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Imake Look: It’s easier to specialize and stand out in Joensuu
Imake Look is a hair salon, barbershop and training studio established in 2020 and located on Teollisuuskatu in Joensuu. In addition to hair care services, they offer makeup services, permanent eyelash curling and brow lamination. The idea of a shared business had existed in the minds of entrepreneurs Senni Koskivirta and Sanna-Kaisa Hämäläinen for years, until they started to make their mutual dreams come true and participated in the Grow -growth coaching programme offered by Business Joensuu
Senni Koskivirta set out to study for a hairdresser’s degree right after graduating from comprehensive school, in what was then known as the North Karelia vocational school. She graduated in 2006, and starting a business of her own was not the immediately obvious choice:
– However, since practically most people in our line of work are entrepreneurs, I did end up renting a chair and establishing a business name right after graduating. I then had a hair salon set up at my home for ten years, until Sanna and I started our collaboration, says Koskivirta.
Located next to Valintakirppis in Joensuu, the lively and spacious Imake Look opened its doors in May 2021. The entrepreneurs shared a clear vision of how they wanted their business to look and the values on which they would build their business practices.
– In early 2020, we started working with Business Joensuu’s growth coaching, to think about our building blocks and a realistic schedule at the end of the coaching period. We also ended up learning more digital skills because of all the covid lockdowns that started in the middle of our coaching period. Despite that momentary standstill, we decided we wouldn’t put our plans on ice because of it, Koskivirta reminisces.
At the planning stage, the pandemic only strengthened the idea of providing ample space for both the customer and the worker. Cooperation with local businesses has been going on from the very beginning: Muodoste was recruited for interior decoration before the premises even existed, design company Vaganza was in charge of the graphic look, and the website was designed by Tovari.
There has been no shortage of customers, and Koskivirta’s own calendar is filling up with reservations for dyeing, bleaching and haircuts. What is the secret of their success?
– Being successful in this industry requires being able to accept your own shortcomings. You have to be able to accept that you’re never completely ready. If you strive for perfection, you’ll never reach the end. On the other hand, you need to be willing to improve your skills. In this line of work, you can keep on improving and reach a very high level of skill, says Koskivirta, who is currently in the process of studying for a specialist vocational qualification in hairdressing.
Indeed, the experienced entrepreneur encourages others in the business to see themselves as more than ”just a hairdresser”:
Once you appreciate your own work, others will also learn to appreciate what you do.
Imake Look also wants to make sure that the customer sees their visit as not just one service, but a holistic experience. Customers can close their eyes and relax on the massaging seat of the backwash unit as they are getting their hair washed. During their visit, they can enjoy a cup of coffee or tea of their choice. Koskivirta and her colleagues want the customer to feel like the staff always has time for them.
According to Koskivirta, Joensuu is a good location for an entrepreneur because the city is not too big. She is a born resident of Joensuu, and the only reason she has ever considered moving out is for education opportunities:
– The way I see it, a small town actually offers an opportunity to specialize and stand out, because there is so little competition. I also want to dispel the attitude of ’Helsinki centricity’. If you think that you can’t do something because you’re in the wrong location, then yeah, you probably can’t do it. But couldn’t you make your own thing happen exactly where you are, is how Koskivirta sums up her feelings on the matter.
At the moment, in addition to the two entrepreneurs, Imake Look has two workers renting chairs and two part-time employees. They also keep their doors open for trainees. The goal of the business is moderate growth, getting more use out of the training studio, and possibly expanding the range of services around their own repertoire. For those starting out on their own business careers, Koskivirta has some good pointers to offer:
– Get to know as many businesses in your own field as possible, both as a worker and as a customer. Working as a sole proprietor is fairly simple at its best, but if you start considering a larger business model, you’ll want to do a good amount of research. Asking for help from others is also an important factor. My wish is that not everyone has to go through every possible difficulty.
One does have to start somewhere, and above all else, Koskivirta encourages making your own expertise stand out. It’s a good idea to collect samples of your work in a portfolio and host it on a platform such as social media.
– There are so many ways to bring out your personality in this job, and there are opportunities for specializing in the industry. Think about what it is your customers want to pay you for specifically, Koskivirta advises.
Text: Hanne Hynynen
Photos: Ari Tauslahti
Translation: Teemu Reilin