Realising that continuing a family business could be a worthwhile venture, Minna Perttilalahti and Merita Kinnunen began their journey as entrepreneurs with their cleaning company, Itä-Suomen Siivouspalvelu. They learned how to make a good workplace and how to increase the size of a business. More recently, they found everything else was also possible and began to expand into a new sector.
In 2008, Minna Perttilahti finished her studies in Tampere. “The studies were way too focused on entrepreneurship, and I have no intention of ever becoming an entrepreneur,” wrote Perttilahti on her school feedback form. However, Perttilahti soon realised that she was the head of a growing family business, Itä-Suomen Siivouspalvelu, together with her sister, Merita Kinnunen.
– When we were kids, we spent a lot of time in the back room of our dad’s business and in the backyard of neighbours, the Jokelas, which is where the shop was. Sometimes we went on jobs with dad to help empty trash, and then later doing summer jobs. For my own part, I didn’t see the appeal of entrepreneurship or any of the rushing about and uncertainty you inevitably have when running your own business. I just wanted to earn a salary,” says Perttilahti.
– When my studies were done, we both lived in Tampere. While there, we saw things a bit differently. We worked for several different companies and encountered similar problems, such as with management. Then, while we were taking a sauna one evening, we decided to see for ourselves whether it was possible to do things better, so we decided to take over our dad’s business,” explain Perttilahti and Kinnunen.
Their father, Kyösti Kinnunen, helped his daughters get started and off they went. In the beginning, they worked on figuring out what their roles were as entrepreneurs as well as how they would divide tasks between them. Sometimes the two sisters found themselves doing the same work or too far outside their comfort zones. When they optimised their individual strengths, the business really started to gain steam, growing from a company with a staff of part-time employees to one with 18 full-time employees.
– I’m the steam engine that pulls the company forward and I play the role of ‘foreign minister’ for our company. Merita, on the other hand, is our ‘minister of the interior” – an organiser without whom, for example, there would be complete chaos in the warehouse and paperwork would pile up,” explains Perttilahti.
– I never saw myself as being a sole proprietor. Merita and I are pretty much joined at the hip – we just have to get along. Yes, we do argue from time to time, but we always end up working things out. We both inherited our dad’s strong work ethic, and we can count on each other,” says Perttilahti, reflecting on the co-operation with her sister.
– Merita is also a very good judge of character. She handles all recruitment and does not make mistakes when it comes to people. Only once have we had to terminate an employment contract during the probation period, which was one of the most difficult moments of our careers,” says Perttilahti.
Respect comes from the inside
In many sectors and companies, temporary manpower, redundancies and layoffs are standard. Perttilahti and Kinnunen say that the rapid turnover of employees is normal in the cleaning sector. Itä-Suomen Siivouspalvelu, however, does things differently. They have long-term employees and care about their well-being at work. Good employee benefits, a deliberative, open atmosphere and giving employees the opportunity to influence the content of their work are the areas in which Itä-Suomen Siivouspalvelu invests. Not to mention the sweet treats served on coffee breaks.
– Cleaning is seen as something transitional, work to be performed by unskilled labour. “We have received all kinds of treatment, such as when a company executive threw chewing gum on the floor right at his feet, and we almost had to climb into his lap just to pick it up,” says Kinnunen.
– Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re running into a whole lot less of this sort of contemptuous treatment, because people now see how important cleanliness is. But, the most important thing is for you yourself to respect the work you’re doing,” say the entrepreneurs.
According to Perttilahti and Kinnunen, managing the company without any experience in the field would have been a real challenge. They do hands-on work themselves. The personnel structure emphasises diversity, having the latest knowledge from young people in the field, and the solid experience gained through their parents’ own practices, where everyone learns from everyone.
– Our employees want challenges and we want to give them challenges. Cleaning places where people died, mould spore remediation and cleaning the absolute worst pigsties are satisfying, expected challenges for our employees,” says Kinnunen.
Dream come true
In addition to having many years of experience, Perttilahti has earned qualifications through numerous training courses, workshops and coaching sessions in the field. Outside of her work responsibilities, she has earned a specialist qualification in management, an exterminator qualification, a cleaner qualification and, most recently, participated in the Business Joensuu GROW growth coaching programme.
– The coaching gave me a lot of new insights, and one of them was that we could expand our business into other fields, and we’re able to do this,” explains Perttilahti.
– I have years of experience working with rental cottages. Minna and I discussed it and we were given more support from Mervi Leminen at Business Joensuu, along with detailed calculations on the profitability of the idea,” says Kinnunen.
Even though the entrepreneurs say they are very careful and think all their investments through, it was possible to launch their cottage rental business on a short timetable. A suitable cottage was found in Rääkkylä, surrounded by the peace and quiet of nature.
– Getting into cottage rental was a big, very important move. Their entry into a whole new business gave the sisters a whole new enthusiasm. “Of course, this requires a whole lot of work at first, but it doesn’t even feel like work,” says Kinnunen, who is the main manager of the cottage.
– Our plan is to gradually increase the scope of our cottage rental business. We’re surprised at how well it started, with very little effort. At first, we just posted a notification on our company’s Facebook page and then on Tori (an online buying and selling website). The cottage has been rented nearly the whole time,” explain the two women, who trust in the power of the grapevine.
– Our dad probably wouldn’t have liked to go into the cottage business, but now he’s enthusiastic about the direction we’ve taken the company. He’s proud of the new solutions we came up with. In fact, he’s now the cottage caretaker, which he loves doing.
We realised that everything is possible in enterprise.
- Founder: Kyösti Kinnunen. Current owners: daughters Merita Kinnunen and Minna Perttilahti.
- Provides commercial and specialised cleaning services
- Expanded into cottage rental in 2020
- Employs 18 people
- Villa Piranniemi: Read more (https://www.facebook.com/Villa-Piranniemi-118051370011572)
GROW growth coaching programme
Intended for entrepreneurs and managerial staff who are interested in developing their company in a target-oriented manner.
- The coaching involves identifying the most important growth factors and putting together a growth plan.
- The result is a clear overall understanding of the current state of the company and its opportunities for growth.
- Is growth coaching the right choice for you? Find more information and take a test: https://www.businessjoensuu.fi/kasvuvalmennus/tee-testi/
- Development partners: European Union, European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and Regional Council of North Karelia