Remigration to Finland opened up the world
Disc golf is the fastest-growing sport in Finland and has already engaged more than 100,000 Finns in healthy exercise. Disc golf courses are springing up all over the country at a rate exceeding 50 courses a year. Personally, I got into the sport in the 1990s, but it was not until the 2005 European Disc Golf Championships that the boom was sparked up here in the north. In 2009, I become so confident in the future of the sport that I decided to sell my share in a Tampere-based advertising agency to focus all my time on the development disc golf.
The most important factor in the rise of disc golf has been the increasing number of courses. Free courses, which are usually established by the city or municipality, provide a place of outdoor recreation for enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels. In ten years, the sport has gained popularity across all demographic groups.
In 2007, I developed a globally unique concept, DiscGolfPark, which involves a company supplying disc golf courses as turnkey deliveries. Since then, DiscGolfPark has been registered as a worldwide trademark. The increased demand for courses made us decide to move production across the Gulf of Finland to Estonia. This transition was made for cost-related reasons.
But how is disc golf related to the International Subcontracting Trade Fair to be held in Tampere? We found an interesting Finnish supplier, Lankapaja Oy, at the 2013 Subcontracting Fair. The new contact became a partner, and after six months of negotiations and meetings, I was ready to move production back to Finland.
To my surprise, Lankapaja was able to offer us a truly excellent package. We were also encouraged by the idea of a fully Finnish product, since it is always to be proud of your heritage! The Key Flag Symbol, indicating the Finnish origin of the product, was granted to us in the summer of 2014.
This year, we will supply over 200 DiscGolfPark solutions across the globe. We have also expanded to the United States over the course of this year by hiring our first sales representatives in California. The US market provides a wealth of opportunities for a small Finnish business. Among other disc golf enthusiasts, I found our company an excellent country manager, Erno Väyrynen. Together, we have been staking out the steps of taking over the American market. The fact remains, that 90% of the market is across the Atlantic, which means that we have our work cut out for us.
We have also delegated shop fixture production and product development operations to Lankapaja in Finland. Communication and delivery times are critical to us. Lankapaja also provides us with comprehensive warehousing solutions. Our tee pads are supplied by Saltex, which we found at the Sportec Fair.
The fair in itself is a medium, which has offered us a great way to locate suppliers and partners. In addition to this, we use the fair to find and meet customers. The Subcontracting Fair is once again at hand, so I urge you all to make the most of the time to build networks and find new partners.
The Finnish roots of our company and products are very important to us. We are proud of what we do for and bring to the sport. My goal is to employ 100 people worldwide by the year 2020. We currently have facilities in five countries: in addition to Finland, we have offices in Sweden, Germany, the United States and Australia.
It is amazing to work in a field that is in constant development. It allows me to be part of creating a new dynamic form of sport and exercise. I believe that in the future, disc golf will reach all corners of the world, and it may become as popular as any game currently out there.
Our company’s values include innovation, uncompromising quality and internationality. All of these also characterise me as an entrepreneur. You must always be one step ahead of the market, go all the way in everything you do and, most importantly, utilise the vast possibilities provided by an international network. Ultimately, Finland is a small country in the north, and in the modern world, scalability is key. For this reason, my next business trip will be to the United States where I will pitch Finnish high-quality products to the largest disc golf brand in the world. We need to have the courage to market our Finnish expertise to the rest of the world!
Innova Champion Europe
Jussi Meresmaa is the Managing Director of Innova Champion Europe, one of the leading disc golf companies in the world. The head office is located in Tampere, and the company employs 25 people worldwide. The group’s target turnover for 2015 is MEUR 5. Disc golf courses make up about one-fifth of the turnover.
More information: www.discgolfpark.net/fi