In 2016, a Finnish café wanted to sell pumpkin pie to its customers to celebrate Halloween. The café faced a big obstacle. Most Finnish people did not even know what pumpkin pie was or had any idea how to bake the American sweet.
Sara Marjoniemi’s friend heard about the bakery’s need and decided to contact her. Marjoniemi had spent some of her teenage years in Utah and had come to love American sweets and baked goods.
When she realized that she had a craving for similar items in Finland, and that the local café was looking for somebody to bake an American sweet, Marjoniemi realized she had found an opportunity.
Marjoniemi shared her entrepreneurship experience with WSU students as a guest speaker in the Nye Lecture Series on Jan. 30 in the Wattis Building.
“She is a mom, musician and cookie dough boss lady,” business school dean Matt Mouritsen said while introducing Marjoniemi.
Marjoniemi began her business career selling cell phones. She also worked part-time at a local café in Finland and learned insights into the costs and profits of selling baked goods and sweets to customers.
When the opportunity arrived to make some money from her baking talent, she seized the moment and produced two pumpkin pies for the bakery her friend mentioned.
The pies were a hit, and soon after, other local cafes began contacting Marjoniemi for orders.
“I could not just keep delivering products from my kitchen for the rest of my life,” she said.
So, she decided to start a baking business. She also started networking and reaching out to others.
One helpful resource for her was the owner of a small local ice cream company. She did not know how to go about contacting food shops and retailers, so she asked the owner of the ice cream company for guidance.
“He was surprised and very happy to help,” Marjoniemi said. “Entrepreneurs want to help other entrepreneurs.”
After learning from the owner of the ice cream company, Marjoniemi knew which stores and managers to contact. She met with them and always remembered to bring samples of her product to the meetings.
“I was like, ‘I have an awesome product. You are going to want it. Take it,’” she said.
In 2018, her business Caccu, (pronounced CAW-coo), became a reality. Her business started delivering American-style cookies, pies and other baked goods to supermarkets all over Finland.
Marjoniemi’s efforts to promote her business even took her to Finland’s version of the “The Voice,” a popular, televised singing competition. One million of Finland’s 5.4 million people regularly watch the show. She auditioned with the goal of having the show feature her company.
Despite her background in music, she did not advance far. However, she was successful in generating the publicity she wanted.
Marjoniemi believes that her efforts with “The Voice of Finland” and her personal outreach to store managers and owners was more successful and productive than any kind of social media campaign.
According to Marjoniemi, the local press reception for Caccu has been overwhelmingly positive. She also shattered a “glass ceiling” by becoming the very first woman entrepreneur to make the cover of a popular Finnish business publication.
“I was like, ‘It is about time. This is 2019,’” she said.
Her company is spreading to new markets in Finland, the Nordic and Baltic countries. She also sees big opportunity in Asia, where Finland and Nordic countries enjoy a reputation for clean food and ingredients.
Marjoniemi admitted that following her passion has cost her some sleepless nights and plenty of “low lows,” but she invited students to pursue what they want with enthusiasm.
“Voice out what you want to do. Your idea is far more likely to happen than when you keep it to yourself,” she said. “Focus on what you do well and build your personal brand.”