Myssyfarmi was born in the hands of a former professional windsurfer. After his 15-year long career Janne Rauhansuu decided to stay in Switzerland to search for a new direction. Then, during a skiing trip, one of his friends wore a knitted beanie that would make a long-lasting impression on him. It was a handmade piece made by the friend’s grandmother. Inspired by the view, Janne decided to get himself a pair of knitting needles. The first beanie took a week to finish but soon the second and third one would follow and it did not take long before all of his friends wanted one. Janne continued knitting for the sheer joy of his new hobby.
The winds of change started blowing in 2008 when Janne moved back to Finland to take over the family farm in Pöytyä. Back in his home country, he met Anna who would become both his wife and his business partner. When settling down as farmers in the Finnish municipality Pöytyä, the couple started to make bigger plans for the beanies. In 2009, Myssyfarmi made its first appearance at Helsinki Design Week and the following year the first flock of Finnsheep arrived at the farm. Since then the handmade beanies and accessories have been made with not just any yarn but with wool from the farm’s own sheep – and this time the production was not solely for friends.
It has always been clear that Myssyfarmi could not become a healthy business without first involving more knitting hands. During her maternity leave, Anna started knitting together with Janne and it would not take long before the region’s grannies knocked on the door. When they joined the production, it could take off for real and at the same time a warm-hearted story was born: grandmothers knitting beanies made from the wool from their own or the neighbour’s farm.
Janne’s international friends liked the beanies as the handmade accessory made them stand out in a crowd. This, combined with the ethical and ecologic production, made Myssyfarmi believe in a wider global demand for their products and encouraged the company to boost the internationalisation. In 2015, Myssyfarmi received internationalisation funding from the ELY centre and after that, it applied for the 2016 Berlin Fashion Week.
Myssyfarmi went to Berlin with both feet on the ground but their first global appearance proved to become a real success – the company could return home with three international retailers in their bag. During the event, many clients also encouraged the beanie-makers to explore the Asian markets and especially Japan was highlighted as a country with demand for the product. The feedback fuelled some fast decisions and during the spring of 2017, Myssyfarmi joined the Business Finland growth program Lifestyle Finland. This program helps Finnish lifestyle companies to enter global markets especially in Asia and Europe.
Myssyfarmi’s Hanna Jauhiainen presenting myssy for the buyer of Japanese Matsuya department store
As a fresh member of the Lifestyle Finland program, Myssyfarmi became an active participant in the events organised in different parts of the world. In the spring of 2017, the beanies were shown to local buyers and importers in Lifestyle Finland events held in, among other places, Japan and Korea. At this point, the product had been perfected and surrounded with a sympathetic story about the knitting grannies. Thus, Myssyfarmi could charm the international audiences with genuineness. In Japan, one of the professionals surrounding the “myssy” were an agent from Look Inc, which is also the local representative of Marimekko. The agent was impressed and convinced the Finnish beanie-makers to leave some samples in Look Inc’s showroom in Japan. ”It went quite well”, the sales and marketing manager at Myssyfarmi, Hanna Jauhiainen, thought when she was packing beanies in boxes. The only concern was whether the grandmothers would have time to knit the sample “myssy” for the soon held sales event in Korea.
The grannies accepted and completed the challenge and since then the sample beanies have toured the world twice. After becoming a member of Lifestyle Finland, Myssyfarmi has participated in nine export events focussing especially on Japan, Korea, China and Paris. The farmers have also taken part of the Business Finland coaching services that supports companies in, for example, developing their sales and marketing. ”The Lifestyle Finland program and the community of member companies have been significant for the internationalisation of Myssyfarmi. This has helped us to form relations with the right people in the right place and at the right time. The members have a good team spirit and we enter the international markets as colleges, helping each other”, says Hanna.
Myssyfarmi now estimates continued international success during 2018. The company already has 50 retailers around the world and 15 % of the purchases made online are ordered from abroad. Furthermore, 25 % of the total turnover currently comes from export – including the food products made and marketed by the farm. The company now has three full-time workers and an ever-expanding pool of knitting grannies.
The story about the beanie-makers shows that Finnish SMEs have what it takes to gain rapid success on the international fashion scene. To Myssyfarmi it was all about a unique product, an engaging story and the right attitude combined with services supporting their internationalisation plans. ”You have to have the courage to be different and believe in it. And you have to remember that even though you can get help to open doors it is on you to transform a sales lead to a concrete deal with active networking”, says Jauhiainen.