The young entrepreneurs Patrik Pyöriä, Ida Salo, Helmi Nurkkala and Otto Korhonen are producing fresh blueberry soda.
Bottling the magic of Finland's forests
What happens when four Finnish secondary school pupils, who have never met each other before, decide to set up a business together? Success is what happens – and as a bonus you get a close-knit entrepreneurial foursome, plenty of enthusiasm and a brand new blueberry soft drink jam packed with natural goodness.
“We fought loads at first but that was because we were so stressed out. Now we can diss each other in a friendly way without hurting each other’s feelings. If there are any problems, we make sure we resolve them there and then,” I’m Blue NY founders and Etelä-Tapiola secondary school students Ida Salo, Patrik Pyöriä, Helmi Nurkkala and Otto Korhonen, explain.
In 2016, I’m Blue entered the Finnish Young Entrepreneurs’ Uskalla Yrittää competition, winning first prize in the secondary school and best product categories. In July, Ida, Patrik, Helmi and Otto are due to represent Finland at the European Championships in Switzerland.
“The competition and our business are two completely separate things. We would have continued to develop our business idea even without the competition win but the result did spur us on and it also gave us a lot of confidence and opened up new opportunities. It mattered to have other people telling us we were on to a good thing.”
The team will continue to run their business after the European Championships are over, and all four say they are committed to the project.
“Time will tell whether we can make a living out of this,” Otto says.
“It won’t be the end of the world if we don’t win the next competition but of course we’re in it to win it. The competition will be a great opportunity for us to make new contacts. And more than anything we want to put Finland and Espoo on the world map!” Ida says.
Blue, but happy
Their runaway success has kept the I’m Blue team busy. But despite the countless hours the foursome have put in, they still say they enjoy turning up for work. And it never quite feels like work when you’re with your mates anyway. All of them are enjoying it more now that term is over and the summer holiday has started.
“At the moment we’re feeling blue but happy,” Ida says with a twinkle in her eye.
“We haven’t seen much of our other friends, though,” Patrik points out.
In the past few months, the team have talked to Finnish upper secondary schools head teachers about their business, secured sponsors and put the finishing touches to their brand visuals. On hand to help them with design is Joosua Kuusela from Zoosua Design, a fellow upper secondary school student.
“A limited company is being set up as we speak. We also plan to expand our product range but for now we are focused on getting our first product off the ground. We are about to enter large-scale production soon and our aim is to have our product available throughout Finland and beyond. In China, for example, people really appreciate how clean Finnish products are.”
The young business whizzes have already visited Estonia, Latvia and Sweden to promote their blueberry drink and their teachers have helped to distribute it even further.
The I’m Blue blueberry drink is made with 20% blueberries and contains no artificial ingredients. Healthy and natural are important concepts for the young entrepreneurs.
“Imagine yourself in a forest on a gorgeous summer day, surrounded by wild blueberries. That is what we want to bottle and make available to everyone,” Ida explains.
“What we wanted to do first of all was to come up with a completely new product idea and we spoke to a lot of restaurants to get there. This is a totally different and unique product that reflects the healthy eating trend. The restaurants we contacted wanted a soft drink that wouldn’t be too sweet.”
Ingredients for the perfect pitch
The team have received coaching on their public speaking and sales skills but have found real life experience to be by far the most useful thing. According to Ida, a good sales pitch is made up of three things:
“First of all, you need to set the scene. Then you hit them with the facts. Finally, you mention your product two or three times.”
“Timing is important too, and you need to respect your audience,” Helmi adds.
The past few months have been a steep learning curve for Ida, Helmi, Otto and Patrik, particularly when it comes to team working and marketing.
“We’ve learned so much about branding, how to sell products and what our customers want. So far, we’ve not had a chance to focus too closely on marketing and there’s not been much need for that either. Once we start large-scale production, we will have more time for that side of things too.”
Passion for business
“Team Blue” are keen to encourage other young people to enter business. Their families have been very supportive, with the exception of Ida’s parents, who were initially against the idea.
“But once they saw how enthusiastic we were and how important this was for us, they changed their tune.”
Now the parents are encouraging the foursome to take a gap year to allow them to concentrate on the business.
“I definitely have a passion for business. It’s rewarding because you get to see your own input and impact straight away,” Otto explains.
Although all four agree they could make it on their own, they still enjoy having others around to share the responsibility. Overall, it has been a positive experience for everyone.
“So far, all I’ve missed out on is a bit of sleep and some lesson time. But our studies haven’t really suffered. The head and our teachers have been super supportive. And we have definitely needed that support!”
Read more: www.imblue.fi
JA Finland’s (Junior Achievement Finland) goal is to advance entrepreneurial attitude and an active lifestyle among Finnish 7- to 25-year-olds by increasing their knowledge of entrepreneurship, providing entrepreneurial experiences, enhancing readiness for working life and financial management skills. JA receives most of its funds from foundations’ and companies’ support and from the European Social Fund coordinated by Finnish National Board of Education.
JA Company Program is aimed at ninth-graders and students in upper secondary education, namely high schools and vocational colleges. The program is carried out as a part of the institution’s own curriculum. Students in this program will found a JA student company functioning with real funds for one academic year. At the end of the academic year, the best JA Company is chosen in the national Uskalla Yrittää finals, held this year in Helsinki 12.–13.4.2016.