“Goddamn! I throw these sales bags out the car window, no one buys these!” I burst at my mother Soili. In the end, I found out to myself that I would look for another year and then patch the door if it didn’t work out.
My grandparents Heino and Hilma Siltala were entrepreneurs and my parents Soili and Juho Keski-Vähälä continued the entrepreneurial tradition, teaching diligence and courage. I have always been interested in the commercial field, blood draw. I have a degree in economics, graduated from the Oulainen Institute. I founded Black Moda Oy in 1996 and the 25th anniversary year is underway. The career has been done in my own company.
The recession years were challenging for our family; became bankrupt, restarted again from basics. I calculated that over the next week I would have to sell a certain amount and get the money into the bank account in order for the salaries to be paid. When the order came, I rushed to pack, then to make an invoice – in a few days I ask the merchant if I could already get the invoice. Fortunately, Ylivieskan Osuuspankki (now Keski-Pohjanmaan Osuuspankki) supported my company. Strict financial discipline was learned from the recession years.
I was on a sales trip again when I thought we have a good production but we would need a brand. In Muurame, near Jyväskylä, I noticed a big logo on the roof of the Muurla glass store: RISTOMATTI RATIA. I stopped the car by the roadside and called Ratia: “Will we start making Ristomatti Ratia textiles?” Ristomatti asked to visit. It was 1997. From this contact, the business started to grow.
I went through the different stages of the company and I am still happy to get to know the different stages and tasks, as it helps to understand the whole picture. A family business has great potential. It’s great that both of my sisters are also excited about an entrepreneurial career. My sister Riikka Oliveira takes care of production in Portugal, where she works as an entrepreneur and CEO of Black Moda Portugal, Lda, which is a separate company. My sister Laura Silva leads the Aarrelabel brand and is involved as an entrepreneur in Pumpkin Design Oy. Laura is responsible for the design and visual side of our business.
Currently, my work days are filled with conversations with clients. I try to be as accessible as possible to the Pirkkala staff. A lot of investments have been made in our company in recent years, and related issues are constantly coming to the fore. Between siblings, we have a daily dialogue about the company’s challenges. Problems often challenge and causes forehead to wrinkle, but solving them provides experiences and motivation for success. Internal fire takes you forward.
The structure of marekt has changed a lot. Responsibility is a big theme. In the early days of my career, responsibility and ethics were not discussed in the same way. I consider this development to be a good thing. The world is changing faster and faster and digitalizing. Brick-and-mortar stores have decreased and the number of retail chains has shrunk. Traditional commerce has undergone tremendous change with e-commerce and social media. Consumers have more power to choose for themselves what they get, where they get it more easily and at the best price.
“We will never have Facebook, NEVER.” Laura had just asked me what if we could build page for Black Moda in Facebook. Now we have two consumer online stores at puuvillatehdas.fi and aarrelabel.com and a wholesale online store for retailers, Facebook and Instagram are also in use. You should always be open to new opportunities, and even if you make the wrong decision first, it can be changed. Never ready.
… Or when you imagine that now things are proceeding smoothly, a coronavirus pandemic broke out. The corona year first triggered the recession year mode in me. No one could know how things would develop and how bad the situation would escalate. For a moment everything was quiet, phone didn’t ring andemails didn’t came. Then began the awakening of online shopping. The online stores as a significant distribution channel was already expected, but corona accelerated the change. The coronavirus year has also challenged production, as the price of raw materials has risen significantly. Like many others, I dream of the most normal everyday life and vacation with family after a hard year.
Our strengths are family entrepreneurship, transformative production, idea-rich and professional staff. Maintaining a climate of conversation and a quick response would not be possible without our dedicated staff.
Many thanks to retailers, production customers and consumer customers! We do our best to ensure that we are trustworthy and that our products meet your expectations. It is great to see how the Finnish textile industry is interested.
New Finnish brands and new work for the textile industry have gratifyingly emerged. For a new entrepreneur, I would say that entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a quick sprint. Don’t burn yourself out right away on the first straight. Focus on the essentials, trim the irrelevants right away. Take care of yourself and keep your education up to date. Try to make every decision as far-sighted as possible. Mistakes always come and take action when you find things are going in the wrong direction or you find you have made the wrong decision. Treat suppliers well and take care of their invoices, as they have to pay their own company salaries and other expenses. A well-functioning dialogue between the various parties is essential for business to have a good foundation. The textile industry is wide and diverse, and it would be good to find an expert for different fields and not to do everything yourself. Trust yourself and your own vision.
I thank 25 years of everyone we have met in Black Moda.
Much has been experienced and much will be experienced.
Marko, CEO, entrepreneur