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Good service, wider market

Kesport Ilomantsin Heli Kortelainen näyttää asiakkaalle sopivaa takkia | Business Joensuu, yrityspalvelut

"Positively forward", reminds Kesport Ilomantsi's trader Heli Kortelainen when preparing the displays at the store for the upcoming skiing season. At the end of September, the company celebrated double birthdays. It was 65 years since Heli’s grandma Mirja Kortelainen founded the sports and fishing store Ilomantsin Urheilu ja Kalastusliike. It had also been 50 years since the Kortelainens signed the Kesport franchise agreement. 

A couple of years after the company was founded, Unto Kortelainen, Mirja Kortelainen’s spouse, also changed his position in the forestry sector to one behind the shop’s desk. Ilomantsi and its 14,000 inhabitants flourished.

In the mid-1960s, Mirja and Unto's son Pertti and his wife Ritva Kortelainen joined as partners. When Finland's first Kesport franchise agreements were signed in 1973, Kortelainen was among the first ones to sign. A couple of years earlier, Pertti and Ritva had had a daughter, Heli.

- I was born to be a saleswoman. For as long as I remember, I have been hanging out in the shop with my grandparents and parents, Heli Kortelainen says.
After upper secondary school, Heli Kortelainen went to study the field at the Joensuu School of Economics. After graduating from the commercial school in 1989, she started applying what she had learned in the family company.

Thanks to the K Institute 

Heli Kortelainen says that she received the best lessons from her parents and grandparents. She also praises the education she got from the K Institute. Valuable lessons were offered there, from interior decoration to sales training.  

-  Accounting, acquisition skills and the cross-cutting ability to be present in customer service. 

When Kortelainen participated in K Institute training in 2003, each participant had to summarise a slogan to describe their own attitude as a salesperson. The saleswoman from Ilomantsi found her idea from the promoter of positive thinking, Norman Vincent Peale: “The absolute prerequisite for a successful life is to get yourself repeatedly and deeply excited and to follow the principles of positivity," says the American clergyman and writer Peale.

-  The idea describes my own work and attitude - what I have sought in my life both at work and in my free time.

From partner to entrepreneur

Heli Kortelainen became a partner to her parent's business in 1995. In 2007, she became the CEO of the company. The path was taking her towards a change of generation which was finalised in 2010. In addition the entrepreneur, Kesport in Ilomantsi has two employees. In the busiest times, more sales force is needed. Sales intensify in June-August. December is also high season. Heli Kortelainen has received good help from Business Joensuu in recruitments. 

Customer needs first

The company has operated in its current premises of about 1,200 square metres since 1975. At best, more than 30 people worked at the shopping centre. In addition to renovations and reforms in the premises, many things have changed over the decades. Long gone are the times when it was possible to buy small machinery and hardware store products, painting supplies and weapons with ammunition from the Kortelainen store.  

The selection has been continuously developed to meet customer needs. Ilomantsi is the easternmost municipality of Finland and the continental EU. The distance to the nearest city, Joensuu, is 70 kilometres. Fortunately, many specialised shop products can also be found here in the village. Kesport in Ilomantsi is a cornucopia! The selection includes hiking equipment, sports textiles, footwear, accessories, sports equipment, small equipment, and fishing gear. Ilomantsi continues to be a popular ski destination, reminds the saleswoman who knows her customers well.

- Regular customers from Ilomantsi are active, fit pensioners with many hobbies. In addition to local residents, a significant number of customers come from other parts of the region – Uimaharju, Eno, Kovero, Tuupovaara, Heinävaara, Kiihtelysvaara, Kontiolahti and Joensuu are important directions for us.  

Expanding market

Kortelainen invests in good and personal service. And when you get used to good service, online shopping becomes a secondary option when Ilomantsi's Kesport offers personal service, for example tips for waxing your skis. 

The Ilomantsi Bear Festival is an event that brings new visitors to the city. It showcases local delights that make it worth travelling there even from further away. And what is this eastern shop's relationship with Russian customers?

-  Of course, Russian customers have brought us additional sales, but their customership has not played a very big role. Some Finnish and Russian dual citizens live in Ilomantsi. We can offer them service in Russian.

Active contact

Heli Kortelainen is a busy and hard-working shopkeeper. When needed, she also finds time for developing her competence and the company. Business Joensuu has proven to be a helpful partner for Kortelainen.

-  I was in Virtaa coaching last year, and I really liked it. As I said earlier, I have also received good help from Business Joensuu in recruitments. Meetings that are shorter than a few hours are the most compatible with daytime work in different types of training and coaching. It is important to be able to sometimes get together with different groups. Of course, online training is also a good option.

”I was born to be a trader”


Text: Sirkka-Liisa Aaltonen/Viestintä Ässä Oy
Photo: Jarno Artika