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WoodSense - natural and functional ingredient for cosmetic products won the Start Me Up 2023 business idea competition


Press release
Free for release on Wed 24 May 2023 at 15:15

The winner of the Start Me Up business idea competition is the high-quality WoodSense product manufactured by Mielikki Nordic, a manufacturer of cosmetic ingredients in Rääkkylä. A purely natural ingredient, WoodSense, is an anti-inflammatory powder-like extract, supported by science and research, that combines the most effective functional compounds of both fungal and wood extracts. Mielikki Nordic products perfectly meet the market demand for organic, clean and functional bio-based ingredients in the global cosmetics industry. WoodSense has already been tested on the Asian and European markets, where it has been extremely well received. Mielikki Nordic will be the leading manufacturer of fungi-based extracts in the future.

WoodSense is a completely new functional skin care ingredient and concept for the cosmetics industry, the secret of which lies in Finland's Arctic nature. The ingredient combines extract compounds from both Arctic fungi and wood into one natural ingredient: An elixir with a significant anti-inflammatory effect. WoodSense is intended to be included as one ingredient in the final formulations of consumer cosmetic products. For manufacturers of cosmetic products, its benefits include the fact that it is natural, environmental-friendly and, in particular, its research-proven effectiveness. Because of the ingredient's effectiveness, only 1-5% of the volume of the final product is needed to achieve the desired effect. The unique functional ingredient is the result of the long-term product development work of the Mielikki Nordic team, which includes Henri Vanhanen, Marta Cortina Escribano, Petri Kilpeläinen, Jarkko Hellström and Markku Leppänen. The team has a strong research, product development and production background in the fields of food, wood and microbial science. 

The Mielikki Nordic brand, launched in March 2023, at the in-Cosmetics Global Fair in Barcelona, has already opened distribution channels for its innovative WoodSense product to the Asian and European markets. The brand also aspires to the North American market. 

- The market for functional natural cosmetics was growing before COVID-19, and Europe is one of the most important markets for natural cosmetics in addition to Asia. We conducted an extensive market study on the European, South Korean, Japanese and US markets. At the in-Cosmetics Global Fair, in March, we found that we had succeeded in building the brand, as well as in the product's features. The demand was enormous and we received significant sales leads from the fair, with which we are progressing, says Henri Vanhanen, founding member of Mielikki Nordic.   

A patent is pending for the WoodSense ingredient, to protect the production method, the Arctic fungal strains owned by Mielikki Nordic, as well as the extraction technology to manufacture the anti-inflammatory product.

The win of the Start Me Up business idea competition enables the company to grow rapidly and, in particular, increase its marketing and sales resources. 

- Over the past few months, we have witnessed the market's good response to our WoodSense product and brand. Now the key is to increase sales resources, for which the main prize will give us significant support. We can also start launching new products earlier than anticipated. It is truly wonderful that there is a competition like Start Me Up in North Karelia that encourages the development of business ideas aimed at international markets. Our roots are deep in the North Karelian soil, our products have been developed here and our production is located in Rääkkylä. We are proud to receive the support and recognition of our work from the Start Me Up competition, as we move towards world conquest, Henri Vanhanen rejoices. 

Mielikki Nordic redeems a prize of EUR 132,500, consisting of money, investments and versatile expert services for the internationalisation of the company. The company will also have business premises at its disposal, for one year, in Joensuu’s Science Park.

Winners of other competition categories

The Start Me Up Award Gala also awarded winning ideas for other competition series.

Research-Based Business Idea category winner

ColdXRay, Developing Cold X-ray Technology, University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu

As a new prize, the Research-Based Business Idea prize was awarded for a value of EUR 3,000. In addition, the winner receives Leitzinger Oy's expert services for a Finnish patent application. 

The prize was won by ColdXRay, a research-based deep technology start-up at the University of Eastern Finland. ColdXRay is an innovative solution for X-ray imaging based on X-ray cold cathode source. Most of the X-ray apparatus on the market use technology that is more than 100 years old and is based on hot filament, thermionic electron sources. Old X-ray technology has restricted the development of compact and more efficient X-ray devices on the market. Patented ColdXRay’s X-ray Cold CathodeSource, with graphene-based material, enables the creation of smaller, more energy-efficient and more cost-effective X-ray sources. The solution opens up new applications in the fields of medicine, security and industrial inspections. It enables compact, lighter, longer lifetime energy-efficient X-ray equipment, including hand-held and table X-ray equipment.

The winning team’s Petr Obraztsov, Alexander Obraztsov, Yuri Svirko and Sergei Malykhin are experienced entrepreneurs, engineers and researchers, with strong expertise in X-ray technology and product development. They have successfully completed the first phase of the technology development plan and are moving towards the commercialisation of ColdXray. 

Business for Kitee category winner

Kiertopuu®, Let’s stop wasting wood, Hiil Oy, Kitee

Hiil Oy was selected as the winning idea of the Kitee series and the winner of the EUR 5,000 prize. Hiil Oy recycles and chars waste wood into Kiertopuu® building material. The waste wood produced from the side streams of the sawmill, planing and construction industry, which has most commonly been burned into energy, will be used as a raw material for Kiertopuu®. Surface charring turns low-value material into high processing value, high-quality and aesthetic recycled construction material for almost any site and use. Uses may include public and single-family house construction, nature construction, terrace and hut construction, as well as interior decoration. The main customers of charred, upcycled wood are developers, architects, designers and construction companies. The new market square café, of the North Karelian “Marthas”, to be opened at the Joensuu market square, utilises ecologically charred wood as wall construction material.

- The business idea of Hiil Oy represents the green transition, the circular economy of wood and carbon neutrality, at its best. The market potential for Kiertopuu® is great, and there is also international interest. The company's Miikka and Joona Kotilainen have a resume of the successful implementation of new business ideas, and they have an extensive partner and cooperation network to support them. The company has already been established in Kitee, and the first industrial-scale production plant is planned for the industrial area of Puhos, in Kitee. Hiil Oy's business idea has significant direct and indirect employment impacts in the Kitee region, a minimum of 15-30 person-years, Risto Hiltunen, the City of Kitee's Business Development Manager, summarises the winner of the prize series.

Business for Liperi category winners

Business for Liperi was a new prize. The EUR 3,000 prize of Lipertek Oy was split between two business ideas.

Recycling batteries safely, Lari Mikkonen, Liperi

The EUR 2,000 prize was awarded to the Liperi-based Lari Mikkonen's idea for safe recycling of batteries, which combines the product safety of batteries, battery recycling and sustainable development in an inventive manner. The solution increases safety in the daily life of households and businesses, as well as in the operating environments of recyclable products, when the poles are protected instead of taping. The business idea can be realised and commercialised with reasonable contributions, and it can be scaled into business. The market potential of the product is truly global. 

KahWakiulu, Antti Ticklen, Liperi

Antti Ticklen's KahWakiulu sauna product was awarded the EUR 1,000 prize and an honorary mention. The product makes sauna bathing and the handling of stove water easier and smoother. The product also brings new design to the traditional sauna product. The handle and the bucket have been developed to meet the practical challenge and are ideal for all user groups. In addition, the product can be manufactured from local materials in North Karelia, and its market potential covers domestic and international sauna product markets.

Modern Karelian Trade and Service in the new Joensuu Market Hall category winner

Järven Taika – Pohjois-Karjalan Järvielämyskeskus
(“North Karelia’s Lake Experience Centre”), Matexpro Oy, Matti ja Miia Pasanen, Joensuu 

In the new competition series, Northern Karelia Cooperative Society applied for a modern and vibrant offering of trade and services, in the new Joensuu Market Hall (Kauppahalli Joensuu), which will be opened in summer 2023. The winner is Matexpro Oy's Matti and Miia Pasanen’s Järven Taika - Pohjois-Karjalan Järvielämyskeskus (“North Karelia’s Lake Experience Centre”). As a prize, they will receive free business facilities for their use, for six months, from the Joensuu Market Hall. 

Matti and Miia Pasanen's idea is based on their long-term work and expertise in waterways and an extensive cooperation network. Attractive tourism products of the Järvielämyskeskus (“Lake Experience Centre”) will be created in cooperation with actors in the region, as well as with lake tourism and nature experience service providers, to increase visibility and sales. For customers, this means that the waterway sites in the area will become familiar, and the individual experiences from service providers will be easily accessible and enjoyable. For example, a travel package includes a ride from the train station, cottage rent, as well as the use of a kayak and fishing permits - while enjoying local stories, experiences, delicacies and the magic of the lake. 

The versatile services of the Pohjois-Karjalan Järvielämyskeskus (“North Karelia’s Lake Experience Centre”) cover the shop, expert advice and products and services for lake tourism. At the Lake Experience Centre, the magic of the lake is experienced with all senses - quietness, forest fragrances, natural flavours and the sounds of the water. With its services, the Lake Experience Centre aims to bring North Karelian lake tourism to a new level, by offering attractive and easily accessible tourism products, such as tour and travel packages, for domestic and international customers. 

Student category winners

University of Eastern Finland:
ECO Boards, Nanoscale Oy, Wujun Xu and Junyan Chen, Kuopio

The winner of the University of Eastern Finland is Nanoscale Oy, which develops electricity and emission-free Eco Boards for better indoor air quality. The solution of Wujun Xu and Junyan Chen, from Kuopio, was awarded a prize of EUR 3,000. The company's sustainable development ECO board products, such as wall panels, correct the humidity problems of indoor air in rooms and facilities, by combining Finnish plant-based forest products and advanced nanotechnology. 

Eco Boards products have a very high humidity control capability. The boards reduce humidity and pollutants from indoor air, such as formaldehyde and nitrogen oxides, with a unique process. High humidity indoors causes mould in objects and structures, as well as condensed water and metal corrosion in electrical devices. The boards can be used to automatically control the humidity of the indoor air, without additional operating and maintenance costs. Compared to similar competitor products, Eco Boards benefits from low energy consumption, efficiency and sustainable raw materials. In addition, the product is recyclable and emission-free.

Official testing of the humidity control capability of the product has already been carried out, and testing of the ability to remove air pollutants is currently underway. The first target market identified by Eco Boards is China, where the prototype has already been sent for official testing. In Asian countries, such as China and Japan, the humidity of indoor air is high due to special climatic conditions, causing problems with rust, mould and the condensation of water in structures and furniture, in residential buildings, public buildings, museums and art galleries. Structures with water and mould damage accumulate microbial contaminants in indoor air, which can be prevented by Eco Boards. 

Karelia University of Applied Sciences:
Kartoon application for horse stables operations management, Siru Alakangas, Joensuu

The winner of the Karelia University of Applied Sciences, and the EUR 3,000 prize was a student of information technology, Siru Alakangas, whose Kartoon application is designed for the operational management of horse stables. In the future, the application will facilitate the daily life of horse sector entrepreneurs. The application helps stable entrepreneurs keep matters related to horses and employees in good order, including communication and accounting. The strengths of the business idea include its feasibility and the innovativeness of simple user-centred design choices. 

Crafter's Leather, Leather-Specialised Web Shop, Sini Hulkkonen, Joensuu

Riveria's winner and the winner of the EUR 3,000 prize, was an adult student of further vocational qualification in entrepreneurship, Sini Hulkkonen and her team’s business idea Crafter's Leather. The team's idea is to launch a special online shop for leather work enthusiasts and companies, focusing on high-quality handicraft leather and leather supplies. Leather work is a rising trend, and Crafter's Leather's services want to highlight the traditional leather in a new way. The idea is highly feasible and e-commerce specialising in leather products and services has novelty value, especially in the domestic market.

Further information

Business Joensuu's Start Me Up business idea competition, which promotes North Karelian entrepreneurship and future sustainable business, has been organised since 2000. The competition has established itself as one of Finland's most significant business idea competitions, in terms of both the value of prizes and the number of participants.

The harvest of this year's business idea competition surprised the jury with its innovativeness and included strong solutions to such issues as the climate and energy crisis and the use of sustainable raw materials. We received 257 accepted competition ideas, 47 of which progressed to the first phase of the jury's evaluation, to compete for the main prize. During the second evaluation phase, 18 competitors pitched their business ideas to the jury, 6 of which progressed to the third evaluation of the jury, to aim for the main prize. The main prize and the prizes of other competition categories were awarded at the Award Gala, held at Joensuu Science Park, on 24 May 2023. The value of the main prize is EUR 132,500 and the total value of the prizes exceeds EUR 160,000.

Business Joensuu
Tomi Haring, CEO and President of the Start Me Up jury, tel. +358 400 380 130,
Kirsi Svärd, Business Coach, tel. +358 50 475 4136,
Janne Pakarinen, Business Coach, tel. +358 50 575 8859,

Mielikki Nordic /WoodSense
Henri Vanhanen, Co-Founder, tel. +358 45 344 9899,

Petr Obraztsov, tel. +358 50 463 5749,
Jyrki Saarinen, Professor, Head of the Department of Physics and Mathematics, University of Eastern Finland, tel. +358 50 595 4348,

Hiil Oy - Kiertopuu®
Miikka Kotilainen, tel. +358 50 569 0581,
Joona Kotilainen, tel. +358 50 569 0586,

Recycling batteries safely
Lari Mikkonen, tel. +358 400 718 805,

Tmi Antti Ticklen, tel. +358 50 511 4581,

Järven Taika – Pohjois-Karjalan Järvielämyskeskus (“North Karelia’s Lake Experience Centre”), Matexpro Oy
Matti and Miia Pasanen, tel. +358 440 101 143,
Petri Vähä, Director of Communications and Responsibility, Northern Karelia Cooperative Society (PKO), tel. +358 10 762 2034,

ECO Boards, Nanoscale Oy
Wujun Xu, CEO and Co-Founder, tel. +358 40 355 2348,
Junyan Chen, tel. +358 41 721 0069
Jyrki Saarinen, Professor, Head of the Department of Physics and Mathematics, University of Eastern Finland, tel. +358 50 595 4348,

Kartoon application for horse stables operations management
Siru Alakangas, tel. +358 50 406 4455

Crafter's Leather, Leather-Specialised Web Shop
Sini Hulkkonen, tel. +358 40 829 6425,

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