Story, pictures: Lena Hartikainen – West Palm Beach, FL

The Hartikainen family - from the left: Nico, Seppo, Lena and Robert

It was May 1999  in  Helsinki. My husband, Seppo Hartikainen came to me and asked, “If I was to be offered a job in America, would you go with me? Spontaneously I replied: “Sure as long as it is not Florida!

Lo and behold, its now 2012 and I’m writing this, out of all places, in Florida. But back to 1999.  My husband is a Lutheran pastor and in August 1999 he was offered a  job to serve at the Finnish Lutheran Church in Seattle,WA.  We though it would be a nice one-to-three-year experience. Our sons, Nico “the drummer” was 12 and Robert a first grader. We are still on that same trip.

The Hartikainens settled in a Seattle suburb called Edmonds, purchasing a fixer-upper there.

When our good friend in Portland, Oregon heard that we are moving to Seattle, he predicted it will take us exactly five minutes to get used it. It proved out to be true. Naturally, the fact that we had both spend quite a bit of time in Vancouver, British Colombia, Canada, which is literally next-door, helped, as we had many friends in the Pacific North West region already.

We loved every minute of the seven and a half years that we lived there, except the traffic. My worst traffic experience was on Monday after Thanksgiving in 2006, when I got stuck on the freeway for nine hours in an ice and snowstorm!

The first years were a bit of a struggle financially for us, as it took longer than we expected to get work permit for me. So I spent the first two years renovating an old house built in the 1950’s . For a city girl from Helsinki, who has never even held a hammer in her hand, I have to say I did pretty good job. I learned how to paint, sand hardwood floors, build drywalls, lay tiles and you name it.

Lena renovated the Hartikainen family home by herself.

I loved every corner of that old house. It was a house with an unfinished basement, which we totally finished adding some 1, 000 square feet of  living space. Eventually we even added a sauna. The house was located in the suburbs of Seattle in a little town called Edmonds. It has a terminal where the ferries take you to the Olympic Peninsula.

The Washington state ferries dock in Edmonds.

It was a quaint little town with a lot of charm. We had the Pacific ocean/Puget Sound within walking distance from our home. We couldn’t have asked for more. The public schools were great and our kids blended in in no time. For the 12-year-old Nico, it took a bit longer as he was missing his friend. However, the language of music is the same everywhere. Since he was a talented drummer, the other kids and his music teacher adored him. Nico was enrolled in the pre-IB program and eventually graduated with the IB-diploma from Edmonds-Woodway High School.

The Edmonds marina

It took less for Robert to adapt as he was such an easy going little kid. On the first day however, he was a bit nervous and asked me what he should say if someone says something. “Just use what ever language skills you have and it’ll be ok,” I advised him. So we walk into the room together. As he walks in, he says: “hastala vista baby, I’ll be back!” That was all he knew in “English”. “This boy will do just fine,” the teacher smiled. And so he did.


While living in Washington, Lena had to re-invent herself.

While doing the renovation, I studied for a new career. Professional Life Coaching was not well known yet in the year 2000. My original intention had been to continue my studies in Social Psychology, but as an out-of-state student, the tuition was totally out of my reach, so I found coaching.


The Hartikainens

In Finland, I had worked for Pan Am, Delta and China Airlines in various positions – sales, customer service and management for some 10 + years.  But the travel industry jobs were scarce in the late summer of 2001 when I received my green card. Especially after 9/11 they became almost extinct. I still managed to get a job with a tour operator. My job was to organize tours to Scandinavia, Finland, Russia and the Baltic states.

My unfinished degree from Finland was bothering me. So, in 2005 I enrolled in the University of  Phoenix, and graduated with B.S. in Management two years later.

While a student, I found a job as a Call Center Manager for AAA Washington. I greatly enjoyed the job for its fast pace and great teamwork.

I also ran my first marathon in November of 2005.

At the end of 2006, my husband told me there was an opportunity for him in Florida. So in February of 2007 we found ourselves in the Sunshine State. This time just our younger son Robert came with us.

After living in the Pacific Northwest for seven years, Lena Hartikainen found herself in balmier Florida.

Nico was already 20 and had just signed a record contract with Photo Finish Records. He and his band Danger Radio were ready to tour the world. We accepted the fact that one must follow one’s dream.


While the rest of the family moved to Florida, the eldest son, Nico Hartikainen pursued his dreams in Hollywood.

Now we are in Florida.

My husband Seppo works at the St. Andrews Lutheran Churchas the Senior Pastor. Robert was enrolled in a small private Lake Worth Christian School in the last quarter of his last year in middle school. Again he acclimated to new surroundings without any qualms.


The Hartikainens at church

In 2007 recession hit Florida, which again made it challenging for me to land a job. I used my coaching skills to help others find jobs and develop their careers by launching FindYourJuice-coaching.  But I missed the energy of a larger company. While wondering how to get integrated into the local business world, I co-founded the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce Florida with three other businesspeople. I soon discovered the Finnish companies needed more help than what the chamber could offer. So, with another entrepreneur, I co-founded  Optimus Consulting Group Inc. in February of 2011. The first year has been full of excitement and hard work, which is starting to pay off. I look forward to each working day!


Lena Hartikainen went into business by herself in Florida, founding a consulting company.

Meanwhile Robert has graduated from high school and is finishing his first year in Palm Beach State College. Nico has lived in L.A. for the last five years, producing music, both independently and working as a sound engineer for Atlantic Records.


Nico Hartikainen is making a career in Hollywood as a sound engineer and a song writer.

Now that we live in Florida, a steadier stream of visitors come from Finland – most likely due to the more favorable climate and the pool in the backyard.

We did not want to acquire another renovation job in Florida, but purchased a house that had been recently upgraded. Our little Oreo-dog has been with us since 2003 and is loved by visitors and family alike.

The Hartikainen family pool attracts visitors from Finland.

Naturally, due to the role my husband has with the church and I with the FACC we have strong connections to the local Finnish community. So much so, that we don’t feel the need to visit Finland that often – perhaps every two or three years. The boys seem to long for Finland even less, as they are busy with their own lives.

Lena Hartikainen on the beach with her mom, Sisko Antturi

I can’t say I miss anything specific from Finland anymore, as the world is so global and even “näkkileipä” and rye bread can be found at a local supermarket. Naturally we miss family and friends.

The Hartikainen family has happily settled in the United States.


Reporter, pictures: Tomi Hinkkanen, Los Angeles

Life coach Susanna Goltche

Already as a teenager, Susanna Goltche, neé Nieminen, knew she wanted to help people. She studied social sciences in Finland but decided she wanted to see the world. So, Susanna packed her bags and came to the United States as a student. She fell in love with an American businessman and had a child. After her marriage ended, at 35, she found herself  in a turning point in her life. The mother of a seven-year-old daughter returned to her original idea of helping people. She decided to become a life coach.

Susanna sees some of hers clients at her beautiful home in Bel Air

Susanna welcomes me at her lovely home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. Her condominium building sits on a mountain road between the city and the San Fernando Valley. Here the air is crisp and clear. Incents are burning and so is the fire in the fireplace – to create a peaceful and open atmosphere. There are pictures of her daughter Juliet on the shelves. A balcony offers a view to the woodsy backyard with large pine trees. It is a perfect setting to discuss life issues – in fact, some of Susanna’s clients come here to sit on her couch and unload their worries in this serene setting.

Susanna creates a calm atmosphere in her home so that it is easier for her clients to open up to her about their problems.

Susanna grew up in Tampere, Finland. She first enrolled in the school of social studies in the nearby city of Hämeenlinna. Then her adventurous side took over. Susanna enrolled in the Santa Monica C ity College, taking general subjects. She also studied film at the Los Angeles City College. The attractive blonde soon found companionship with an American real estate tycoon. They married and had a daughter. When her marriage ended after four years, Susanna wanted to find a new direction in her life. She had been a housewife, taking care of her small daughter. Then she heard about life coaching and last August enrolled in CTI – Coaching Training Institute, which specializes in the field. CTI has trained over 35,000 life coaches all over the world.

The curriculum consists of three parts – theoretical lessons in workshops, field training and final exams that are both in written and verbal formats. Susanna has finished the theoretical part. Since February she has been seeing clients as a part of her training. People come to her with all kinds of problems – health, career and relationships. Life coaching is not therapy.

“A therapist looks more into a person’s past. We concentrate on the present and the future,” Susanna explains.

She doesn’t see clients who have mental issues – those she sends to a psychologist or a psychiatrist. Life coaching is for otherwise healthy individuals, who need help in their working or private life.  A life coach is like a friend who listens and lends a helping hand.

The process starts by going over a person’s situation. Oftentimes it takes a while to pinpoint the areas that require improvement.

“We see each individual as creative, able and perfect as a human being,” she says.

Once the specific problem or area in need of improvement is identified, Susanna gives her clients homework related to that issue.

“I hold them countable to those tasks. Then in the next session we go over the homework and set goals.”

A life coach has to be firm. Susanna holds her clients accountable to finish their home work.

At the present time Susanna has seven clients, among them a housewife, a real estate broker, an artist and a businessman. Over half of them come to Susanna with a career-related issue. Almost all of them are in some kind of a turning point in their lives. They are all between 40 and 60 years of age. More tend to be women, but men have also embraced life coaching.

“I have noticed that men are especially open to life coaching, since there is no stigma to it.”

Problems are not usually solved in one or two sessions. It typically takes about six months to improve a person’s life. Life coaches charge per hour or monthly. Rates vary, but an hour on life coach’s couch could set you  back 150 dollars. Susanna has both phone clients and people she meets in person. She says she can read emotions in people’s voices. In our little test session, she was very keen on picking up cues on my physical gestures, like rolling of the eyes.

Whether you need help in your career or love life, Susanna is there to help.

In the future, Susanna plans to expand her coaching into seminars and lectures. She invites people  interested in her services to contact her directly at

“If you want to improve your life, please contact me.”