“Why not?” Says Jesse Kuronen, owner of Nordpap Oy, when a journalist asks why the business has chosen North Karelia as the company's home location. Indeed, why not, as during their entrepreneurial journey, the scale has tipped towards locations in North Karelia and Lake Polvijärvi.

– Everything works in the countryside! The cost structure as a whole is lower than in southern Finland. The connections work, even for transportation. Most importantly, the forests are also up here so it was a good idea to bring paper production here, entrepreneur Maija Kuronen sums up.

Nordpap was founded in Vantaa in 1991. In 2017, the machines and equipment for the processing of tissue paper were packed in three trucks, and Nordpap’s operations travelled to Polvijärvi with Maija and Jesse Kuronen.

Finland’s largest

Nordpap Oy refines tissue paper. The raw material is delivered to the factory every two weeks in 1,000 kg rolls. One of the biggest suppliers of raw materials is the Metsä Group. In Polvijärvi, the raw material is further processed into a wide range of paper products: paper used in hospitals, treatment table papers, toilet papers and kitchen towels, industrial towels, hand towels, and other roll and sheet products.

– Our customers are wholesalers. For example, large hospital wholesalers in Finland buy our products. If you go anywhere in Finland for vaccination or for a blood sample, then the injection site is wiped clean with a cellulose wool pad from Polvijärvi, Maija Kuronen says.

Nordpap is known in its field for its quality, delivery reliability and smooth service. In addition to Nordpap, four subcontractors also work in production.

– Two of the subcontractors work for us on a full-time basis, the rest depending on the situation. The order backlog for tissue papers varies from month to month, Jesse Kuronen says.

Last year, Nordpap’s turnover was approximately 495,000 euros. The company is the largest in its field in Finland.

Questions will be answered

Prior to finalising the acquisition of Nordpap’s business, the couple went through a wide range of options. When they were searching for a family company that could be developed, they studied Business Joensuu’s Business Exchange carefully.

– We began to make active inquiries. Joensuu’s business development company gave us good information and experts were available to assist with all matters. When we found Nordpap, we received legal advice on the change of ownership and generally good advice, starting from the content of the deed of sale. There was no need to engage a law firm separately.

Another major help right from the start was the financial advice we received.

– After all, we did not realise at the beginning that there were many options for financing. They have really supported us with these issues, Maija Kuronen says.

Nordpap most recently needed financial advice last summer when the company moved to larger premises in Polvijärvi. At the same time, a new sheeting line was acquired for production.

“Juha gave his all”

The couple’s praise for rural business services has a unique background as Juha Saastamoinen, a business expert from Business Joensuu, switched from office work to a paper job.

– Yes – Juha Saastamoinen worked with us as an apprentice! For a week he took part in real production work here. Juha really gave us his all, the couple say with a smile.

Jesse Kuronen describes their week together as particularly productive. After all, a friendship was formed.

– Working together was straightforward. It is such a different situation to talk through things as you are working together, side by side. There was no need to sit stiffly in a meeting room and force yourself to think of questions.

When it comes to finding employees, Nordpap has also utilised Business Joensuu’s master craftsman and journeyman service.

University of Corona

The beginning of 2020 shook Polvijärvi as well. First, uncertainty was created by the paper factories strike. Domestic pulp supplies were at risk, and Nordpap’s business was at the bottom of a long production ecosystem.

– Then the coronavirus pandemic hit. For us it meant, among other things, that our deliveries of massage table papers came to a standstill. The change was so fast that customers cancelled orders at the last minute when the truck was already leaving to make the deliveries. For a moment it looked really bad, the entrepreneurs say as they describe the serious situation.

At that point, the couple were again in contact with Business Joensuu. As they were hatching their rescue plan, the phones were ringing hot on both sides.

– We relied on Business Joensuu’s expertise and received more advice on how to proceed. We were also able to join Business Finland’s international network. We found alternative suppliers for raw materials and we even found new hospital sector customers.

Nordpap’s products are currently exported to Sweden and Norway, and soon to Estonia as well. The entrepreneurs’ minds are buzzing with the possibilities of growth through internationalisation. Business Joensuu also offers coaching for that.

– A few entrepreneurial colleagues have been involved in growth coaching and have praised it very much. It is undoubtedly a good idea for entrepreneurs to get out of their bubble and challenge themselves. We are now waiting for the corona pandemic to pass so we can join in-class learning. Using Teams is not our preferred way, says Maija Kuronen.

Minimising waste

The circular economy and minimising waste are a strong part of Nordpap’s ethos. There is a lot of expertise in these areas, especially in North Karelia and also under Business Joensuu’s wings.

– We work well with Valio and Tetra Pak by using their hygienic boxes as paper transport packaging. We give the boxes a second life and thus shrink their carbon footprint. We have received thanks from our customers as well.

The entrepreneurs also have other ideas that promote the circular economy. They are seeking out solutions for the utilisation of waste paper that is generated in production. For that, they already have an innovation voucher in their pocket.

 

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