Alumni Juha Liila and Bryan Mertanen: Entrepreneurs have the chance to fulfil themselves and realise their own thoughts and ideas

”As an entrepreneur, you are free to fulfil yourself.”
School of Business alumni Bryan Mertanen and Juha Liila
Bryan Mertanen and Juha Liila in the European Basketball Championship in Finland in 2017.

Korispiste is a company founded in 2008 by Juha Liila and Bryan Mertanen, long-term basketball influencers and alumni of the School of Business. Juha and Bryan, who over time have played many different roles in the field of basketball, decided to set up a company that would supply basketball clubs with the numerous different products they need. The idea was to support the clubs’ main activity i.e. to let them focus on organising basketball instead of "product ordering routines". Next, Juha Liila explains his passion for entrepreneurship.

What did you study at the School of Business and when?

I studied at what was then the Helsinki School of Economics from 1983 to 1991 and my main subject was marketing. In practice, I also worked all the time, because shortly after I started studying my coaching changed from being a hobby to a part-time job. I also worked part-time at a bank for 2-3 years.

What parts of your studies have been most useful in your life and especially in your business?

Marketing then was quite different from what it is now. Of course, the principles are largely the same, but the channels are completely different. Overall, the spirit at the School and the various subjects studied were an excellent preparation for life because they looked at life’s diversity from different viewpoints, rather than just from a commercial perspective. At the School, you learn to think about things from opposing standpoints and to understand things holistically as well as the individual factors that affect them. For example, when you go to buy a product from a shop, you really don’t understand all the things that are behind it, such as the product manufacturing process, the stages of distribution and marketing. The same kinds of things crop up in many other things we do, and in our lives generally.

My own life has been focused on coaching both during my studies and even more afterwards, but thanks to the education I received, I learned to consider the club as a whole and the role it plays in society. My activities in clubs are no longer just coaching and competition, but also education, creating a community spirit, caring for people, and taking others into consideration. Naturally, at the club level, I started to be interested in how players are recruited and how the finances are kept in balance. I participated in fund-raising and developing it further, training coaches, etc., all the behind-the-scenes work for a club. At the federation level, I was also involved in a lot of different tasks in areas such as the development and training of coaching, and in marketing. In other words, in my own activities I aimed to promote the interests and growth of the whole club and of the sport.

These have naturally had a major impact on the operations and continuous development of Korispiste and Team Factory, and have taught me to understand different impact chains and stakeholders. Operations must be continuously improved in order to keep up with ever accelerating development.

Where did you look for a model when you decided to set up Korispiste?

There were no real models available. I had long had the idea that I could do 'real' work as well. Since, in addition to coaching, I had also taken on a lot of different tasks at the club and federation level, over time the idea of combining my business school studies with basketball took root in my mind. I toyed with various business plans now and then, but didn’t have the courage to put them into practice.

When the time was finally ripe to start a business, the key idea was to give clubs the opportunity to get all the equipment and accessories they needed from one place. There was no such thing at the time in this country. Instead, basketball clubs had to purchase what they needed from many different places.

Has setting up Korispiste met your expectations?

From time to time, I really did wonder whether it was sensible or not to do this. I have really learned a lot of new things. The days have sometimes been too long, but they have always been full of interest and stimulating. I've always wanted to develop myself and others. Sometimes, however, we should invest more in what we already have. However, it’s good to get to grips with all kinds of ideas.

On the one hand, specialising in basketball has been a good thing, but on the other hand, the target group for basketball on the Finnish scale is quite small. A couple of years ago, we also launched Team Factory, which offers companies and all sorts of associations products with their own logos on them. We get products such as corporate textiles, business gifts, Giveaways and other types of textiles for various purposes from the same suppliers. This activity supports the whole business and is another way of enabling growth. On the other hand, competition has also intensified.

What are your tips for potential future entrepreneurs graduating from the School of Business?

Of course, I would encourage anyone to seriously consider becoming an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs have the chance to fulfil themselves and realise their own thoughts and ideas. It brings freedom, responsibility and opportunities in a completely different way from being a normal employee.

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