I have always found entrepreneurship cool. I founded my first company in 2014 when I was sharpening our ice hockey teams’ skates. A lot of people enjoyed ice hockey, but the issue was that the skates could not be sharpened during our training hours. Naturally, everyone in the team had the same problem so I bought a sharpener and set up a business name.
In 2016, after finishing my bachelor’s degree, I was thinking of my next step. My biggest fear was to have to work in an office job, without any real work to do and having to stare at the clock to fill hours. In addition, I wanted my work to be meaningful – I would want to make the world a better place in some way. My special wish was that my company would make the world a better place by solving the environmental problem. That the bigger the company, the better for the environment.
I don’t think there is one idea of success. Every entrepreneur defines their own success.
Finnish nature produces tens of millions of kilos of roach fish every year. Even if that amount were fished during this year, it would be possible to fish again the same amount the next year. At the same time, fishing them helps prevent eutrophication and climate change. In other words, the more they are fished (up to tens of millions of kilos a year), the better for the environment. Here we have an environmentally friendly protein source and fishing it only makes the environment better. What else could I do with this information, but start something new around it.
In Autumn 2019, I launched the world’s first fish mince called SÄRVIN, to all S Group stores: almost a thousand stores. It was a success story and got a lot of positive feedback and publicity. We sold over 10,000 packets of Särvin each week. That made up for a huge impact ecologically but also showed up in revenue numbers.
But it is difficult to be a small entrepreneur in the food industry. Särkifood Oy usually had only one employee, me, the entrepreneur. I thought before that this is an optimal situation. Turns out it wasn’t.
Grocery chains treated me well, but big organizations are used to working with big organizations. On the other hand, as a small business owner, I outsourced all production. I had to constantly negotiate with both my customers and my own production which was mentally heavy to do alone.
Then our subcontractor responsible for the production, went bankrupt. Shockingly and very suddenly, our product had no manufacturer and production was suspended for more than six months. We brought back the product after that, but the momentum was gone among our customers. This then led to Särvin leaving the stores in April 2021.
All in all, I’m happy that I didn’t lose my values at any point in Särvin’s story. I’m a better person after this journey, that’s for sure.
I have now come to the conclusion that the loneliness and taking all the responsibility alone was too much for me. While I experienced freedom like no before, I also recognize now that having a team around you could make things easier. Also, changing the fish to something more familiar could’ve made a difference. Maybe I also should’ve looked for an investor at the point that things were going really well. All in all, I’m happy that I didn’t lose my values at any point in Särvin’s story. I’m a better person after this journey, that’s for sure.
I don’t think there is one idea of success. Every entrepreneur defines their own success. For some, it’s making a ton of money. For others, it’s creating a business that can support their and their families livelihood. For me, success came out of being capable of building something of my own and take it to market. It’s the most amazing feeling to see your business succeed and your product in the hands of customers.
I’m slowly starting to feel that I still have things to do.
With Särkifood, even though the business ultimately failed, I managed to limit my risks so that I’m okay. I don’t have debt and I don’t suffer from a burn-out. Failure feels bad though, almost worse than I thought. I could not have foreseen the magnitude of the mental strain and loss of self-esteem at the time. I’m still working on these feelings.
For the first month or so I was living in denial and I didn’t show any signs of disappointment or negativity. But inside I felt bad. Just bad. The healing started when I let myself feel those feelings and understood that t it is okay to have negative feelings after a failure. I promised myself not to make any quick decisions about my next venture before going through the emotions.
It has been electrifying (but also scary) to think about new ventures, ideas, jobs or life generally. I’m slowly starting to feel that I still have things to do. I’ve also lowered my bar in the sense that my next venture doesn’t have to tick all the boxes in the world. Maybe my next business could be a bit easier and less ambitious than Särkifood just to get back my self-esteem? And then the one after that would be the crazy ambitious one again: save the planet while making some money – and keeping a good work-life balance.
Learn more about Särkifood at sarkifood.fi.