Complete collapse, lawsuits and tattoos - what has all been packed into three years?
Exactly three years ago, RIVA Clothing Oy had existed for four days. Now, after about 1100 days, we feel that we are already a little better on the map of what RIVA Clothing is. But what RIVA has become is really the sum of many coincidences and events. Before our future reform, it is good to remember the past and see where we started from and what has happened to us.
It all started on April 1, 2016. We had already got the idea for our own company half the previous year. We had received support and sparring from an entrepreneurship course called Hautomo. In the incubator, the business plan was refined and the group came up with better entrepreneurial ideas. The threshold to start your own company was lowered significantly when there were reliable people to ask for advice. However, not everything went smoothly with regard to the school: here is one less pleasant story at the beginning.
In one course, we had to present our own business idea to external investors. These investors were not really investing, but were there to spar and give constructive feedback. We went there with a smile on our face and butterflies in our stomach. However, our show was a total smash; the idea was in no way new or interesting, and it cannot be successful, or really even get by. Not at all.
The full-on collision felt surprisingly bad at that moment. We ourselves had been feeling the idea of our own company for a few months. The feeling could be compared to someone slapping you in the face with a wet fish. With the same decent bream. Today, you can already appreciate that experience - it woke us up. That "total crash" ignited a spark, because we wanted to show you guys so wrong. Maybe these investors were looking for exactly that reaction - or maybe our idea was really complete bullshit. Well, despite this, RIVA has been running for over three years now - I guess we must have done something right.
The first year taught me a lot
The beginning of the business was not easy. We had no previous experience in the clothing industry or building an online store, so Google was used quite a lot. Soon, however, we found suitable partners to start operations - a clothing importer & printing house and a digital agency, with which we were able to start the business. In June, we already had a working online store and clothes to sell! I think we got about fifty orders during the first weekend, which was a really big deal for us!
Things started rolling quite nicely. In autumn, we opened our first pop-up store in Jyväskylä Torikeskus. It just had a cool feeling - so we really have our own store! During that month, we learned a lot about our customers and the clothing industry.
Especially getting to know the customers gave us a lot and inspired us. Inspiration was also needed when we hand-stitched our own fabric brand on the hem of every single shirt, removed the manufacturer's tag from the neck and sewed that seam closed again. It took a few hours to sew... The amount of work can sound pretty crazy, and that's exactly what it was. However, at this stage we had no hope of cooperating with larger importers, let alone making our own clothes. This time, the alternative solution produced quite a lot of extra work, but it was still important to us from the beginning that we wanted to create something of our own. Now you can look back on those times with a laugh, but yes, it was far from smiling when you sewed RIVA badges until the wee hours of the night before the opening of the pop-up.
The first pop-up went well, so we decided to hold another pop-up in December. During the fall, we started to figure out our own style, and we found a new importer, Belik. Through Belik, we have been able to be sure of the ethical manufacturing of the products and the minimization of their carbon footprint. Customers fell in love with our new products, as did we. The December pop-up was a success. Part of this successful month was certainly the highlight of our pop-up, Seppo! Seppo arrived to us in November, and since then Sepi has been an inseparable part of our gang.
The first spring, the third pop-up and the Reppugate
The pop-ups had gone well, so we ended up organizing a third pop-up for spring, at Jyväskylä Forum. Around the same time, a sad event happened. Some may remember our backpack gate. At that time, we launched a new backpack model that strongly resembled Fjällraven's Kånken backpack. There was nothing legally wrong with this, because according to the manufacturer, the model protection of the backpack had expired. Our importer had made his own version of this box model. The backpacks caused great admiration, but also disapproval.
We realized our mistake in a couple of days, when among the enthusiastic comments there were also critical messages. We hadn't thought it all the way through, or really at all from the point of view of our brand: we went purely product first and naively thought that hey, this looks cool and the customers would definitely like it! We withdrew the backpack from sale after a couple of days. But after this, the gate itself only started: we received a registered letter in the mail accusing us of violating design protection. All manufactured models had to be destroyed, and of course the backpack could no longer be sold. I almost had time to lose my pants: was this here?
We forwarded the letter to our importer and the manufacturer who is responsible for making the backpack. In itself, it's comical that with our social media presence we managed to get a notice like that, but that company with a turnover of millions had already sold hundreds of backpacks, without any notices. Well, the backpack was not sold by the importer for at least a year, so apparently the letter had no real legal basis. Despite this, we didn't want to get involved in this mess anymore, not even by a long shot. From this we learned how important it is to do your own thing - there is no shortcut to happiness!
That spring we also decided that pop-ups are no longer for us. It was quite difficult to run the store and study at the same time. Our priority was to graduate from the university of applied sciences in the target time, so we had to squeeze in some hours. We decided to invest even more in our own online store and contacting retailers like us. We've had really great retailers here over the past few years, the longest-standing ones being Oulu's KURE and Jyväskylä's KOTO Designmarket.
The spring went well in terms of sales, but the following summer was frankly a farce. At this point, we had managed to run the company for a good year. There were successful collections in the past, and we couldn't prepare for disappointment. The reception of the summer collection was rather poor: the collection did not move from the online store, nor from retailers. Such a small company really has a lot at stake in individual collections, and this time we were only given the second pair. However, we survived the summer somehow. The failed design of the collection made us grow as entrepreneurs: today we budget our expenses smarter, and we don't take such big risks. Except with this new collection, heh.
Once you've reached the bottom, the only way is up
After a bad summer, it would have been easy to give up and leave the business affairs secondary to studies. However, after thinking about the idea for a while, it didn't seem like the right solution. We thought about what new things we could come up with for autumn. Would it even be possible to do something socially significant? That's when the idea of small-scale charity was born, which became a significant theme during our trip.
Our first charity collection was a really big success. At the same time, we were also able to do good - perfect! We have donated money to causes that are important to us, such as mental health work and needy families. And, of course, you mustn't forget the Saimaa Norse either! The "Don't be a seal" print created to support the Saimaa Norse has clearly been our most popular print so far.
The Norppa print has also changed its appearance a couple of times. The very first version had to be withdrawn from sale after a week, because it reportedly resembled an association's logo too much. That was quite a show back then, but we got through that too. Last fall, we already frees the third version of the Norppa print together with Paja Traditional Tattooing Vilho. This resulted in a new "Don't be a seal" print, which ended up on the skin of a surprising number of real people we didn't know. How cool! The tattoo was also taken by a rather tough rapper, Kari Härkönen aka. Brady. Absolutely amazing.
Graduation from AMK, full-time entrepreneurship ahead
There has already been enough text that let's fast-forward a little - straight to Christmas 2017. From autumn 2016 to Christmas 2018, we made new collections and grew the company along with the school. The job went so well that when we graduated as tradenomists at Christmas, we were able to stay and work in the company. It was a pretty incredible feeling. However, the work was probably not enough for two people full time.
Eeva didn't feel like she was quite in the right place as a full-time entrepreneur, but Riku had a feeling that this could be just the thing for her. When we graduated from AMK at Christmas, things went exactly as they were supposed to: Riku started as a full-time entrepreneur and Eeva got a job at a digital office in Jyväskylä. Fortunately, Eeva also has enough time for RIVA work in addition to her own work - it is said that RIVA Clothing currently runs with the help of about 1.5 people and two dogs. At the beginning of 2018, we also acquired our own office space on Puistokatu, so that work and free time could be separated more clearly.
In addition to Sepo, we also have another furry helper named Paavo. Paavo is a Finnish lapdog who joined our gang last summer. Paavo has been a really important link in our group. His strengths are creating a collective spirit, as well as really believable posing in social media photos. Licking the face is also particularly well under control.
The first year of full-time entrepreneurship, 2017, could pretty well be described as "spinning". Things have gone really well, but nothing revolutionary has happened. One new collection after another was created, sold, a new one was designed, sold and that's it. As we mentioned in the previous post, this situation drove us to the upcoming change. Now that we have the opportunity to make something bigger and completely our own, we feel that this card is a must-see.
Here we are now
It was a fast-forward, or at least a sped-up replay of RIVA Clothing's events over its three-plus year history. Every event, be it positive or negative, has led us to this situation. And we are really thankful for everything that has happened in the past. <3 However, we have a feeling that this journey is just at the beginning. Let's see what kind of history we will write in the next three years!
Eeva, Riku, Seppo and Paavo