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A Corona Miracle

How SELKA made its business turnaround amidst the worst pandemic times, from bankruptcy to rapid growth.

Selkan tehdas

SELKA factory, Nastola, Suomi

It has only been 10 months since the business was bought over.

It was chilly and tense when the owner company of Selka was declared bankrupt last August. The factory in Nastola, near Lahti, had been designing and manufacturing furniture for cruise liners and restaurants. That stopped abruptly in August.

News of the collapse saddened the 15,000 inhabitant-community. Selka had been an important employer in Nastola and for several decades, given livelihood and a liked employer.

Selka’s products were known by customers for their durability. Someone had commented that the fault of Selka’s tables was that they do not become broken even after years. The turnover has declined from its heyday when Selka’s tables and chairs were sold in Finland and internationally to several countries.

“Product development was forgotten by the previous set of owners,” analyzes Juha Nevalainen, a long-time employee of the company.

“I was a Master’s thesis worker when I first started to work for Selka. I have always enjoyed the camaraderie of the group. Most of the people who work here never leave.

Even as a young industrial engineering student, I saw that the products were always delivered on time to customers and the quality was never compromised for cost or speed.”

Very abruptly, bankruptcy became an actual opportunity

When the official announcement came about the bankruptcy, it gave rise to an idea that had been brewing for a long time.

Nevalainen called Mika Tolppala, who has been Selka’s factory manager since early 1990s. “I had talked with Mika for years about buying Selka out and running it as our own business,” Nevalainen recounted.

In a matter of days, bankruptcy became an actual opportunity. It was a now-or-never moment. The factory machines and equipment would have been sold off.

It was not an easy decision. Nevalainen picked up the phone and made calls to customers, suppliers and partners. “Would the partners still work with us?” The calls gave me faith, Nevalainen told, “I was worried that the company’s reputation would be lost and our customers would have found a replacement supplier.

But everyone hoped the company would continue, including the suppliers.

Core team was formed to take over

5 previous employees came together and bought the company over. They believed in the company that much to put their life savings into this venture. Nevalainen was appointed the CEO, Mika Tolppala continues as factory director, Janne Miettinen as foreman, Jari Suomunen in welding, Matti Leino in assembly.

Each of them has worked for the company for between ten to thirty years with their specialized skillsets.

“A number of Selka employees decided to act and as a result we are happy to say: SELKA’s story continues!” The company announced on its Facebook page in early October, just a month and a half after the bankruptcy was declared.

All former employees were eager to get back to work. “Machines and equipment can be bought, however, without a well-functioning team, we would be nothing,” rejoiced Nevalainen.

The auction was cancelled. There was room to decide what new and revolutionary things the factory could start to work on. What was needed was a successful product that would put the business back on track.

A miracle happened.

The sun began to shine in Päijät-Häme. Sometimes, pieces fall into place in the midst of a crisis. This was the case for SELKA, whose new concept took off incredibly well when corona pandemic hit Nastola and the entire world.

It took luck, relentlessness and courage to change the direction of the business. The black swan brings about unexpected change.

“At the end of February, the developer of our website asked for remote desks for his own needs,” says Nevalainen. “The laptop tables in our collection were reportedly too low and Janne hoped for a higher one.”

At this point, no one in Finland could foresee the COVID-19 impact or predict a State of Emergency.

Web designer, Janne Kujanen, drew wild pictures of his dream table and persistently sent them to Nevalainen. Eventually, Juha took over and promised to make a prototype.

Ari Kanerva, who was awarded the Finnish Furniture Designer in 2019, was contacted to design a small remote desk which height could be adjusted easily between sitting and standing positions.

COVID-19 impact

The prototype was completed in March, at about the same time when coronavirus hit Finland. Business ground to a halt but for SELKA, the State of Emergency and lockdown provided the angle of attack. The timing on the remote desks could not have been better.

Työnjohtaja Janne Miettinen tarkistaa maailmalle lähteviä etätyöpöytiä

Factory foreman  Janne Miettinen  inspecting multiuse tables

Forced to work remotely from home, office workers hurt their backs and necks with bad postures. One worked with her PC on the shelf of her clothes wardrobe. Another built a standing table from an ironing board and a stack of books. People were forced into small spaces to work with the rest of the family members in the same room or apartment. The pain from working with poor ergonomics did not make it easier to endure the quarantine.

There was a huge need for a desk that could fit in every home and any room. The SELKA team was ready to jump into the unknown.

“Everything was new to us”

“Everything was new to us,” says Nevalainen. In the past, the furniture business was done with business customers. Now it was necessary to switch from a B2B model to a consumer model within just a few weeks. The company had only been in the ownership of the new owners for half a year.

“I was nervous. How much money is riding on this? What kind of losses could we make?” Nevalainen posed open questions to the group. There was not even experience in pricing consumer products. Well, inexperience did not slow the team down at the Nastola plant.

It was decided to invest fully in exports.

Momentum grew when the message was spread through Finnish social media channels, magazines and other media. Help was received from the likes of Peter Vesterbacka – known from Rovio and the Tallinn Tunnel – who became an ambassador and spokesperson in Kauppalehti’s article on remote working.

“Not everything has to be perfect from the beginning,” reminds Nevalainen. “Just go for it, tell what you are working on and people will accept even a small imperfection.”

“People want to help”

Selkastore, the online store selling SELKA remote desks, was launched as soon as the prototypes were completed.

Like always, the beginning was a lesson. Not all parts were delivered to the factory on time and it took too long to deliver the products. Sincere enthusiasm and close contact with the first customers helped.

“Customers were really kind and patient with us even if the start was not all smooth.”

Customer satisfaction was more than good with the fact that everyone who received their table was surprised by its features and quality of the finishing. Weighing nearly twenty kilograms and assembled from good quality components, the table was so sturdy that it was joked on Facebook that it’s not just a working desk, but it’s also your home bar counter, as you cannot go out during the Corona lockout.

For those accustomed to IKEA quality and cheap cardboard furniture, remote working desks produced with quality standards were a positive shock. Positive feedback started to pour and it was overwhelming to read their feedback.

The average rating for Facebook reviews is currently five, the best possible score.

“Negative feedback only comes from people that have not seen or tried the product physically,” says Nevalainen.

After the first tables were sold in Finland, marketing began abroad through social media. Cities where people were known to be in lockdown were targeted. The orders flowed in immediately, even though it was a purchase of several hundreds of euros from a manufacturer previously unknown to buyers.

The first order outside of Finland came from David in Belgium.

Now, SELKA’s remote working desks have been sold to nineteen countries.

These made-in-Finland desks are requested by countries where there are no reasonable logistics costs yet.

It’s easy to start

The risk increases when the playground gets bigger and a lot more funds are used. “If we start supplying these tables to Asia, Africas and the United States, we will need capital for 4-6 months,” says Nevalainen.

First, cashflow is tied to the required components, while the desks are being manufactured and packaged. After that, the tables are shipped in containers for several weeks, upon arrival, wait in logistics centres for months before they are received by buyers. It can take up to half a year to get the cash flowing back.

“We have great suppliers and partners who are bigger than us. The partners are able to supply us with components as they have huge capacities. Our factory processes have been optimised so well that as demand grows, we can handle the growth by increasing our manpower.

Partners who have known us for decades trust SELKA in the hands of the new owners and there is support for the new business direction.

Even designers in Finland and the region are taking notice and making contact with SELKA due to the overwhelming response to the new range of standing-sitting desks.”

The share of remote desks has risen to contribute towards a third of SELKA’s turnover in two months and the direction is clear. Remote desks are being delivered to the world at an accelerating pace, as exports already account for 75 percent of sales of adjustable standing-sitting desks.

It has only been three months since the first table was delivered to the first SELKA consumer customer.

Text: Sami Kuusela (published originally July 1, 2020)

February 15, 2021 — Petteri Ruotsalainen
Read how our customers feel about SELKA tables.

“Perfect work-from-home companion;” here’s how our customers feel about SELKA tables | SELKAstore

We have asked our SELKA users to send us pictures and comments about the tables they have purchased. What kinds of experiences have our customers had?

Well, it wasn’t our specific goal to create a zen working environment, but if that’s the end result, we are more than pleased. :-D

Have a look at the different models in the SELKA work desk product line!

Essi about MAHTUVA XL 90x60 cm

Feb. 9th 2021

Bought this table three months ago and have been using it almost every day since. It fits perfectly my screen, laptop and other small office supplies, like notebooks and coffee mugs. The white table looks modern. Very happy with the product. Would recommend 10/10.

Height adjustable desk MAHTUVA XL from SELKAstore

Keith Y. about MAHTUVA M 68x40 cm

Feb. 5th 2021

Great quality and works perfectly! I like that it's not electric so there are no cords and it's easier to move around. Their customer service is also excellent! The screws were missing from my package but they immediately replied and shipped them out so everything worked out.

Height adjustable desk Mahtuva from Selkastore

Vanja J. about SOPIVA S 50x35 cm

Jan. 14th 2021

Thank you Selka for the wonderful product! At first, I wasn't sure to take Sopiva or Mahtuva, but swift and excellent customer service helped me and made my decision easier. I am more than happy with my new Sopiva table. Kiitos Selka!

Height adjustable desk Sopiva from SELKAstore

Benoit H. about MAHTUVA M 68 x 40 cm

Sept. 14th

Very good build quality. Sleek design. Perfect item for a zen working environment.

Selkastore customer stories

We have tried to the best of our abilities to come up with 21st century furniture; the kind that fits into the home office, even in smaller apartments.

Kati H. about MAHTUVA L 78x50 cm

Sept. 25th

I bought Selka’s MAHTUVA size L desk with spring. The desk is very stable and sturdy and holds even two screens without wobbling. The desk was delivered in a package and was easy to assemble with only one tool, which was included. The height is easily adjustable because of the spring, so you can work standing up. With only one leg, it fits in quite a small space, so it is ideal for home offices.

Selkastore customer stories

Taina A. about MAHTUVA L 78 x 50 cm

Sept. 15th

An awesome and stylish looking table that fits perfectly in the very small space that I have available. And it can be easily moved, since no electricity is needed to maneuver it. Love it <3

Teemu M. about SOPIVA Tammi 50 x 35 cm

Sept. 11th

Excellent table! Handy, nice looking, quality product. Despite being small, it can fit all necessary work equipment.

Selkastore customer stories

 

When your home becomes your home office, you definitely want furniture with timeless, quality design. Our MAHTUVA and SOPIVA collections were designed by 2019 Finnish Furniture Designer of the Year, Ari Kanerva.

 

Marieke about MAHTUVA L 78 x 50 cm

Jul. 4th

Love the product, and so does my daughter! Very stylish and high-quality product.

Selkastore customer stories

Teemu L. about MAHTUVA S 50 x 35 cm

Jul. 4th

Very elegant design, flawless finishing, sturdy enough pedestal, great value for money.

Aleksandra M. about MAHTUVA L 78 x 50 cm

Oct. 8th

The table looks very nice and works perfectly as a desk. There is a place for my laptop, coffee, and notebook.

The delivery was very fast and installation quite easy.

I can strongly recommend this product.

Selkastore customer stories

Lennart B. about SOPIVA Tammi 50 x 35 cm

Jul. 24th

Wonderful addition to a work-from-home setup!

It's brilliant to have a place to feel comfortable typing on the laptop, without sitting all the time. Such a beautiful product!

 Selkastore customer stories

“Complements rather than dominates.” We couldn’t have put it better ourselves. Thank you.

 

Sarah C. about MAHTUVA S 50 x 35 cm

Jul. 8th

Purchased on my brother’s recommendation to improve presentations by standing, I’ll be using my MAHTUVA for online lectures and talks this coming academic year. With a small office, this complements rather than dominates my working space; it’s just brilliant.

Selkastore customer stories

 

The SELKA tables are height adjustable, but with quality design, they are also durable, sturdy, and stable.

 

Matthijs W. about MAHTUVA S 50 x 35 cm

Jul. 26th

The perfect work-from-home companion. The desk itself is very stable and has a high-quality office-grade feel to it.

Selkastore customer stories

 

Last, but definitely not least, we pride ourselves on our quick and reliable delivery times. Outside Finland, we deliver within 10 days; in Finland, within 4 days.

 

Ville T. about MAHTUVA M 68 x 40 cm

Aug. 19th

The table is steady, feels very well made, and looks great. I can fit my laptop, mouse, phone, notebook, and coffee cup on the table easily, even though the table is relatively compact and does not take up much space.  The delivery of the table was super fast, and it was easy to assemble. Highly recommended!

 

Have a look at the different models in the SELKA work desk product line!

 

Please keep those comments coming, and we will update this page with more SELKA experiences!

Customer stories - First users around the world

Customer stories - First users around the world

We have asked the first user in each country to send a picture and maybe a comment about the table. We hope to get many nice pictures from all over the world.

David, Belgium. Our first customer outside Finland

SOPIVA Oak, warm green

"And we are loving it! The design is both elegant and functional."

 

 Gerard, Netherlands. Which one is more beautiful?

SOPIVA Oak, warm grey

"I’m very happy with the new desk. The quality and the design are superb! Both the iron and oak wooden parts exceed in quality far above what I normally find.

The desk was very easy to assemble; it just takes a few minutes.  Although the delivery was a bit slow due to the transport company, the communication and service with SELKA was very good. I understand SELKA will get another transport company to handle that in the future.

But other than that, I rate this product with 5 stars! It's worth waiting for!"

 

Friederike, Germany. A perfect match of laptop and table top.

SOPIVA Aluminum, warm green

"I really like the color, it is exactly how I imagined it based on the photos on the website and the pictures you send me via chat. The size of the table is perfect, as our guest room/office (since Covid-19) is only 6 m2 big. We especially need the room for when either my boyfriend or I are in conference calls, so that the other one can continue to work without distraction in the living room, and for that the table is perfect! The gas feather mechanism (or whatever this mechanism is called) works perfectly fine, and at the time of writing this, I am using the desk in stand-up position and am really enjoying it. 

I even think that after Corona, this table could serve as a nice table next to the sofa, with a nice vase or candle on it. 

This was the first time I bought something on the internet that I saw on Instagram, and even though I was a bit skeptical at first, I am very happy that I trusted you and now have this beautiful desk."

 

Jan-Philipp, Denmark. What a legendary "before and after" series.

SOPIVA Aluminum, warm green

"I just received my order. It is brilliant, I am absolutely happy with the quality, very sturdy build, and it looks great. 

Since I will have some more days working from home, this is good timing; see the before and after pics attached. Can you tell the difference ;-)"

 

Kai, Spain. Why not work outside if you have that view?

MAHTUVA L, black

 

Patricjus, Poland. Which one was first, the laptop or the table?

MAHTUVA S, black

"An extremely space saving, versatile, and affordable solution for home,
whenever you need to use your laptop, sitting or standing. Just in time for our new reality. Absolutely love it!"

 Sandor, Hungary. So SOPIVA (a perfect match in Finnish) for this beautiful house.

 

David, Austria. Such a nice place to work in front of the window.

“The table is very robust and heavy, which makes it very special and of higher value. I was also very surprised that the table gets higher without pushing it up; you only have to move the handle, which underlines the great quality! And also the support from Juha, the founder of the company, was very special and helpful. Thank you for this great product. I‘m very happy :)” 

 

Darja, Latvia. 

SOPIVA Aluminum, warm green

"The table is exactly what we expected for a small apartment—easy to assemble, easy to move, stable, doesn't need a lot of space, and you can sit or stand.  The color is the same as I imagined, and it is nice! Great, useful idea!"

 

Liliana, Switzerland

MAHTUVA L, black

I am very happy with my MAHTUVA. It is very nicely done. It is not as big as the traditional standing desk, but still big enough to fit my laptop and monitor, and I still have some extra room available. Adjusting the height is very easy. It definitely exceeded my expectations.

 

More stories to come....

June 02, 2020 — Juha Nevalainen
SELKA – Our Story

SELKA – Our Story

 

Selka is a Finnish manufacturer of public space furniture that has been operating since 1985. In this time, Selka has furnished many objects familiar to Finns. You may have sat at a group of our tables on cruise ships in the Baltic Sea or Caribbean. Perhaps in one of the numerous cafés and restaurants all over the world. We work closely with Finland’s leading furniture designers. Our product range includes furniture designed by Ari Kanerva, Tapio Anttila, Timo Saarnio, Yuki Abe, and Markku Pakkanen, for example.

HISTORY OF SELKA OY

Our story began in the municipality of Pohja, with the need for electronics molds made from aluminum. Eventually, we started making aluminum mold furniture under the name of Selkate ky. Urpo Kallonen, the founder, renamed the company Selka-line Oy. Inspired by the furniture manufacturing tradition in Lahti, he built a new factory in the municipality of Nastola. Durable and high-quality furniture solutions, such as ours, are especially suited to the needs of the shipping industry and restaurants. Our reputation spread far and wide, and Selka’s aluminum-molded furniture components began to be delivered abroad. During the peak years, our exports accounted for more than 50% of production.

THE POWER QUINTET

The passionate visionaries in our company’s core team— Janne, Jari, Juha, Mika, and Matti —have decades of experience in manufacturing high-quality furniture and long careers at Selka. The goal of this power quintet is to strengthen the furniture market with Finnish know-how and to offer public space furniture in which elegance, ecology, and sustainability play a significant role.

ECOLOGICAL

Selka Oy offers timeless and hard-wearing furniture solutions whose primary raw materials are steel, aluminum, and wood—all of which are recyclable. In our own production, we primarily use recycled aluminum and limit the use of fresh aluminum to the casting process of structures that require it.

With the replacement of wearing parts, such as wooden table tops, wooden seats, and upholstery, the product becomes new again. Our replacement system is an excellent ecological and cost-effective solution for the color and style changes required for a company’s brand renewal. In essence, you get a completely new look for public space furniture quickly, effortlessly, and cheaply, with a full-service approach. Contact us and ask for more information!

QUICK, HIGH-QUALITY DELIVERIES AND CUSTOM SOLUTIONS

We offer a wide range of public space furniture for all needs. Selka products combine Finnish steelmaking traditions with modern manufacturing methods. Even more custom furniture solutions are possible, thanks to high-quality surface materials.

In addition to the basic product range, Selka furniture can be customized exactly to customer needs. There are about 150 stock colors ready, in addition to which we can tint and shade the products completely, according to your wishes.

Speed is our advantage; if necessary, we can deliver a restaurant’s furniture in less than two weeks!

“Tell us what you want, and we’ll find ways to make your wishes come true!”

         

May 17, 2020 — Aleksi Väisänen