Would you tell us about yourself and your career path?
I am Elina Björklund and I am the CEO of Reima since 2012. I graduated from the Helsinki School of Economics. I went for an exchange to London to study MBA finance at the City University Business School. Thanks to the exchange, I got my first job as an Equity Analyst for Kansallisosake-Pankki (KOP). In 1993-1994, the economy was in recession and the bank was recruiting for the first time in years. When KOP and SYP merged, I was appointed the Chief Equity Analyst.
I have three children and I was a stay-at-home mother for almost six years. After that, I took on a job as the Development Manager for Iittala. Relatively soon I got profit and loss responsibility for all direct-to-consumer retail, meaning all stores as well as online sales. Soon I was responsible for global brand management of Iittala. That is how I got into touch with the Chinese market for the first time.
In 2010, I decided to move to China with my family and I founded a consulting company with my husband. Reima was our client and we opened the Chinese market for them. Soon I was offered the job as the CEO of Reima and I have been in this role for eight years.
Reima’s mission is that ’We champion active childhood – to raise a generation ready for the world to come’. We believe that if children learn to be active as children, they will become better adults. Also, sustainability is important in our strategy and values. In addition to sustainable supply chains and material choices, we invest in the quality, safety and timelessness of our products. By making clothes that last from big brother to little brother we are part of enabling sustainable consumption. And in order to further support our customers in making sustainable choices, we recently launched a clothing as a service model called Reima Kit. The idea is that a customer pays a monthly subscription fee and can choose clothing packages for use three times a year. After the season, the subscriber can return the clothing packages, after which our partner sells the clothes in the second hand market. Then, that money will be returned for the service subscriber. Digitality plays also a key role in all our operations. Currently 50 % of our sales come from our own and our retailers’ digital channels.
How did you end up studying business?
I graduated from the Helsinki School of Economics. I studied international economics, mathematics and finance. I ended up studying there, because I felt I was not technical enough to study at the Helsinki University of Technology. I also considered applying for the School of Arts and Design, but I felt that by choosing business studies I kept all my options open. I enjoy mathematics a lot and that is how I chose my major and minor. Economics has always been close to my heart. After studying the Pekkarinen-Sutela book for the entrance examination, I realized what this field was about and I wanted to study it.
What is the best memory you have from your time studying?
My best memories have to do with my activities at the student union. I had a fantastic position as the Secretary of Foreign Affairs for the Business Student Association (KY). I learned a lot and had so much fun - and I got paid for it. Being a student is the best time of your life. You are free and only accountable for yourself.
What is the most valuable thing you learned at university, which has helped you in your professional life?
When I was studying in London for an MBA, I had so much to do that I learned the concept of “good enough”. You need to do your best, but you also need to finish things and let them go, when they are good enough. Especially women tend to be perfectionists, but you will never get anything done that way. You need to be able to consider what is good enough.
Tell us something surprising about yourself?
I have 80 Chinese passport stamps on my passport. That means I have entered China 80 times over the past seven years.
What should everyone do and experience at least once in a lifetime?
Having a child evokes such strong emotions that I wish everyone would have the chance to experience it.
You are currently the Chair of the Alumni Advisory Board at the School of Business. What does being an alumna mean to you?
Being an alumna is a way to give back to the society. It means being proud of one’s own alma mater, and belonging to the community.