Is this it? A couple of years ago when Henna-Mari Luolamo posed herself this frustrated question, she was going through what she describes as some sort of a crisis. Working as a singing teacher and...
“From coffee men in the east to beer men,” headed Olutposti a Finninus magazine focusing on beer, when the owners of Unison Coffee, Tomi Sutinen and Miska Kämäräinen, and Tomi Piipponen, who joined the beer business, bought Joenbruu brewery. Now, instead of coffee men, we can fairly talk about growth men, as Unison Brewing Company, founded by the trio, bought the Panimo Honkavuori brewery in mid-February.
Coffee and beer - both trendy stimulants. Starting from producing hand roasted coffee, the business of Tomi Sutinen and Miska Kämäräinen have grown to be a nationwide success story in just over a few years. Unison Coffee's coffee machines have already conquered half of the Finnish market and their market share continues to grow. The growth is based on quality and good service. Entrepreneurs are rightly proud of their Rainforest Alliance certified coffee roastery.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, people moved to remote work; and fewer coffee cups were ordered from vending machines in companies' premises.
- We thought that people would like to have a beer on this dark time,” Tomi Sutinen says, smiling.
In reality, the entrepreneurs had already had a secret dream of brewery of their own. Tomi Sutinen, Miska Kämämääinen and Tomi Piipponen, who became the third shareholder of the brewery, made their first move to beer business in 2020. The men bought Joenbruu BC Oy, which later became to be the Unison Brewing Company.
- Incidentally, Jouko Piirainen, Business Specialist at Business Joensuu, was already involved in that transaction, Sutinen says, by way of providing some background.
Learning about Growth
The entrepreneurs ran their microbrewery for about 1.5 years.
- We realised that, considering the structure of our company and the number of hours that we put to work, our beer business did not develop in the right direction,” Tomi Sutinen says, analysing the situation.
Since then, Aapo Gröhn has become the fourth shareholder of Unison Brewing Company.
- Tomi Piipponen works as CEO. The other three of us are supporting the operation of the brewery with our own contacts in the spirit of serial entrepreneurship,” Tomi Sutinen says.
One important development step was hiring of Joni Sormunen as the Beer Master. Sormunen, born in Lieksa, is an institutional cook by training and soon also a beer sommelier.
- He is a professional well versed in his business, Sutinen says, by way of praising.
In 2010, there were less than 40 registered small breweries in Finland. By 2020, there were already nearly 120 small breweries. A brewery is designated to be a small brewery if it produces a maximum of 15 million litres of beer per year.
The quality, craftsmanship and innovative willingness to experiment of small breweries appeal to a quality-conscious customer base. The Unison Brewing Company also caught up with this rapid trend. Tomi Sutinen joined the Business Joensuu's Grow growth programme.
- I was particularly interested in learning how to make a growth plan on a larger scale An entrepreneur may have an idea in his/her mind, but without sparring, few will succeed. Business Coaches Mervi Leminen and Santeri Lanér are professional coaches; the Grow’s offer was really good. It was also rewarding to hear about the growth plans of other companies of approximately the same size.
Pieces in place
Ville Vuorio and Jani Honkanen founded Panimo Honkavuori in 2015. Over the years, the beer, decorated by the skills and art of on doctorial degree on the Northern crested newt ecotoxicology, has won numerous domestic and international awards.
- Success required a lot of energy and time, Ville Vuorio summing up Panimo Honkavuori's journey from start to success.
"My head would have lasted, but my knees would not.” It was time to move on, so we decided with Jan to sell,” Vuorio and Honkanen said in a press release about the sale of the business to Unison Brewing Company.
- It had been in my mind for a long time that running a brewery was not a job that I wanted to do the rest of my life. We were thinking about alternatives to giving up, Vuorio recalls.
Jani Honkanen gave up his work at the brewery already in 2019 and moved back to his previous career at the European Chemicals Agency in Helsinki. After Honkanen, Vuorio became the CEO of Panimo Honkavuori.
- As early as in August 2020, I was already involved in ELY's nature conservation work. In January 2021, I joined Metsähallitus to work with matter with relate to nature conservation. At that point, I was doing two jobs, taking care of a that of a brewery’s CEO after a day’s work.
”I am looking for a good future”
Jouko Piirainen, Business Specialist at Business Joensuu, was once again at the centre. Piirainen knew that, behind the scenes, Panimo Honkavuo was for sale. Piirainen also knew that Sutinen and Kämäräinen were looking for a growth leap for their beer business.
- Ville Vuorio contacted us. It was decided to compile company and business wide calculation of values. And when we started searching for a buyer, Joenbruu propped in mind. Calling Tom was a good idea, as their aim was to expand brewery activities, says Jouko Pirhonen, expanding his ideas on the expansion.
The breweries on Helinintie enable growth. The Unison Brewing Company, including its entrepreneurs, employs seven people.
- The entrepreneurs, including the Unison Brewing Company, employ seven people. I’m looking for a good future for them, Piirainen says, encouragingly.
Text: Sirkka-Liisa Aaltonen/Communications Ässä Oy
Photo: Jarno Artika