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When I tell people about the time I founded WE Factory most of them look at me with astonishment. I had just completed my Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs in Denmark and had this dream of starting a company by the age of 30. In a matter of a month I moved back to Finland, wrote a business plan, got qualified for start-up funding by the Finnish government and registered WE Factory. Then reality hit. I did extensive benchmarking and believed that my idea to offer food design services to improve the wellbeing in the workplace could succeed but I didn’t consider how hard it was to get my foot in the door of Finnish corporate world. So, to make ends meet I decided to quickly re-structure WE Factory as a generalist food experience and event design agency.
Few months after I became a remote entrepreneur and hit the road to places like Moscow, Berlin and Reykjavik, amongst many others, where I designed and developed food concepts, ranging from music to literature festivals, schools meals and conferences. On one of these trips an intern joined me for three months and continued her internship remotely.
Last year a couple of episodes made me think. First, I read how USTWO rethought the agency business model. I’ve always struggled to maintain a regular cash flow throughout the year. Since I applied the traditional agency business model, WE Factory faced the same challenges as USTWO. Besides WE Factory was a remote agency and offered general food experience design services. Hence it was always a huge challenge to identify and understand our audience. What did some tipsy Danes attending the biggest Nordic music festival have in common with the teachers at a kindergarden in Italy? Second, when I was invited to share my story at Chiang Mai Design Week, I started scratching the surface to dig out what was unique and special about WE Factory. I recalled the month of February 2014, when I wrote the business plan with excitement in front of a glass of red wine, and I clearly knew my answer. Everything I always wanted to do was to share with the world how food could increase wellbeing and happiness in the workplace.
At the end of 2016, I took a break to re-direct WE Factory towards this “original-new” direction and rethink our business model. Do I feel like I failed? Yes, perhaps when I started I wasn’t confident enough to pursue a dream I believed in. Over time I made lots of mistakes, which made me learn and grow a lot personally and professionally. However, I also experimented new things for the first time. For instance, I hired interns remotely and tested collaborations, based on remote design thinking methods. Also, I managed to bring WE Factory to 12 countries, which I’m really proud of. Now I can’t wait to move to this new phase and learn more!