Founders Anna & Janne Rauhansuu
Myssyfarmi, which has headquarters in Pöytyä, Western Finland, is a Finnish farm-based design brand that makes fashion accessories from Finnish wool. The story of Myssy starts with Anna’s husband Janne, previously a professional windsurfer for twenty years, who started knitting beanie hats in 2006 during a ski season in Davos, Switzerland. “People from the free skiing society started ordering them from Janne and he would knit them after a full day of skiing on the slopes, labelling and numbering each knitted hat he produced. People liked the fact that Janne was from Finland and that the hats were called myssy, which is Finnish for hat”, explains Anna.
Returning home to Finland in 2009, Janne found the love of his life, Anna, a designer born in Pöytyä, the same rural county as him. The pair moved into the family farm and it was here that the Myssyfarmi story started growing. Anna and Janne developed the brand together as well as starting and raising a family. It was in 2009 that Anna, who has a background working in the advertising business, started to lead the Myssyfarmi business. 2017 was a pivotal year for the brand, and Anna says it was the point where a decision was made on whether they had to decide whether to “go all in'' for it. Fortunately, they did, and Myssyfarmi products now retail in 16 countries. A number that is set to grow even more during 2023.
Myssyfarmi currently employs 8 people and approximately 95 grannies who help to knit the hats (more on that later!). Anna heads up the day-to-day running of the business in her role as CEO and Creative Director, whilst Janne, who is still a significant partner of the business, focuses on running the family’s farm.
Can you tell us more about your business model, and what type of business Myssy is?
“We’re a fashion business, so that’s our field of competition. However, we stand out because we have created a business model of our own, meaning we are unique. We run everything ourselves. Not only the design and marketing but the production too. The production process starts with procuring the raw wool that we use from the farms. We work with around 30-40 Finish farms. We organise the pick up of the wool and we deal with the subcontractors who spin and dye the wool, and we also hand dye some of the wool ourselves! The yarn then comes to our headquarters and we store it in our wool storage, and then it’s given out to the grannies.
“We stand out because we have created a business model of our own, meaning we are unique. We run everything ourselves. Not only the design and marketing but the production too.”
Myssy is very proud of the Grannies. Would you like to tell us a little more about them?
“Our work with the grannies has grown and grown over the years. It started with a handful of grannies helping us to knit the beanies and now we have around 95 working with us. They work from home, but every Wednesday we have a meeting circle with the grannies and we have coffee and cookies at our headquarters. Not all the grannies come at once, and it is usually 20 to 30 grannies at a time. The grannies are a vital and key part of our business. This way of working essentially follows a traditional Finnish production business model of home industries, where women work from home to supply for bigger businesses. Whenever someone buys a Myssy hat there’s a name inside of it signed by whoever knitted it. You can track the name on our website where there’s a photo and an interview of the granny.”
“The grannies are a vital and key part of our business. This way of working essentially follows a traditional Finish production business model of home industries”
Can you tell us more about Myssy going international, and why internationalisation is important for the brand?
“Well, Finland is a really small domestic market and I think a lot of brands maybe either lack the ambition or the knowledge of how to go international. For us, it was clear from the beginning that if we wanted to make a business out of it we would need to target somewhere else other than Finland. So, that’s why we started with our first trade show at Berlin Fashion Week in 2016. During the first years 90% of our retail went to exports.It was quite clear to us that in Finland people might not understand the brand unless we would make a breakthrough somewhere else first. Now, we currently have retailers in 16 different countries. Our main markets are Sweden, Japan, Germany, and the U.S.A. I think this number of countries will grow next season.”
“Our main markets are Sweden, Japan, Germany, and the U.S.A.
I think this number of countries will grow next season.”
Have you been supported by the Finnish government to grow internationally?
“Yes, we have been funded by ELY center and Business Finland both on several projects and expos. Also, the Lifestyle Finland program of Business Finland had a major role in expanding our business to Japan and South Korea. I see the role of public funding in both sharing the risk and guiding development of the business. The project plan will function as a business development plan for the upcoming months. The expos are especially risky as they are constantly changing and the result is always a question. Yet, they are the only way to really build an international retail network. Sharing this risk is vital to export companies. Just like the public funding has had a major role in growing our business it has also had a role in putting us down. Sometimes the whole application process can take all the energy for months - there is no free lunch.”
Making items in Finnwool and reviving the wool industry is core to Myssyfarmi’s objective. What are the advantages of this for your business?
“Firstly, we have found a use for a material which otherwise sees a lot of wastage. More than 70% of the Finnish raw wool used to be wasted every year and farmers would just burn the wool or discard it in the woods. Essentially, what we have done is start to talk about Finnish wool’s inherent high level of quality, and we’ve made the material core to our production. You can compare Finnsheep wool to that of Merino. It has a similarly nice soft fibre, which is not at all itchy or spikey in any way!
“You can compare Finnsheep wool to that of Merino. It has a similarly nice soft fibre, which is not at all itchy or spikey in anyway!”
Wool is like coffee, gold, or oil. It has a market price. The price we pay to the sheep farmer is a fair price that has become almost like a market standard price in Finland. We started paying approximately 5 times as much for the wool compared to anyone else, and then other people followed and started paying the same. We have helped raise the materials market price.
Additionally, Finnsheep wool is a domestic product, so we don’t need to import it from the other side of the world. It’s sustainable to make full use of the wool in this way. We don’t shout about being sustainable. Instead, it is the genuine foundation of our company. Our focus on refining the use of the Finnsheep wool and agricultural materials, so often regarded by others as a side product, is our purpose of the business!”
“We don’t shout about being sustainable. Instead, it is the genuine foundation of our company.”
Myssy is a brand-driven business. Can you explain what you mean by this, and what the advantages and disadvantages are to a business being brand-driven?
“Brand is the greatest competitive advantage you could have. Our strong and authentic brand is our greatest competitive advantage. Just talking about production maybe isn’t interesting enough to people. Everybody wants to make it in fashion, so just making sustainability claims won’t make any difference. A unique brand and a clear concept that the buyer understands are so important. I think this is where we have succeeded! We have a really clear concept. We’re a farm-based fashion brand from Finland and we are producing accessories that are hand knitted by the local grannies using local domestic wool. In terms of both visuals and storytelling, it’s a very clear and understandable message. If you just claim sustainability, then that claim is not interesting to anyone. It won’t open any doors for your brand. You need to make the brand live!”
“If you just claim sustainability, then that claim is not interesting to anyone. It won’t open any doors for your brand. You need to make the brand live!”
Can you explain how Myssy has been funded, and how the brand plans to sustain itself now, and in the future?
“When we established Myssyfarmi Ltd my husband and I owned 95% of the company, and our third partner had a 5% share. Over the years Business Finland has funded a few projects that we have done. In addition to this, we also did an equity funding round in 2019 giving out 20% of shares and launched a convertible capital loan in 2022. We were planning to do an equity round Q1/23, but ended up choosing the wrong partners for it. At the moment the financial market is super challenging for growth companies that are not yet profitable. Yet there is a group of investors that are really interested in our business model and see we are onto something truly unique, so I'm pretty confident we are able to find funding. In the end we are the Finnish fashion brand that has the most impressive retail network at the moment. And a huge social impact.”
Held for the first time, the Shine! the networking event attracted 200 participants, featured dozens of pitches and had one big goal: to offer shared opportunities for growth and internationalization.