A good scratch or a rub is always a great pleasure for any animal, from milking cows, beef bulls, camels, goats and polar bears all the way to bison. In five years, the mechanical cattle brush of FinnEasy Oy from Joensuu has become an international export item. When starting out, an important partner for the company was the business incubator, presently known as Business Joensuu's business accelerator.
The story of FinnEasy began in 2015 when the farmer and inventor Juha Kultanen made a brush for his Highland bull Kalle. The long-horned bull weighed something around 800–900 kilos. Being able to scratch its back and sides made Kalle’s everyday life much more stimulating and happy, while it was growing muscle high in iron and protein. This even kept the long, impressive coat clean.
Good news travelled fast; more demand for Kultanen’s innovation emerged on cattle farms. Juha Kultanen and his wife Heini Kultanen decided to explore how far the idea of a cattle brush could carry them.
The innovation the Kultanen couple had in their hands seemed promising, but many also considered it a risky business.
– The start was difficult. The cow business did not exactly appear as a mediasexy subject. We had to knock on many doors. Funding providers rejected our idea, Heini Kultanen says.
Persistent collection of information led the entrepreneurs to what was at the time known as Joensuu Science Park and to meet Business Coach Kari Pulkkinen.
– Kari is just great – strong business experience and a sharp mind! He played the key role when we started doing calculations, considering future visions and collecting a financing package for the company.
Therapy for entrepreneurs
The coaching with Kari Pulkkinen continued for couple of years. During that time, the Kultanens’ idea finally convinced the funding providers. Some investors even became interested in the company itself, but the entrepreneurs wanted to keep the operations under their own control.
– We have several patents – so far, the cattle brush is patented in five countries. Building a distribution network is not cheap either. Getting the initial funding package was absolutely crucial. We can honestly say that without the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment and Business Finland this undertaking would not exist.
Heini Kultanen also describes the close collaboration with the business incubator and Kari Pulkkinen as extremely important form of therapy.
– Matters were being updated time and again – it gave a feeling of relief, as if going to a therapist for entrepreneurs. It was highly important for both of us when, at first, we were pushing forward at full speed, just the two of us.
To international markets
The next wise choice was attending the Global Steps training provided by the North Karelia Chamber of Commerce. The entrepreneur couple went to learn about internationalisation together. In the development and coaching programme, the mentor selected for the Kultanen couple was Kari Hirvonen,who acted as the CEO of Piippo Oy at the time.
– Global Steps was a very important thing for us. We really had to think about all the matters related to internationalisation.
And FinnEasy did do the groundwork for internationalisation like a model student. About two years after its establishment, the company had exports to about a dozen countries. Today, they are exporting cattle brushes from Joensuu to 20 countries.
The farms are expanding in size, so there is simply not enough time to give a scratch to every animal on the farm. At the same time, increasing attention is being paid to the well-being of animals. Along with the well-being aspect, another issue that farms need to consider is how the stimulating effect provided by the cattle brush would affect production.
– For farmers, a cattle brush is an investment, and a productive investment pays itself back either in the form of increased milk production or faster growth of beef cattle. The customer – the farmer struggling with questions of productivity and efficiency – is at the core of our business idea.
Work and export income
FinnEasy has its own production facilities in Hammaslahti, Joensuu, where it has six full-time employees and one part-time employee. It has a total of 20 resellers, two of which operate in Finland.
In 2015, the company launched its operations from zero. Within four financial periods, the turnover has grown to around one million euros.
The most important marketing effort is the annual EuroTier trade fair in Hannover, Germany. Trade fairs have been the channel through which FinnEasy has built its international sales network.
In Hannover, the focus is on animal production, but there are also other potential areas of growth where FinnEasy can expand its operations. One potential customer segment are zoos. The zoo in Tallinn is the place where youcan find the happy polar bear that can scratch itself using a brush made in Joensuu – safely, inexpensively and without any electric or electronic gadgets.
” Cow business did not exactly appear as a mediasexy subject”