I am Tiina Muhonen, an entrepreneur together with my husband Perttu. We have a farm called Luomutila Muhonen in Savonlinna, Southern Savonia, more specifically in Kerimäki. Our farm has a suckler cow herd, about 100 ewes and five bulls and more than 100 calves. We also have about 200 hectares of farmland as well as a bakery where we only bake organic rye bread made from our own starter dough.
We became entrepreneurs amid a traditional generational change. Our farm used to be Perttu’s childhood home and farm, which we took over to continue. It has been clear to him from a young age that at some point we would take over the family farm. So, in that sense entrepreneurship did not come as a surprise at all for either of us. I started dating Perttu when I was 19 and it was obvious that at some point I would have to be the other owner of the farm. However, the path felt natural for me as my own mother was an entrepreneur and I have lived my childhood in an entrepreneurial family.
I officially started my entrepreneurial journey by setting up my own business name in 2001. That was when I started baking bread as a subcontractor for my mother-in-law. At the same time, the old village school in Makkola came for sale near the farm and we decided to buy it with Perttu. I renovated a small bakery inside the school and continued to bake our bread from there.
Our product, the organic rye bread, has a rich windling story behind it. The unique recipe of the bread has passed through our long family tree – I got the recipe from my mother-in-law and she from her own mother-in-law.
People started to find our bread in 2005. In 2007 we built a new wing for the village school, which included a proper bakery with all the modern equipment. The demand for our bread has been growing steadily, as there are not a lot of bakeries that make this sort of real rye root bread. That’s why the bread has been so easy to sell. In a sense, it has really sold itself.
Because of the demand, we’ve never had to market our bread really. It all really started with Perttu’s dad taking the bread to a nearby Prisma as he was on his way to buy a packet of butter from there. At the same trip he bumped into the manager of the store. A few salesy words (and maybe a small taste) later the manager of the store put the bread for sale. Savonlinna’s Prisma was the first store we got our bread in.
After that, the shop managers around Savolinna started calling us that customers were asking why they can’t get bread in their stores. Today, we deliver bread from Tuesday to Saturday to shops in the Savonlinna area, and during the rest of the week, we drive around Lake Saimaa to take the bread to stores.
Our product, the organic rye bread, has a rich windling story behind it. The unique recipe of the bread has passed through our long family tree – I got the recipe from my mother-in-law and she from her own mother-in-law. I don’t even know exactly how old it is, but old. When my cousin was born in the 1940s, there were 11 children in his family. They ate a lot of bread. Sometimes, their grandma made too much bread and sold it to the ladies in town. In addition, the previous generation of our family began the commercial sales of our bread as early as the 1990s, but only during our time has it expanded to its current scale.
The most rewarding thing in entrepreneurship has been to see the imprint of one’s own hand, both in making bread and in growing one’s own business.
The most challenging thing in entrepreneurship has been everything related to technology, the computer and I are not meant to be friends. In addition, on the accounting and financial management side, we have needed professional help from the beginning. But that help is something we recommend to all entrepreneurs. It is worth finding out in advance about all the legislative responsibilities and other papers. Figure out what you need to do as an entrepreneur so that there will be no nasty surprises from the tax officials.
On the farming side, the most challenging is how everything is depending on the weather. If, for example, it rains by pouring for many weeks in the threshing time, we won’t have enough of rye to bake our bread. But that’s what farming is.
The most rewarding thing in entrepreneurship has been to see the imprint of one’s own hand, both in making bread and in growing one’s own business. We already have paid staff. We are constantly trying to develop the company in a way that makes it easy for our children to continue this – and at the same time come up with new stuff around the farm, such as direct sales of meat products or adventure travel. It is also great to see when employees feel comfortable and are happy at work.
When we started and applied for a loan. we heard comments from a few banks that “you are not going to earn a living with bread”.
When we started and applied for a loan for the company, we heard comments from a few banks that “you are not going to earn a living with bread”. Banks were quite skeptical about our idea. However, the head of one bank trusted us 100 percent and said the idea sounded good and competent. He granted us a loan and did not require any external guarantees. He also gave good advice and guidance.
I think that getting started requires a few people who believe in the idea and are behind it, but the most important thing is your own will. It can get you through even grey stone.