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Tanja Sipilä of Tre believes in openness

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The Finnish and Nordic design store founded by Tanja Sipilä grew a bit too fast for its britches and is now looking for minority shareholders by crowdfunding. The most important thing is to regain the trust of our stakeholders, Sipilä says.

Why is it important to have a brick-and-mortar store for Finnish design in Helsinki?

Tre is a lifestyle and design store specialized in Finnish and Nordic living. We want to pass along the values related to Finnish and Nordic design.

We believe in a multi-channel business model, which is why we did not initially rely on an online store alone. We will grow towards online business, but it is important to us that our customers can get to know our brands, particularly the new ones, physically in a store. Most of retail trade still takes place in physical stores. Brick-and-mortar stores increase brand awareness and net sales more than doing online business only.

What does Tre have to offer to Finnish designers?

Tre wants to open new sales channels and markets for the brands. Our growing business in Japan enables us to do that better than ever.

In the future, Tre will expand its services for product development and internationalization. Tre is an important sales channel for many brands.

Small Finnish brands have felt the pinch of your economic troubles. How do you plan to regain their trust?

That’s the hardest thing for me personally, that others have suffered because of our problems. It has motivated me and our entire team to keep on going and trying to solve the problems. We know that only by overcoming the company’s difficulties we can pay the debts. We could have done many things better, and now we have learned from earlier mistakes. The most important thing to us is that people can trust us – otherwise our business will fail. That is why it is important to speak openly about the situation. Fortunately most of our partners want to stay with us, and I am sure that by doing the right things we will win back their trust little by little.

You made a major deal in Japan. What does that entail?

Japan is a good example of us learning from our mistakes. We tested the market on a small scale first, and now we have negotiated a license deal with a Japanese import company called Pos. They will take care of Tre’s operative business in Japan. Our task will be to curate the products for the Japanese market. We’ll seek growth and develop the brand together. The future entails online business, pop-ups and stores. In addition, we’ll enter the department stores. Many other things are in the pipeline, too, but we’re taking things slow now. The Japanese deal is important also because it’s a good model of internationalization for Tre. A lot depends on our partners, however. We found a good one in Japan, but only after a year or so of negotiations.

You are now crowdfunding the company. How can people participate and what do they get in return?

People can participate through the Finnish Mesenaatti crowdfunding platform. There you can buy one or more of Tre’s shares. After that you become a minority shareholder at Tre. We also sell aid packages that do not include shares.

Photos: Elena Liseytseva

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