Jasmiina Kolehmainen is a 25-year-old wood technology student living in Lahti, Finland, with her two-year-old son. She is also an entrepreneur and designer, and the founder of the Puine web shop. Puine, a wordplay on the Finnish word for ‘wooden’, makes interior design and decorative products and other household items from Finnish wood – from Koskisen’s thin birch plywood, to be exact.
Jasmiina’s career choice as an entrepreneur and maker and designer of different interior design products was not exactly typical for a wood technology student. Wood technology students at universities of applied sciences often become product developers, supervisors or production managers at, for example, plywood mills. In fact, Jasmiina became an entrepreneur somewhat by accident.
“I have always loved doing things myself. Our home, for example, includes several pieces of furniture that I made myself, such as a bed and shelves. Although I never dreamt of becoming an entrepreneur, it was not a big leap for me. Now it seems like it was a very natural career choice,” Jasmiina says.
Most of the products sold by Puine stemmed from Jasmiina’s own needs. Even before she set up the business, she often received enquiries for similar products that she had made for her home.
“One of the first products I designed was a wooden height chart for children. I had been looking for one for ages, but they were all too colourful and childish. So I decided to design one that would please my eye and be simple yet elegant,” Jasmiina explains
A money box for children was born much the same way. Jasmiina designed one for her godchild when she could not find a suitable one in a shop. Jasmiina’s money box is made of Finnish birch, and it is simple, plain and ecological. Today the money box is very popular and in high demand – the godchild and their parents also loved it at the first sight.
Wood in its different forms has always been an important material for Jasmiina. Birch in particular pleases her, since it is a warm enough, yet neutral and colourless material that goes well with everything. The material’s naturalness and uniqueness are also important to Jasmiina.
“I have never had to abandon a single prototype made of wood, because it always looks good and is so versatile. I also love the smell – it is wonderful to come to the studio and be greeted by the smell of wood,” Jasmiina says, describing her attachment to wood and birch
Jasmiina got to know Koskisen during her studies, when she visited the mills together with the other students. Jasmiina also ended up ordering thin-veneer plywood from Koskisen, as she was familiar with the company and appreciates the fact that the raw material comes from nearby.
“It is important for me that the material for my products, as well as my clothing and cleaning products, come from Finland. Koskisen is a reliable Finnish supplier whose products are manufactured nearby, and I have never had quality problems with them. So why should I replace a good product with another?” Jasmiina says.
Jasmiina’s business was kicked off through the JA Start Up programme, which involves setting up a JA mini-company on the basis of an idea or innovation and testing the concept with real customers. The programme was part of Jasmiina’s studies at the Lahti University of Applied Sciences. Initially she pursued the project by herself, but since the programme encourages the involvement of other people, she asked business and administration student Ida-Emilia Laukkanen and media technology student Kärt Ehastu to join her. And Puine JA was born.
“From the get-go, we had a clear division of roles: Kärt was responsible for the web shop and visual image, and Ida-Emilia for finance, and I was in charge of product design and implementation. A JA Start Up is run like a real company, but without all the paperwork. A JA company is also entitled to earn EUR 10,000 without having to pay VAT.”
The JA company proved a success, as the EUR 10,000 limit was exceeded in just two months. At this point, Jasmiina had to contemplate whether she had the courage to continue the business as a real company.
“I thought about it a bit, but I had nothing to lose and I had the great support of my family and husband. I like designing and making products, and the only bigger investment required was the raw materials,” Jasmiina says.
At that point, Ida-Emilia and Kärt stepped aside, due to other commitments, and Jasmiina pursued the Puine business on her own. Puine was launched as a proper company in February, and ‘JA’ was dropped from the name.
All in all, Jasmiina’s shift to being a full-time entrepreneur has gone well, and the products have been well received by customers.
“The number of Finnish-made, wooden interior design products in Finland is surprisingly low. I look for influences from the UK and US a lot, but most of my products are still based on my own or my customers’ needs,” Jasmiina notes
Jasmiina’s current product line includes small interior design products, wall clocks, accessories, seasonal decorative items and toys. Bigger items, such as a doll house, are in the pipeline. For the time being, furniture is not included in Puine’s future plans, although Jasmiina has made pieces for her home. She also makes business cards from thin-veneer plywood on order.
“Until now, I have been making all my products at the school roughly three days a week. Now things will get easier, since I bought myself a laser-cutting device,” says Jasmiina
Jasmiina does not want to think too much about the future, since her path to becoming an entrepreneur has been a fast one. She intends to keep the Puine business running at least as long as there is demand and she enjoys it. Although Jasmiina likes to live in the moment, she does offer a hint about her future: she will be receiving an engineering degree in wood technology, at the latest by Christmas. She is also planning a joint product line with the Somiana web shop in Oulu as one of the designers, and in April she will compete for the title of best Finnish JA company as a representative of the Lahti University of Applied Sciences.
You can buy Puine products from the company’s web shop at puine.fi.