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Entrepreneurs of the Year named in Lahti

HT Laser Oy from Central Finland, Merima Oy from Helsinki, Rukakeskus Oy from northwest Finland and Tapojärvi Oy from Lapland received the National Entrepreneur Award.

Suomen Yrittäjät and Fennia presented the awards at the main annual Suomen Yrittäjät national Entrepreneur Days in Lahti on Saturday night. The master of ceremonies was Arto Nyberg and the prizes were distributed by Antti Kuljukka. The keynote speaker was Prime Minister Antti Rinne.

From a few employees to a multi-sectoral operator

HT Laser, founded in the 1980s, performs cuts, welding and 3D metal printing for the metal industry. The Keuruu-based company is a pioneer in industrial laser and water cutting and one of the leading operators in its field in Finland.

The company began when Keuruu decided to invest in laser cutting. The beginning was difficult, as the recession hit soon after, but the company survived.

After the recession, HT Laser grew steadily from a company with a few employees to a multi-sectoral operator. The company now has eight units across Finland and around 400 employees. It is profitable and has a turnover of €65 million.

“Our golden rule is that we offer high-quality products flexibly and with the newest technology. In other words, clients get their pizzas warm,” says company founder Hannu Teiskonen.

New technology generates new opportunities to reduce the burden on the environment.

“Our employees play a significant role in coming up with new ideas. Quite often it’s when the work is being done that we realize how to do something or run some process better,” Teiskonen says.

Price and schedule must always reflect competence

Merima is a highly specialized family company in the shipbuilding sector that does world-class work in the interiors of cruise ships. It does about 20% of its work for the shipping industry itself and commissions the rest from subcontractors. It has 120 employees but at times its projects can employ 600–700 people.

The company has a turnover of €55 million.

The founder, Mauri Mäkiranta, says that even though the company has been active in the sector for 32 years, it has to demonstrate its competence constantly, both in its pricing and in its schedules. 

The next generation, represented by Mikko Mäkiranta and his sister, Minna Mäkiranta-Blyth, is taking over the operational responsibility. Mauri Mäkiranta will continue as chairman of the board. The siblings intend to scale up operations.

“We’ve successfully completed over 600 projects and my favourite moment is when a ship is completed. During my time in the business there have been 150 of those favourite moments,” Mauri Mäkiranta says.

“Shipbuilders in the new era need to be efficient and innovative. We are proud of the work our family company has done,” Minna Mäkiranta-Blyth says.

Downhill skiing and medical services

Rukakeskus, the anchor company at the ski resorts on the fells of Ruka and Pyhä, cooperates closely with a broad range of entrepreneurs. The Kuusamo-based company focuses strongly on responsibility and looks for sustainable solutions.

When doctor and father Juhani Aho bought the Ruka ski centre in the 1970s, no one in the family had ever skied. Alongside developing the Ruka and Pyhä ski centres, Aho opened a private clinic, which is now known as Aava Terveyspalvelut (“Aava health services”). In 1998, ownership of the companies passed to Juhani and Eila Aho’s five children. Now the third generation is entering the business.

The company has around 170 employees and a turnover of €27.5 million.

The core of the business is selling chairlift tickets and increasing the number of ski days. The past three winters have been record ones on both fells, and operations are expanding.

An environmental programme was launched at Ruka in 2008, and by 2018 the ski centre was carbon-neutral. The new, broader, responsibility programme includes the company’s social and financial responsibilities.

Industrial circular economy in Lapland

Tapojärvi Oy is a courageous pioneer in the industrial circular economy. The company serves factories and mills, thus reducing the burden on the climate and saving natural virgin materials.

Esko Tapojärvi’s business operations began 64 years ago when he drove a taxi and transported groceries in Lapland. Esko began mining contracting in the early 1970s at the Rautavaara mine in Kolari.

Ownership was transferred to the next generation in the early 1990s, when Esko’s sons Markku and Pertti Tapojärvi expanded operations to factory services and material processing.

“At the moment we are investing in the circular economy in particular and working very closely with the steel industry and mines. We take responsibility for the environment, employees, safety and local residents,” says acting CEO Mari Pilventö, who is Esko Tapojärvi’s granddaughter.

The company has expanded from Lapland to the world. It has around 500 employees. In the 2017–18 financial year the company had a turnover of €115.7 million. The company has eight locations in Finland, one in Sweden and one in Italy.

 

Editorial staff