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From a small furniture shop in Lapland to a national operator

Coming from Lapland and a small municipality are in itself significant values for a business to have and help to build a positive image.

– When we opened the store in Ranua, a local paper interviewed and asked what type of goal did I have and I said ’to be a leading Lappish furniture shopkeeper’. It was a pretty grand thought in the beginning but it has come true ages ago and, currently, we’re on a national level.

Veijo Ranua had already been in the furniture business for several years but because of long work distances, he was tempted by the idea of employing himself. He decided to found his own furniture store, Veken Kaluste, in October of 1995 as he was still working in his earlier position. When the business started running, he became a full-time entrepreneur. Veijo Ranua truly made a brave decision when starting his business because at the same time Finland was experiencing a heavy impact from the 90’s economic depression.

Keeping a furniture store in the 90s differs greatly from what it is nowadays in the golden age of digitality when it’s possible to get furniture from the net only with a few keystrokes. For example, trade fairs had a big role and manufacturers sent leaflets about new products one or two times in a year. The selection was a lot more limited when today’s furniture stores are the department stores of decor and design.

– We were already in a way trailblazing since we also offered furnishings, such as sheets and decorative items, which was laughed at in the field like what’s the point in that.

Only a month after opening the first store, he opened another one in Posio. Later as the company grew, Veke founded a third store in Rovaniemi. The business expanded to Oulu in 2018 and two years later to the capital area in Vantaa where the latest store was opened in March. Nowadays, Veke is a company of EUR 14 million in revenue.

Today, Veijo Ranua is a shopkeeper in the original store in Ranua and a chairman of the board. In April of 2020, Veke’s majority ownership was moved to his three oldest sons, Markus, Matias and Miikka Ranua. Markus Ranua started as a CEO in June.

Belief in innovation set off the growth

When Veke’s warehouse in Rovaniemi got damaged in a fire and then during the store’s rebuilding process a new information system was acquired, the younger Ranua generation came up with an idea to pilot an online store. Veijo Ranua says that he didn’t quite understand it at the time.

– I couldn’t even think that furniture could be sold online but, fortunately, I understood that the younger generation sees the future differently than me and can recognise new business opportunities. I wasn’t sure what starting an online shop would mean but we went for it, he tells.

At first, the site didn’t offer a possibility for direct purchase, but a chance to ask for an offer, yet slowly the site’s significance grew and the direct purchase was introduced. Veke’s e-commerce has ballooned to quite the size: it makes the most of the company’s sales.

Veke’s revenue in 2019 was around EUR 14 million and the business employs over 80 people. The company has had immense growth in the last years and it hasn’t slowed down even during Covid-19.

– The year 2020 has been exceptional. The growth has only accelerated and the revenue expectation is around EUR 24 million, CEO Markus Ranua describes.

Veijo Ranua thinks that Lapland makes a good starting point for a business. He feels like as the company was moving to the south, even during hiring staff, their Lapland origin was respected. Also, a business coming from a smaller town can get more recognition.

– Customers give extra points when a business has a background from Lapland. Lapland usually has very positive associations so being from Lapland has its benefits.

Roots in Ranua and heading towards internationality

Roots are important to a family-owned business and that’s also why Veke has wanted to stay in Ranua.

– We’re strongly committed to our hometown and it’s an honor for us that our company does well in the area – even just now, we’re hiring two employees for customer service in Ranua, Veijo Ranua says.

Even though the business currently grows in the south, it also has an indirect impact on the increasing amount of employees in the north.

The store and logistics center in Ranua employ 35 permanent workers and the store in Rovaniemi employs seven. Around 4,000 m² logistics center was opened three years ago when it served excellently and products were shipped from Ranua to around the country. The sales have increased especially in the south which is why the company has invested in a new warehouse in Lahti.

The workers of Veke’s hometown get many thanks from Markus Ranua for a committed and diligent work moral.

– We have found a great and fine staff, he compliments the locals.

After opening a store in Vantaa and a warehouse in Lahti, Veke still doesn’t slow down but looks forward. The business is constantly observing new opportunities. There even has been pondering about becoming international.

– We’re continuously developing know-how, systems and customer experiences so we can achieve better results than before in the future.