Traditionally blind craftsmen have been self-employed throughout the times. There really aren’t employers in the craft sector for visually impaired craftsmen, which is unfortunate. Not that I really minded becoming an entrepreneur. For me, this career path was sort of a no-brainer. I’ve been entrepreneurial since a small kid, always trying and building new things with my hands.
I have been a craftsman for 30 or so years. I studied for four years in the 1980s at the Arla Institute and since 1988, I have been working under my own name; producing, designing and selling my own crafts. Currently, my work can be found under the Annansilmät brand. My handmade crafts include braided rattan work, beeswax candles and hand-tied brushes.
Over the last six months, I have focused almost exclusively on my new product, sour root bread baskets. Root baking requires the right kind of basket to make the dough rise in the right, optimal way. It’s a deal-breaker when you want to make really great sourdough bread. When bread making became somewhat of a trend during the pandemic, there was a huge demand for the baskets.
The pandemic has challenged me in a whole new way in my career.
The pandemic has challenged me in a whole new way in my career. Now, you might get a bit worried, but let me preface this story that after the initial gloom, I realized how to cope even in the most difficult conditions.
Before the pandemic, I met my customers in events and in real life. After the pandemic started, that obviously became impossible. Advertising and marketing is a threshold issue for any entrepreneur. I could make the world’s best bread baskets, but if I don’t market them, I won’t sell them. So I bought my very first computer and joined Facebook, and started to market my bread baskets there.
Today, I market everything online and send customers my products or they are picked up from my home. I reach a lot more people at once and can showcase my crafts to more people than ever before. It’s something I’m planning to continue even when the pandemic ends.
The most important thing I have learned is that there isn’t just one way of being an entrepreneur.
As an entrepreneur, it’s sometimes difficult to gather the self-confidence needed to do everything. The most important thing I have learned is that there isn’t just one way of being an entrepreneur. Obviously, I’m doing things very differently than someone in a bigger company when it comes to, for example, product marketing. But it’s a way that works for me and my needs, and I’m happy that I took the step to try it.
During the pandemic, I’ve had also the time to do some product design work as well as thinking about my life and choices.
The thing that I’ve realised is that the biggest reward of entrepreneurship is freedom: you are free to decide when you are working and you are free to design your own products. As an entrepreneur, you have the freedom to try and do as you please. Like, start to make your own sourdough bread baskets.
We need to value the people that are working hard while building something on their own.
The myth that all entrepreneurs are aiming to build wealthy big businesses and evade taxes or other payments is completely wrong. Most entrepreneurs in Finland, like myself, are self-sufficient and self-employed, small scale entrepreneurs. Smaller entrepreneurs usually work very long days to get a minimum livelihood.
I think this is why we need more entrepreneurial friendliness in Finland – we need to value the people that are working hard while building something on their own. Small one-person businesses are definitely needed in society. It’s the best, most adaptable way to meet the needs of consumers.
If I can hope for something from you – the reader – I hope that you can see the value in buying domestic products from local small entrepreneurs. Although the bigger stores might sell cheaper sourdough bread baskets, I take the ethics of my products and the principle of sustainable development seriously. You also get a better quality product if you buy directly from the maker – the difference is huge. Every strand on the breadbasket is put there by someone’s hands, with a reason. On top of being the most sustainable choice, buying directly from the craftsmen is also a huge help for the individual working hard behind the products.
During the pandemic, I created over 500 individual sourdough bread baskets. I hope my customers enjoy using them as much as I loved crafting them.
Follow Markku’s work and learn more about his products on Facebook.