Made in Aalto: Rebellious entrepreneurs
In addition to knowledge, the years studying at the Aalto University School of Business have provided Sara Nyyssölä and Marta Jaakkola with contacts, internationality and courage to challenge other people’s truths. Now WST, a company set up by them, shakes our understanding of second hand clothing and works in collaboration with Marimekko.
The School of Business was a natural choice for Sara and Marta.
‘Business seemed like an all-powerful field that provided knowledge and room for exploring the world and how it works,’ Marta says.
‘I wanted to study a field in which there is no one truth, but in which you also have an opportunity to determine yourself what reality looks like,’ Sara explains.
Both of them completed their bachelor’s theses on international business at the Mikkeli campus. The formation of their own community and the discovery of their own – slightly unexpected – thing were the most important outcomes of their studies.
‘At Aalto University, you can choose courses that are important for you and some courses unexpectedly make a lasting impression. Digital Entrepreneurship did that to Sara and Environmental Economics to me. You just have to go, listen and do it! At the same time you will learn and find your own path,’ Marta says and smiles.
‘On that course, entrepreneurship was presented for the first time as a possible option for realising your own ideas and changing the world that way. It introduced an idea that I am still keen to promote: ”Complain about the way other people make software by making software”,’ Sara recalls.
From a spark to a growing business
Neither of them dreamt about a company of their own at the start of their studies, but little by little the pieces started to fall into place.
‘I didn’t think about a career very much when I was studying, but headed for interesting things. I did a year’s exchange in France, after which I worked in an online shop in Hong Kong. That inspired me, and when I returned to Finland, the idea of a business of my own became concrete,’ Sara says.
‘I, on the other hand, knew that I wanted to work in the field of sustainable development, and working at the Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong only reinforced that understanding. When Sara had the idea about redefining second hand clothing, I said to her straight away: Let’s do it!’ Marta recalls.
The spark had actually started to grow earlier when Sara was looking for an online shop to buy stylish second hand clothes while studying in Mikkeli. That is the reason why Sara and Marta decided to set up a company of their own and start a rebellion against throw-away culture.
‘The company name, WST, comes from the words we started this,’ Marta reveals.
‘When we started this, we only had each other and a shared vision of a new perspective on fashion and consumption.’
Last autumn, the company made history by opening the first second hand clothing store in a shopping centre. Collaboration with Marimekko was another big step. The idea is to develop opportunities for recycling and re-using Marimekko products.
‘It is inspiring to work together with a fashion and design icon like Marimekko, and the good feedback from customers on the possibility to recycle is great!’
Support and courage
On their path to entrepreneurship, Sara and Marta have received help, for example, from Aalto Entrepreneurship Society. A lot of what they learned during their bachelor’s and master’s studies has proven invaluable.
‘The intensive, module-based degree programme in Mikkeli taught us an excellent pace of work that will also provide quality in working life, and it is always possible to ask the extensive alumni network for advice. Studies in the multidisciplinary line of study have also brought up more and more things that I want to learn to understand. However, the most important outcome has been the right mindset: confidence that everything is possible,’ Marta stresses.
‘During my bachelor’s studies, I was the editor of the campus newspaper and we decided to renew its content. when we got positive feedback on it for the first time I understood the importance of imagination: you must be able to imagine something that does not exist, yet – just like you do when you are setting up a company. The importance of presentation skills was emphasised in Mikkeli and they have also been useful when we've pitched the idea to others and tried to get them excited as well about what we do,’ Sara says.
Caption: After completing their bachelor’s studies in Mikkeli, the pair continued in the multidisciplinary master’s programmes at Aalto University. Sara is studying her first year in Aalto University’s Design Business Management programme and Marta the Creative Sustainability programme.
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