When the news reached us that Annika Goodwille had passed away, there was a sense of disbelief and profound loss among the Swedish Community, including the Swedish Chamber and the Swedish Church. Annika Goodwille had a strong personality and was full of life and beauty, with a strong impact on those who met her. Annika was one of the most popular and colourful members of the Council of the Swedish Chamber and also of the Swedish Community.
Annika left Sweden as a young woman and her sense of adventure and curiosity took her to France, Switzerland, the US and Iran where she met her husband Angus. Later on she also spent a few years with her husband in Dubai when it was still a small town in the desert.
Annika loved to talk about her time in Iran and in particular a story she told me when we first met, about when she met the late Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme. It was in 1981, when Olof Palme was visiting Teheran to take part in negotiations in the war between Iran and Iraq. As they were leaving the capital to fly back to Stockholm, Annika, who worked at the Swedish Embassy at the time, received a phone call from Stockholm with an urgent message to stop the Prime Minister from flying back as their plane was under threat of being shot down. She managed to catch him in his hotel. She liked to say that this is how she saved the life of Olof Palme.
I met Annika in 1989 when we were both stay-at-home mothers. She was busy looking after three lively small boys but was restless and thinking of what the next step in her life would be. A few years later a fourth boy was born, making her house even more boisterous, full of life and happiness.
Her next step was to enrol in college to study to become a “company secretary” and she used to laugh, saying that she was not a secretary but helped companies with legal and taxations issues. She quickly set-up her own company, Goodwille Ltd in 1997, which grew rapidly. She helped many Swedish companies coming to the UK as start-ups or subsidiaries with the nitty-gritty of setting-up in the UK. She was very generous with her advice, which went far beyond understanding UK laws and regulations.
Annika always insisted that it was difficult to get to know and understand the British people and their way of doing business. To know the language was not enough, Swedes had to immerse themselves in British culture and language sensitivities, understand that “interesting” should not always be taken at face value and instead could mean “terrible” or “with potential”.
Her sense of humour was contagious. She always came to Council meetings with a big smile and a bright scarf and immediately transformed the atmosphere in the room.
During meetings, she fought for small companies and always reminded us that the Chamber needed to do more to attract Swedish start-ups as members. As long-standing chair of the marketing committee, Annika was relentless in looking for ways to attract younger members and thereby rejuvenate the Chamber.
She was passionate about the new economy and immersed herself in social media after a trip to the US. She was always a step ahead, nagging the Council of the Chamber to learn to tweet and generally make use of all social media outlets to communicate.
Another of her passions was networking and sharing her networking skills with others. She felt that Swedes did not always know how to “attack” a room full of strangers at a reception and would give advice on how to make conversation and how to engage people. She excelled at it and as a result had a very large network in the UK, Sweden and other parts of the world. I think that it was her curiosity and generosity that made her so attractive to many people. She loved to invite people to her office in Kensington Square or at home for debates and wonderful dinners.
Despite spending over thirty years outside her homeland she never lost her accent from Skåne when she spoke Swedish. Born Annika Åman, she was very proud of her origins and of Landskrona where she was born and raised. Her father had been a successful entrepreneur who instilled in her a sense of independence. She was always self-reliant and original in her thoughts.
One aspect that is maybe less known outside the Chamber is that Annika was a philanthropist. She helped several causes in the UK and internationally. She was always looking for new projects to support and we had many discussions on social enterprises and charities.
She also loved culture, the theatre/arts and was an avid reader. Again maybe this aspect of her was not always knows because as a proper Swede she remained “low-key” despite her successes.
Annika lived a full life and this is how she will be remembered. As she said on her home page at Goodwille: “I am an inquisitive person always interested in discovering new things, and I soon get impatient if I don’t have lots of balls up in the air at the same time”.
Ten years ago, Annika successfully battled a first cancer, while looking after her husband Angus who was also ill. In her last decade Annika never lost her smile and curiosity of the world and people. Her greatest joy was to spend a lot of time and holidays with her four grown-up sons.
On behalf of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce to the UK, I would like to extend my deepest condolences to Alexander, Nicholas, Marcus and Oskar. We will always keep the memory of your mother alive.
Chairman of The Swedish Chamber of Commerce for the UK
Annika’s family has set up a fundraising page for a cause that was particularly close to her heart, The Microloan Foundation, aiming to enable women in Africa set up businesses to help work themselves out of poverty.
If you would like to make a donation, please visit: https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/annikaaman-goodwille