New hotel into downtown Joensuu – international feel with a Karelian twist. Dent repairs without damaging the paint surface – also as a mobile service. Lietsu Palvelut Oy and Lommon Oikaisu Pesonen are among the first new companies established in North Karelia in 2019. The new entrepreneurs’ focus is bright, and they have their mind set on growth.

Joensuu residents Helena Puhakka-Tarvainen and Maria Saastamoinen incubated the idea of becoming entrepreneurs for a couple of years. In their previous employment, both women worked in research and development tasks at Karelia University of Applied Sciences. This work resembled entrepreneurship: they worked on projects, international projects, and in the development of funding.

– When I had worked on various projects in a similar way to running a business, the idea of setting up my own company started to feel better and better. We toyed with various business ideas and trusted that we would know when we found the right one.

The ‘right idea’ eventually crystallised after Saastamoinen’s own Airbnb experience. For one and a half years, she rented out a room in her home to international tourists in Joensuu.

– I was trying to figure out what kind of visitors we had, and why they chose home accommodation instead of a hotel chain. A need for something individual and unique started taking shape from the overarching themes of Karelia, culture and nature, Saastamoinen describes.

Apartment hotel Lietsu will open its doors in November 2019. By then, 31 unique apartments will be constructed on the top two floors of the former Post Office building in the centre of Joensuu.

– The Karelian aspect will be strongly present. There will be no cold reception desks, but instead, we will have a common area where visitors can enjoy a Karelian breakfast, a sauna with a view in the Pielisjoki direction, and well-functioning facilities for longer stays, Helena Puhakka-Tarvainen lists.

Lietsu’s concept also combines modern Karelian hospitality with experience services, and includes cultural activities offered by many cooperative partners.

– The idea of bringing a flow of international tourists to Joensuu governs the development of this hotel concept. We start from a great place – from the heart of the city and by good services. The concept also enables expansion: we are not tied to one place.

At the business start-up phase, Saastamoinen and Puhakka-Tarvainen have harnessed diverse networks ranging from peer support offered by other entrepreneurs to business coaching at Business Joensuu. One of the biggest challenges was to secure funding, but these resourceful and open-minded women managed it with flying colours.

– I was quite a puzzle, but we managed to secure the assistance required pretty well. The confirmation we have received in discussions has been important.

Repairing dents without breaking the paint surface

The beginning of 2019 was busy for Sami Pesonen: word about a dent repair expert spread fast. At the start-up phase, Lommon Oikaisu Pesonen has been employed by car dealerships, which Pesonen has served in a mobile manner. The company will receive its own premises in March.

– Until then, I will take my tools and drive to the customer’s location. As soon as the company premises on Aspintie in Joensuu are available for use, I will be able to broaden my customer base to include private customers.

Sami Pesonen completed an Auto Body Mechanic’s degree approximately ten years ago. Working with cars was an obvious career choice for him already as a little boy. After his studies, Pesonen gained professional experience in a couple of car dealerships. The work also taught him about PDR technology.

– The acronym stands for Paintless Dent Repair – repairing dents without paint. PDR is such an interesting and challenging technique that eventually I wanted to focus on it altogether. I felt that I had found my niche, this is what I want to do as an entrepreneur.

Pesonen dedicated himself to the idea becoming an entrepreneur, and found out more about matters related to entrepreneurship online. The TE Office advised him to visit a business coach at Business Joensuu.

– The business coach checked my business plan and said that it looked good. I then received advice on funding, and set up my company.

Pesonen’s business idea is to offer quick, reliable and cost-effective dent repair. His customer promise sounds simple, but not everyone is capable of the work required. Instead, this is a form of modern handicraft, and demands special expertise.

– I carry a set of pulling hooks with me, and a lamp which is extremely important in this work. The dent is made visible by reflecting it against a matte light. Various pulling hooks are needed, as there are differences in car body structures, and you need to reach to the back of each dent.

Before setting up his business, Pesonen did his entrepreneurial homework by studying the market and supply in the field. He discovered that there were no other PDR experts active in the Joensuu region. His studies also revealed a shortage of PDR experts in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area.

– I must consider whether to take on one-week side gigs in Southern Finland every now and then. There seems to be work available, the entrepreneur says while stating that he also considers hiring an employee in the future.

However, before the entrepreneur has time to think about packing his lamp and set of hooks, spring has already started. Spring is the real high season for a dent repairman. Cars will hatch from under the snow and ice. The spring wash and wax will reveal a dent or two that have appeared during the winter. Then Sami Pesonen’s telephone rings frequently, and the entrepreneur gets to fulfil his customer promise: “Call me and I’ll be there”. This is what the mobile PDR dent repairman promises on his website.