Founded in 1994, Mirror Line manufactures custom-made sliding doors and storage systems in the Karijoki municipality in South Ostrobothnia. Today, the company has a strong market position in Finland, and its customizable high-quality products are sold through more than 300 resellers all over the country. Mirror Line is a family business and all three children of the Saaranluoma family are involved in the development and operational activities of the company.
Mirror Line’s business has grown steadily over the years. In the coming years, solid growth is sought from the Finnish and especially Swedish markets. In addition to their entry into the Swedish market last year, Mirror Line has set out to accelerate its growth and internationalization by inviting the first non-family member to its board.
“In our strategy, we have a vision of profitable growth, based on annual growth of about ten per cent. The entry into the Swedish market is largely based on that target, as Sweden is the market where we seek and expect growth,” comments Laura Saaranluoma, marketing manager at Mirror Line, on the company’s growth plans.
Mirror Line started planning their market entry into the Swedish market already in 2015. Based on market research and advice received from amongst other sources such as the Kasvu Open growth sparring program, the company decided to directly target consumers in the Swedish market instead of building its own retail network.
Mirror Line’s entry into the Swedish market in spring 2019 began with the opening of its Swedish-language website and online store. In addition, the company opened a showroom north of Stockholm in October 2019, along with five other Finnish growth companies.
The decision to participate in the Grow to Sweden program was easy for the company because the program offered an opportunity to 1) increase their understanding of the Swedish market 2) refine the company’s market entry plan 3) find useful networks and 4) meet other growth companies targeting the Swedish market.
According to Saaranluoma, the spring 2019 program which they participated in met their expectations and provided the company with new networks and a wealth of valuable information on the Swedish market, business culture, consumers and sales.
The program also helped Mirror Line make important market decisions, as program content convinced the company of the feasibility of establishing a limited liability company (AB) in Sweden. After the program, Mirror Line partnered with Nordic Export Partners, who had also attended the program, and who then took care of the practicalities of setting up the Swedish limited liability company.
“In a way, the biggest help this program offers is that you can discuss your decisions – even big ones – with others. They may have thoughts that are quite different from yours, or they may make thought-provoking questions, but I would say those conversations are the best things,” says Saaranluoma.
The candid discussions with other growth companies that participated in the program also provided added value for Mirror Line, and the peer support provided by the group was instrumental in creating a positive and supportive atmosphere for the program.
“It somehow makes things easier when you have a peer group where everyone is on the brink of new things. It creates a good atmosphere where there is no such thing as a stupid question. And while it is natural to think that there should be more expertise of your field represented in the group, it is true that outsiders can see things more clearly,” explains Saaranluoma.
Laura Saaranluoma would recommend the Grow to Sweden program especially to companies who have already become familiar with the Swedish market, for example through market research, and who have a genuine desire to enter the market.
However, Saaranluoma emphasizes the importance of preparation for getting the most out of the program. She encourages companies to take advantage of the valuable opportunity and make time for internal discussion and development.
Mirror Line is well on its way to establishing itself in Sweden, and this year the company is investing heavily in marketing and sales. In addition, enabling delivery and distribution outside Stockholm is high on the company’s to-do list. Although the entry into the Swedish market is well underway, the company’s first steps in Sweden have not been completely without challenges.
Saaranluoma has been particularly surprised by the amount of resources and investment required to introduce a corporate culture and to train, induct and assist the staff in the Swedish showroom.
“I have learned that you can always ask. We have asked for advice from other companies that export to Sweden and it has saved us from many problems and learning through trial and error. Of course, you will come across problems, but at least some of them can be avoided by not being afraid to ask questions. We Finns have this fault that we are averse to asking for advice as we think that by asking we reveal our plans. However, asking usually pays off – just ask boldly and be open to people’s thoughts and ideas.”
This year we will be taking companies once again to New York (May) and Stockholm (September), visit our program pages to learn more