fell into the trap of thinking “I need to be a real entrepreneur and come up with a proper business”.

 

I had total breakdowns along the way. I felt such a fraud trying to be some “real businesswoman”, when I had no idea what to do. Getting help for things wasn’t the problem, help was all around me, the problem was doubting myself, that voice in my head telling me I wasn’t good enough.

 

Someone close to me doubted me as well, they saw all the possibilities I could fail, and I felt it. As I tried to take any of my ideas forward, I kept getting stuck. It just didn’t feel right, and for a while I thought it was because of me, ofcource there had to be something wrong with me, maybe I wasn’t made for this?

 

About 1-2 weeks before the semi-final, something clicked in my head. The problem wasn’t me; the problem was the ideas, they were wrong. My heart lit up when I started to think about, what if I’d take my dancer career forward in this competition? It wasn’t anything new, I had been dancing before, I had always dreamed of making it big, but for some reason had thought it wouldn’t be possible. Now I had the opportunity of a lifetime.

 

Semi-final

 

Night before the semi-final I prepared a presentation of what my career would look like, and how I planned to achieve my goals. I went in front of the judges, pitched myself with fire in my eyes, and afterwards I told the camera: I did it, I’m going to be in top 10. I wasn’t really stressed in the pitch, as I knew exactly what I wanted to achieve, and I knew I’d make it to the final, as there was no way my passion would not take me forward. Let’s be honest, every good competition has one redhead till the end. The day was super long, and we all were exhausted after the judges had finally made up their minds, and told us their decision, and there it was: I was chosen for the top 10 finalists and would continue for another 4 months in the competition.

 

Picture by: Tetiana Sanzhak

 

Am I supposed to be here?

 

We spent an entire day taking pictures of the finalists, and we all were exhausted afterwards. The following day Mirella, and Veronika took us on a lovely boat ride in Helsinki. They wanted to celebrate with us and get us even closer to each other. Even though I did enjoy most of that boat ride, a negative voice in my head popped up and said, “You’re only here cause you’re a freak in the middle of these perfect women”. As I looked at the other beautiful women around me, saw them dancing, laughing together, loving the same music, I felt so out of place, and thought there had to be a mistake I was there. There was no way, I’d ever truly belong.

 

It’s interesting how quickly your mind can switch from being super confident, and believing you rule the world, into doubting your existence, and reasons of success. Because there was literally nothing in that lovely boat cruise that should’ve made me feel that way, but there I was thinking I did not belong.

 

Publication of finalists

 

The feeling of not belonging as long gone by the time announcing the finalists arrived. All the amazing women felt like a family, and I felt so in my power when walking up to that stage to share my business idea, and vision with the audience. The best part of the night was that my mom was in the audience cheering me on, it meant the world to me to have the female entrepreneur role model of mine stand there and share the moment of success with me.

 

More training

 

After the publication of the finalists, we had a lot more training days ahead:

  • 3 days of Entrepreneurship training
  • Performance training
  • Wellness training

 

We had intense 3 days of learning about sales, cold calling, taxes, branding, and marketing. By the end, on the last day we had a cold calling competition in which we booked as many meetings during the day as we could. I was the leader in one of the teams, and even though we did not win, I got a lot of positive feedback on the way I was leading my team. Based on previous experiences as a leader, I wanted to take a very soft and supportive role, to make sure everyone on my team could enjoy the cold calling day, and feel they succeeded. All of us made about 6 bookings that day, and they all were very happy by the end of it. I learned what type of leadership works for me best, and it’s something I’ll take with me to future leadership possibilities.

 

To boost our confidence, we had a training day on performance, including how to deal with performance anxiety. This was very interesting, as I first thought I don’t really have any, but then realised it depends on the situation. It was very valuable to learn how to deal with performance anxiety, and also how to prepare your presentation so well you don’t need to feel anxious.

 

The final training days focused on our wellbeing, both mental, and physical. We learned about nutrition, training, and how to take care of our minds.

 

Masquerade party

 

During the competition, we were given the task to organise an event on a set date, in a set location. The team I was in organised a masquerade party at the Palm Helsinki. We sent emails to so many businesses trying to make the event happen. At times it felt like nothing would come out of it, but the closer we got to the actual date, things started happening. Suddenly, we found a place that would bring us a luxury car in front of the event. We chose that I would perform there to save the costs and give me the visibility much needed for my personal success. The delicious food we managed to get through personal connections. The sponsors we acquired after hundreds of emails, negotiations, and discussions were finally there. The incredible decorations we had at the event ended up being perfect for creating the right mood.

 

The event itself was a huge success, as all guests enjoyed the evening, and some of them stayed until midnight. We got to enjoy the time with the guests, and my performance was one of the most talked about events of the night, if not for the upcoming week.

 

What I learned in this process was to take kind of a backseat role. I’m usually always the person in the centre of all action, but at the time of the event organisation, I was once again finding myself in a near burnout situation. Due to this, I decided to not take any big roles, to not push myself too hard, and to focus on helping on those little tasks here and there, which just need to get done.

 

Picture by: Tetiana Sanzhak

Twerk & Brunch

 

The closer we got to the final, the more I believed I had chances to win, as I knew the work, and effort I had put in was huge. Among other things, during the competition I had made a lot of connections, held many meetings, participated on PR events, created a website, and improved my personal brand, and social medias. By this point all doubts of not belonging had faded away, as all the other girls had become like a family to me, and the cheers from Veronika, and Mirella every time I succeeded warmed my heart even further and gave me the extra boost needed to believe in myself.

 

I wanted to do something special, so I organised an event called Twerk & Brunch with another competitor Milla. The event was about empowering women through dance, and an empowerment exercise, while enjoying the company of other women over a delicious brunch. The event was a success, even though we did not make any profit from it, all the women who participated were happy, and wished for more events like it.

 

After a week of not sleeping, I was so happy to see my vision come to life and hear all the positive feedback from it. I knew I had the right feeling of this event having huge potential to grow big, which is why I can’t wait to do it again.

 

Picture by: Tetiana Sanzhak

 

The burnout

 

Because the competition was intense, and I had a huge desire to push forward, at times I was exhausted, and in the verge of burning out, or if you ask from my friends, I did burn out. I’d cry at nights, not being able to sleep because of stress, and during the day I’d work all waking hours straight. In the middle of everything, I promised myself after I organised Twerk & Brunch, I’d hit pause, and truly let myself rest, and just be, and when the event was done, I did just that.

 

Learning that letting myself to be from time to time, is something I truly should add to my schedule, and follow it through. From now on, I want to be gentler towards myself, and practise what I preach about entrepreneurship not having to be a constant struggle, and suffering.

 

The Final

 

When interviewed by the judges panel, I was calm, and relaxed due to the rest I had taken after Twerk & Brunch. The judges told me they could see me glowing, and were very impressed with my overall presence, positive attitude, and the captivating energy of mine. After the interview I felt confident about my being in the top three, as I knew I had given my all.

 

The day of the final was long, I practised my pitch all day here and there to make sure I memorised it and could give a convincing performance in front of the crowd. When I stepped on that stage, I felt I was in my power, and talked with fire in my heart, proud to share what I had done, and what I dreamed my life would become.

 

While we were standing on stage, I was sure I’d be in the top three. However, that was not the case, and right after realising it, I was sad, and hurt. The feeling of rejection washed over me, and I thought what I had done was not good enough, I wasn’t good enough. By the next day when I woke up, I realised I was good enough, I had done more than enough, and not winning might just be the best thing for me, as now I could focus fully on taking my career forward.

 

Picture by: Tetiana Sanzhak

 

Overall, the experience in the competition is something I do not regret one bit. It gave me so much knowledge, new networks, and a clear vision on where I want to go with my career. Without the competition, I would not have met all the amazing, and strong women who supported each other during the competition. I made life-long friends, and created connections that will help me push my career where I want it to go.

 

I know, where my story is headed, and truly it has only begun. Follow me on social media, if you wish to see where all this takes me:

https://www.instagram.com/emilia.parikka/

Written by. Emilia Parikka

 

SOURCES:

MTV, 2023, Miss Helsinki kilpailu, ei ole enää missikisa – omistajat Mirella Merivirta ja Veronika Wirtanen kertovat, mistä on kyse, Published 13.08.2023, Read 25.09.2023. https://www.mtvuutiset.fi/artikkeli/miss-helsinki-kilpailu-ei-ole-enaa-missikisa-omistajat-mirella-merivirta-ja-veronika-wirtanen-kertovat-mista-on-kyse/8752020

Widdows, H. 2018. Perfect Me: Beauty as an Ethical Ideal. Princeton University Press. Ebook. Released 15.05.208.

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