The Foxa story
Opportunity makes an entrepreneur
The Foxa story begins in the early 1990s in the midst of a national recession. Chancing upon the idea while skiing, I founded the company as a backup plan in case my employment situation took a turn for the worse. However, I would continue to enjoy steady employment and, busy as I was, the company remained dormant for nearly two decades.
In November 2008, the workwear manufacturer Finlayson-Forssa Oy declared bankruptcy, suddenly ending its 160-year run, much to the shock of their customers and staff – including us. As headhunters seemed disinterested and other job offers were not forthcoming, I asked my colleague Marjaana Naatula to start a company with me. Customers needed fabrics urgently, and we could provide technical expertise and contacts to some proven factories. We decided we would become self-employed for a few years and activated Foxa Oy.
The start was anything but easy. The Finnish economy was in a tailspin thanks to the international financial crisis. We had no orders, no stock and no cash assets. Our first office was in the attic room of our house. Our assets consisted of two laptop computers, a copier and a pair of scissors borrowed from the bankruptcy estate. Our strong confidence in our abilities was also an asset, of course.
We contacted several previous customers of Finlayson-Forssa and, thanks to good personal relations, landed some meetings. The customers heard us out politely, but nothing happened. This is easy to understand in hindsight, as we were a new company with limited resources. Thankfully, some brave souls had faith in our abilities, sending in our first orders. Our operations were underway. My heartfelt thanks go out to our initial pioneering customers! You have made this story possible.
Ability comes from the people
After the rough start, we have been able to build up the company to be more credible, one piece at a time. One factor has been crucial in this: Foxa has been a fortunate employer. Our company has been lucky enough to hire suitable people who are skilled, industrious and good-humoured.
A turning point for us was the Finnish Defence Forces' rainwear fabric order in 2012. We had supplied a fabric we developed in-house for trials, and it had proven functional. We expected small-scale competitive tendering and further tests from the buyer. We did receive an invitation to tender, but its scale was off the charts: it exceeded our annual net revenue. When we won the tendering, we had no choice but to succeed. We modernised the laboratory, hired more professionals and created a quality management system. The project was successful, and business took a familiar course: demanding orders are the best way to develop operations.
Growth starts with customers
In the early days, we had no specific plans for growth. We progressed one sale and year at a time. Our objective has been to fulfil our promises to customers to keep new orders coming. Our current market position has taken a lot of work and, naturally, a good bit of luck.
We aim to stay humble in the future, keep developing better fabrics and fulfil the wishes of our customers. Satisfied customers are the only way to guarantee the continuity of a business.
- Jukka Sipilä, at Foxa since 1990