The ability to transform, networking skills, and passionate respect for the environment in all activities: these kinds of abilities are typical of the Kontiolahti company Plasthill, whose subsidiary Kupilka has developed into a global success.

“Things are going well! The growth in turnover has been strong in the past couple of years – about 60 percent in the current fiscal year, says entrepreneur Arja Kaasinen when asked about how things are going. Then she starts talking about the Moomins.”

The Moomins are a global brand with more than 600 licence holders. A couple of years ago Kupilka joined the Moomin family.

“I think it was in a dream I had one-night dream that the Moomins popped into my mind. I contacted Moomin Characters. They got excited, pointing out that the Moomins had never been linked with this kind of material before. However, the matter was a bit slow getting started, and the contact person at the other end changed.”

Arja Kaasinen was not the only one who had wanted to link Kupilka and the Moomins.

“We contacted lawyer Jyrki Piiparinen on completely different business. Piiparinen happened to mention that Kupilka could have a great place for the Moomins. It certainly sounded funny, and at the same time I decided that we need to start advancing the licensing matter again.”

The Moomin Kuplikas soon became a big hit and Japan became the most important individual export country. Other big export markets for the Kuplikas include the Nordic countries, Korea, China, Hong Kong, the USA, and Germany. About half of the turnover of more than 2.2 million euros comes from export.

 

The new check marks for the strategy

Arja and Esa Kaasinen founded Plasthill in 1996. The injection moulding company was initially purely a contract manufacturer. In 2011 the company was joined by Kareline, which manufactures Kareline® natural fibre composites. At that time Plasthill already had one product of its own – a Kaarna serving tray.

From 2011, the Kaasinens’ company also sold Kareline material to Joensuun Meskari Oy. At Meskari, entrepreneur Kari Kuisma had manufactured Kupilkas since 2003. Business was good.

“Kuisma faced a decision – prospects for growth were good, and there was a need to expand and to increase the number of personnel. At that point we ended up working together. We bought the Kupilka business operations and Kari joined us to handle Kupilka sales. In this operation both the buyers and the seller got support from the Osuva business transfer service – an important service that Business Joensuu continues to offer,” Arja Kaasinen explains.

The next strategic decision will be to gradually stop all contract manufacturing and to concentrate on our Kupilka’s own products. In taking steps toward something new, Business Joensuu’s business specialist Veikko Tahvanainen has, in the words of Arja Kaasinen, “walked with us for at least 20 years”.

“Dropping contract manufacturing also meant that we were able to free up production space for Kupilka, which was on a path of growth. In the change we have managed to replace old production machines with new ones. We started to make a cluster of investments in the millions in 2018 with the support of the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment and from Veikko. A new production machine is coming in September.”

 

Family company values

Esa Kaasinen has already taken part-time retirement. Arja Kaasinen says that she will soon follow. But not to worry, the future of Kupilka is on a sturdy foundation.

“Already in 2015 we had discussions with our three children on keeping the business going. The present situation is that they are all working full time at the family company. They are also majority owners in the company.”

Laura Bondavalli, the oldest of the Kaasinen children, is the export manager. Bondavalli and her family live in Berlin. Krista Hoque is responsible for the design and graphic appearance of the products. She lives in Helsinki with her family. Oskari Kaasinen deals with the logistics of production and the laser marking of the products in Pyytivaara in Kontiolahti.

Like their parents, the young Kaasinens are committed to environmental values. Kupilka has a strong message of caring, from natural fibre composites to the use of renewable energy, and carbon-neutral production.

“Energy consumption has been minimised, light bulbs have been replaced by LEDs, the electricity has long been environmentally friendly, and the roof will soon have solar panels. “They have already arrived, and only need to be installed”, Arja Kaasinen notes.

 

Let the growth continue!

Environmental awareness can be seen and heard in the marketing of Kupilkas. Environmental values are a powerful message both in Finland and around the world.

The needs of the customers, the ease of doing business, and engaging the customer have been comprehensively considered. The Moomins feel right at home in the Karelian story of Kupilka. The Kupilkas’ online store was opened just over two years ago.

Efforts continue to grow through exports. Arja Kaasinen says that the Australian and New Zealand markets look promising.

“One of the very best things is that we managed to join efforts to promote exports to Japan already in the years preceding Business Joensuu. Scandinavian Outdoor Group has also proven to be an excellent forum. It is a community that represents more than 70 Scandinavian Outdoor brands around the world. We participate in appearances at trade fairs with the group.”

Plasthill currently employs 16 people.

“Energy consumption has been minimised. Lamps all use LED lights, electricity is ecologically produced, and soon there will be solar panels on the roof.”

 

Text: Sirkka-Liisa Aaltonen/Viestintä Ässä Oy
Pictures: Jarno Artika