”We believe in being responsible and ecological, working together for a better and a more beautiful future one pillow at a time,” tell Veera Ylikotila and Jenni Hakkarainen, founders of Xeraliving.
Their story began in the autumn of 2019, when these two entrepreneurs met at Habitare Fair. From there on, they realized that there was a spark that led to the creation of an entirely new brand and a new way to produce textiles that are created sustainably and transparently.
“Each of our product has what we call a responsibility map that shows the product’s journey from the design table to the end product; from raw material production to final production, storage and post-operation to final disposal. We are part of creating the décor of tomorrow. “
First Steps of Internationalization in Lithuania
“Bringing a new brand to the (international) markets has required a lot of faith in what we are doing, and courage to take big steps,” Ylikotila recalls.
The founders already had a lot of experience and good networks in Finland through their previous companies of Vera-Vera and 2 x ilo. However, they searched for support in growing their operations into an international scale: outsourcing, growing international networks and finding suitable partners. Covid-19 brought its own addition.
The first steps were taken in Lithuania, where they initially began searching for factories and partners based on the information received from the Finnish embassy. However, a local contact provided information about Enterprise Europe Network and soon Hanna Riski, Senior Advisor from EEN Finland, contacted the company.
Help for Internationalization Was Just Around the Corner
“We were relieved to hear that there is a network that can help us in finding the contacts we needed free-of-charge, all this we had tried to do ourselves,” Ylikotila recalls.
With the help of EEN, they have found numerous partners by participating in for example a virtual matchmaking event. “The event gave us a good start in finding international contacts. We found a few precious contacts that would have taken much longer to find without EEN,” adds Hakkarainen.
Ylikotila continues: “We began cooperation with five partners (from Sweden, Portugal, the Netherlands, Slovakia, the Czech Republic). Some remained on a trial basis, but with a few we made it to the actual production.”
“It is great that we’ve been able to help Xeraliving in their international partner search. EEN was able to quickly transform its matchmaking events into virtual format and this has enabled networking between companies, despite a year of Covid-19. Actually, we have noticed that our virtual events have attracted participants at a lower threshold than before when travel is not required,” says Hanna Riski from EEN.
The company has also been granted Tempo funding through Business Finland, which the entrepreneurs consider as a great additional support.
”Don´t Worry”: Cultural Differences are Both a Challenge and an Opportunity of Growth
Although some of the contacts have not yet led to anything concrete, it has been useful to get to know actors from different cultures and countries. Being exposed to different ways of working and understanding the differences makes working together smoother for all.
“Actually, there were some faux pas that we took with some contacts that did not lead to collaboration in the end, but it was a good reminder on how important it is to find suitable, right partners,” Ylikotila recalls.
Ylikotila continues: “In Portugal, on the other hand, we heard ‘don’t worry’ numerous times when schedules fell through and samples did not live up to expectations.”
“As two young women making our first order, we did not have the upper hand when negotiating with factories. However, this improved thanks to the support of an agent found via an EEN matchmaking event,” Hakkarainen adds.
Covid-19 has had an impact in many aspects of business, as for example factories are running slower while workers are sometimes at home caring for children and all physical events have been canceled. What has carried them through is faith in what they are doing.
”Have the Courage to Do Your Thing and Learn from Others”
With these words offers Ylikotila support for those who are considering going international.
The entrepreneurs remind that one should always ask for help, not to think alone. “It’s useless to make the same mistakes again, but you shouldn’t be afraid of making mistakes, either. You can learn from everything!” Ylikotila says.
For a textile company, visual content is an important and visible part of every-day business. “For us, Instagram has been and will be an integral part in our internationalization process – we collaborate with international influencers and the content we produce is in English. It is also beneficial to utilize both paid Facebook advertising and Google advertising,” Hakkarainen tells.
Ylikotila continues: “Also, there is no need to be afraid of challenges ahead. Having the right attitude and mindset go a long way. Everything will work out in the end, as long as you keep faith!”
Hakkarainen agrees and adds:” Finding international contacts can be challenging at first, but with the services of EEN, we got our foot in the door.”
Read more: https://xeraliving.com/
Writer: Elina Satta