Tank covers, tarpaulin halls and tents for biogas plants, weather guards for the construction industry, and airtight and watertight basins and bags. These are some of the custom-made products with which Joensuu-based Suojapeite Oy has established itself as a manufacturer in the domestic market. JP-Cover Oy Ltd, established alongside JP-Suojapeite, aims for growth in the export market. Success requires expertise in sales and marketing. That is why the company is participating in the GoGlobal programme by Business Joensuu.

Juha Piiroinen, Managing Director of JP-Suojapeite, is an ex-expat who gained his initial experience in the manufacturing of protective covers in Sweden. Encouraged by friends, he returned to Finland in 1997, took a course in entrepreneurship and established a one-man business.

– Starting out, I thought I’d give entrepreneurship 3 to 5 years to see if it was going to pay off. At that time, my growth targets were not too grand, but I didn’t want to become a lifelong entrepreneur, Piiroinen recalls.

Major investment

Things started to take off, even though marketing was more or less dependent on word of mouth. In the spring of 2000, Juha Piiroinen’s cousin Jani Piiroinen became the first employee at the company. More growth was to be expected, and soon the rental facility in Reijola, Joensuu became too small.

– At that point, the company’s turnover was less than half a million, so the next move was a major investment – larger independent production facilities in Raatekangas.

The company was established as a limited company in 2007, with cousin Jani as a shareholder.

– We put in a lot of our own money into the investment. We also applied for a grant from ELY. They took a very long time to determine if the investment was too big related to the size and turnover of our company. The investment was closer to a million euros.

In the end, ELY made a favourable decision, and JP-Suojapeite was able to move to new premises in 2008. The number of employees had increased to four. Even the global economic recession had no real effect on the company whose clientele had already extended to various sectors.

Product development

The expansion of production facilities was completed in 2018, and the company invested in a new automatic fabric cutting machine and a high frequency welder – the only one in Finland.

– In 2018, we established another limited company, JP-Cover Oy Ltd. In that company, we have focused on developing our serial production as well as learning the secrets of marketing. Our first product, the JPRoller, is already on the market, and more is on its way, says Juha Piiroinen.

Supported by a trusted partner

For years, Veikko Tahvanainen, Business Specialist at Business Joensuu, has been a trusted partner to Juha Piiroinen, providing support for investments and assisting in the escalating development work. Development has progressed smoothly thanks to the Digikarjalasta kajahtaa project funded by the Regional Council of North Karelia.

– JP-Suojapeite and the development-oriented JP-Cover are highly innovative companies that have the will and ability to grow. Having followed the company for a long time, I can tell that they have a good chance to succeed in the export market, too, estimates Tahvanainen.

Veikko Tahvanainen believes in the growth and internationalisation potential of the Piiroinens’ business. These sentiments were echoed by CEO of Business Joensuu Harri Palvianen, who made a visit to the company.

– Palviainen really encouraged us to participate in the GoGlobal programme. And we did in fact meet the criteria to participate in GoGlobal, says Piiroinen.

Investment in competence

GoGlobal is an intensive programme by Business Joensuu. It promises to provide concrete assistance for companies so that they can sell products and services internationally. Participants are led by experienced coaches.

– At GoGlobal, people with a lot of in experience in international trade work hard for a company that wants to start looking for profitable growth in the export market. The coaches in the programme are experienced, and they have an understanding of what needs to be done to be successful. The intensive programme has been a very positive experience, Juha Piiroinen assures.

Piiroinen has understood that investments in machinery, equipment and facilities are not enough for a company to grow and develop. Investments need to be made in sales and marketing skills, too – word of mouth will only take you so far.

– We now employ nine people. The future of the company looks good; turnover for JP-Suojapeite is currently about one million euros. At JP-Cover, we started by investing in development, so the turnover for the first year will be modest. But in a year, we’ll have a different situation.

“They have a good chance to succeed in the export market, too”