Interior Decor Shop Kodinonni The fun of doing business continues to inspire

Text: Kreetta Haaslahti, Photos: Julia Hannula

“The feeling was so strong that I can still sense it. I had never been so proud of anything in my life,” says Rauma native Johanna Närvä, looking back at a childhood moment when she felt the spark of entrepreneurship for the first time. 

The reason for her pride was new trousers that she had just sewn with her grandmother from an old, petrol-green pair. Her trousers had been worn out and, in a family of four siblings, she would have had to wait for three child benefits to come in before going trouser shopping. The true meaning of that moment only dawned upon Ms Närvä, now a business-owner, much later. She understood that the same joy of DYI and accomplishment, the sense of pride when you have made something from scratch, still inspires here in her daily work as the manager of the Interior Decor Shop Kodinonni.

Johanna Närvä © Julia Hannula

There are five permanent employees at Interior Decor Shop Kodinonni in addition to Johanna Närvä.

All pieces of fabric were cut into smaller segments in young Johanna’s hands, only to be recreated into pieces of clothing, curtains and other textile products according to her vision. She also used to sew clothes for herself and her friends. As she continued her projects, she kept growing more ambitious and wanted to prove herself.
“When my friends got brand-name jeans and I did not, I made exact copies of them instead. So identical that no-one could tell mine apart from the authentic ones,” she says, smiling.

“I had 3,000 Finnish marks, my gran’s old sewing machine and a head full of ideas.”

After reaching adulthood, Johanna’s dream of turning her hobby into a profession was forgotten for almost ten years, until the story of Kodinonni sewing service, specialising in interior design textiles, began in December 1993.
“I had 3,000 Finnish marks, my gran’s old sewing machine and a head full of ideas.”
Ideas were sure needed. And determination. In the early 1990s, the Finnish economy was in a slump.
“In a way, it was a good time to start a business. When you start in a time of recession, you are sure to see growth and better times ahead.

Rauma 570 © Julia Hannula

When the city of Rauma turned 570, Johanna designed a linen fabric with windowsill decorations of the houses in Old Rauma, which she admires. This became Kodinonni's best-selling fabric ever, also available in towels and pillowcases.

Baby steps

Johanna has succeeded in a field where many fail. Kodinonni has grown from a sewing service into an Interior Decor Shop that will celebrate its 24th anniversary, when most artisan companies established by women in Finland barely see their fifth year. Instead of a profitable business, the sector is often seen as dabbling and a hobby.
“It is a challenging combination; can you be an artist while running an artisan business? Usually you are good at one, but lack the skills for the other. You have to be hard-headed and jam your thing through. A business cannot be successful if you do not devote 100 per cent of yourself to it.”

Myymälämiljöö © Julia Hannula

At the time of writing, the shop oozed an air of fresh spring atmosphere and the nearing party season with its table settings and gifts.

 

Johanna describes herself as a cautious risk-taker. Kodinonni has grown with scarce investment, without splurging.
“I have always been careful and taken cautious steps in all decisions. I am sure Kodinonni would be much bigger today if I had taken risks.

“Sure, I would have survived if I had taken loans, but I am so hard-headed that I did not.”

In the early days, Johanna’s then-boyfriend, who later became her husband, was an important financial support.
“I would have starved to death without him a number of times in the first two years. Sure, I would have survived if I had taken loans, but I am so hard-headed that I did not.”

From one turning point to the next

Johanna continues to praise her husband’s support and flexibility in another turning point of their lives, the birth of their son in 1998. The sewing service had just moved out of their home for the first time the previous year and hired its first employee. This was a new start in many ways.

In the end, everything turned out fine. The newcomer turned out to be an easy baby who ate and slept well. When Lauri was 10 months old, Johanna returned to work almost full time, not that she had ever completely left. During her maternity leave, she had had a chance to stop for a while to think over the future of the company. And to learn how to use Excel! The decision to expand the company matured and the company went from a sewing service into an interior decor shop.
“The commercial premises more than quadrupled into 300 square metres. We moved into town and became a real shop that was open every day. More employees were hired, first one and then another.

Graafisesta romanttiseen © Julia Hannula

One is drawn to black and white, chromium and marble, the other to pink, roses and ruffles. Johanna finds it particularly appealing how much diversity there is in customer tastes.

Aarikan lyhdyt ja kynttilänjalat © Julia Hannula

Lanterns and candlesticks by Aarikka represent the Finnish product offering available in Kodinonni.

Comprehensive customer care

Johanna has never really had a definite idea of what Kodinonni will be, but the direction has always been clear.
“The starting point has been to answer customer needs so that visiting Kodinonni is the easy way to get things done. First we had fabrics for curtains, then came the curtain rods. After that we realised that rugs and wallpapers are part of the deal, as are furniture and lamps. Now we are an interior decor shop with a full product offering, and customers can buy everything they need to decorate a room from us. This is our special strength.

Katinka työskentelee ompelimossa © Julia Hannula

In the sewing workshop upstairs, the skilled seamstresses Katinka (pictured) and Tuula make the textile dreams of the customers come true. 

The sewing operations have always been the foundation of Kodinonni and they continue to be just that in the future.
“Many times, when a company grows, it happens that the basic operations start to bore you when new elements and departments emerge. If I had made the mistake of closing the sewing service, I believe that our house of cards would have come tumbling down. Closing their basic business operations has been fateful for a lot of companies.

But we have reached the maximum growth capacity of the sewing service.
“Our sewing service has been so extensive, by Satakunta standards, for the past decade that it can no longer continue to grow. In a town the size of Rauma, it is enough to have two full-time seamstresses who sew a total of 16 hours a day. The importance of the sewing service has never decreased, even if its share in the turnover has. It just indicates that a whole shop has been built on its foundation and the total turnover has grown.

Ompelimo © Julia Hannula

The Kodinonni sewing service has been an innovator and a bellwether in many respects. 

Johanna no longer sews herself, and she admits that she would not even know how to turn on the sewing machines in the workshop. Not that she needs to anymore. That is why Kodinonni has the professional seamstresses whom Johanna praises unconditionally.
“The girls in our sewing workshop are highly skilled and they are very proud of their profession.”

A part of life-changing events – time and time again

One of Kodinonni’s strengths and a reason for its existence is, according to Johanna, its long customer relationships that are based on great customer service attitude and a capability to offer comprehensive solutions.
“Our customers come from all over Satakunta, even around Finland, and they come back time and time again.” Often there is a story connected to the patronage. Someone’s sister used to live in Rauma, someone once worked here and someone else had a cottage, which means that first you buy something for the cottage and then you start getting things for your home.

Kokonaisvaltaista palvelua © Julia Hannula

Pirjo (pictured) and Heli solve the customers’ interior decoration and gift needs at the shop.

There are two particularly busy seasons in Kodinonni during the year; Christmas and spring, at the end of the school term. These are times for getting presents and touching up the house. Other than that, the door to Kodinonni is often opened when changes take place in life.
“When you move out of your childhood home, children are born, they start school, the children move out, you sell the house and move into a smaller flat, you buy a summer house or build a new house,” Johanna mentions some of the examples.

Susanna pitää huolen myymälän ulkonäöstä © Julia Hannula

Susanna also takes care of the visual appearance of the shop.

An acknowledged survival story

Johanna shuns the word success. Instead, she claims to be a survivor, from head to toe. What even makes success, she wonders and answers herself:
“I do not see it as the growth of the turnover or profitability of a business. It is made up of many things in which the entrepreneur, their family and personnel are all doing well, are proud of their work and love it."

"I am particularly proud of having been acknowledged as an entrepreneur from Rauma and as a female entrepreneur, but also as a representative of this industry.” 

No matter if it is about success or survival, this determined lady and her business have been noted. In 2015, Kodinonni was granted the award of Interior Decor Shop of the Year. Among the selection criteria were long-term development work that takes into account the customers, investing in customer service and growing turnover despite the recession. The following year, it was time to be granted the award of Female Entrepreneur of the Year in Finland. Johanna appreciates both acknowledgments deeply and quickly mentions that there were many others who would have deserved the title of Female Entrepreneur of the Year.
“I am particularly proud that I have been acknowledged as an entrepreneur from Rauma and a female entrepreneur, but also as a representative of this industry. There are not too many awards granted to this sector.”

Johanna is led by a strong belief that life will always make things right. She feels sure and secure about the future.
“Whenever I have needed strength, I have found it somewhere.

Rauma 575 © Julia Hannula

In 2017, Rauma turned 575 years, and it was again time to complete a product idea that she had had in her mind for a long time. Inspired by the strong local identity that prevails in Rauma, a map of the town and a picture celebrating the unique dialect were created.

Peer support from other entrepreneurs has always been important for Johanna.
“At present, I am a Member of the Board of the Rauma branch of the Federation of Finnish Enterprises and the Rauma Chamber of Commerce and involved in the Rakastunut Raumaan (In Love with Rauma) organisation of shopkeepers in the city centre. I have been an active member and a Member of different Boards as long as I have been an entrepreneur.”

“Rauma is a business-friendly town.”

Johanna sees Rauma as a good place to do business.
“I have had the privilege to be involved in making the relationship between local businesses and the city more straightforward, and this has been a vital part in the development of the commercial centre. Rauma is a business-friendly town.”

But a business-owner can never get too comfortable, you always have to be thinking of the next move. And another step has been decided on, with the renewal of the Interior Decor Shop Kodinonni’s website, and the launch of the online store just around the corner. This is how it is done these days, and it is a part of the concept of complete service offering.
“I do like the idea of turning yet another new page, as I have no idea what I will find.”

Kodinonnen miljöö on kutsuva © Julia Hannula

 

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