Micro-enterprises are discovering export markets

They have discovered in Northern Ostrobothnia that even a micro-enterprise with less than 10 employees can start export activity. It does not matter where the company is located if they have courage and desire to take advantage of the opportunities that digitalization offers, to try out quick commercialization and product releases, and to network with other experts.

The joint Kasvualusta project of the Mirco-Entrepreneurship research group in the Kerttu Saalasti Institute of the University of Oulu, and the micro-enterprises in Northern Ostrobothnia, is looking to find new, experiment-based actions models for the growth, export and internationalization of micro-enterprises. The network already has 123 micro-enterprises, and the enthusiasm to join will soon reach all parts of Northern Finland.

Research manager in the Micro-Entrepreneurship research group, Matti Muhonen says that it is possible to break down obstacles in the growth and export of micro-enterprises. Enterprises can utilize, for example, each other’s knowhow, or they can implement quick product and service releases, or testing of ideas in for example fairs or worldwide network testing platforms. It is also worth using social media channels and cost-efficient global planning services such as Freelancer.com for branding a product. A new funding method is crowdfunding.

Vuolux Ltd, a company in Nivala, manufacture soapstone stoves for saunas and soapstone fireplaces as well as traditional sauna stoves and sauna benches. The company is officially a one-person company, but it also exports to Sweden and Germany. This was made possible by a growth strategy based on a network: Vuolux products are designed, manufactured and delivered in an agile company network, which can react quickly to changes in the markets.

There are currently over 340,000 micro-enterprises in Finland, that is, companies with less than 10 employees. They make up 95 per cent of all companies in the country. The share of micro-enterprises in the export of Finland in 2013 was only 3 per cent, when in the same year in Sweden it was 11 per cent. That means that micro-enterprises have a large export and employment potential.

There have been only a few studies into the special features and growth mechanisms of micro-enterprises in the Nordic countries, especially in sparsely inhabited areas. Research manager Matti Muhonen says that the obstacles for the growth of Finnish micro-enterprises, according to international comparisons, are caution and the typical engineer’s way of first manufacturing the product and only then thinking about commercializing it. There has also been too little courage in involving the paying client in the development work, and also in networking with other experts.

Kero Hirsitalot, a company in Kuusamo, recently made a five-year blanket agreement with the Swedish mining company LKAB. With the agreement, most of the company’s produce is now exported to Northern Sweden. Kero Hirsitalot have been sharing their experiences in the micro-enterprise network, and they encourage other companies in the network to try their wings in the major projects in the Arctic.

The micro-entrepreneurship research group is looking into the growth mechanisms of small companies in different cultures and operating environments, and they apply the latest research knowledge together with micro-entrepreneurs. Research knowledge, practical experiences, and interaction and idea generation of entrepreneurs come together in entrepreneur meetings, which are organized on different themes all over the region. Core groups of micro-entrepreneurs have proven especially functional and useful.

Kerttu Saalasti Institute is currently expanding the experiment-based growth and export experiment network started with micro-enterprises and the research, development and consumer operators in the enterprise interface to the regions of Oulunkaari and Koillismaa. Lapland and Northern Savonia will also be joining the network. At the same time, operations of the Kerttu Saalasti Institute have expanded to Northern Finland, which is why the name of the Institute was changed at the start of the year from Oulu Eteläinen Institute to Kerttu Saalasti Institute.

Meetings between entrepreneurs are a central way of operating for the Kasvualusta project of the Kerttu Saalasti Institute. Last December, CEO of Kero Hirsitalot Ltd. Jorma Mursu (left) was hosting entrepreneurs and people from companies developing the region at the company’s production facilities in the Kuusamo village of Kero. Similar meetings with growth and export experiment groups are organized in Northern Ostrobothnia five times every month.


Micro-entrepreneurship research

Last updated: 16.2.2017