My name is Tomi Kuikka, and this is the story of how I became an entrepreneur.
I wasn’t really that into studying after finishing primary school. I went through construction engineering basic studies, but dropped out of school when I got a job from a balcony glass factory. I worked there for 3 years, and I also did my military service during that time. Afterwards I eventually got through upper secondary school with a focus on business and accounting in 1997 (Thanks to Marianne!).
From 1997 to 2000 I worked in various occupations as an AC installer, vacuum cleaner driver, water driller and beer truck driver. In summer 2000 I found myself working at Säkkiväline Oy, with a job description of maintaining mostly construction site toilets, meaning the emptying and washing of the loos. The job itself was very autonomous, which was a fit for me for some reason.
A few years went by in the job, and after that I got a transfer to another division and to a process manager’s position. My first task was to accept orders and distribute them to the drivers. I received the same treatment as I had gotten at school, but as it was nothing new to me I quickly got over it. What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.
After about four years of working in that position, I experienced a life-changing crisis in my own health. After a month of sick leave, it felt difficult for me to return to the same position as I had been in. My superiors Jouni and Jaakko approved my plea for changing my job description, and so I found myself being an actual salesman! This was a job that I had no clue of, but luckily sales processes take some time to get to the handshake. I got some accounts, whose orders I passed on to the production. This position made me realize how little manual laborers actually worked, and for how little a customer is ready to pay significant amounts of money for.
After a few months I came to realize that I wasn’t going to become a real sales cannon. If I really had to sell something, I might as well do it under my own company. I thought that I could do the actual labor better than the drivers we had back then (Go Kössi and Pete!). My salesman’s career lasted for 10 months in total, of which about half I spent designing my own company. On March 17 in 2007 we had a lunch at MacDonald’s in Tammisto with my pals J&J, after which we had a short discussion that led to my contract termination at Lassila & Tikanoja.
After a few days I got to register a trade name Sewerex. The main business included cleaning and scanning sewers. I gained a foothold in the industry with the seed money from the public employment and business services and the loan I got from Nordea bank. The operations started in spring, which is a good time to start a business. After some initial problematics I got the hang of it. The work teaches the laborer, as Erkki said. Summers were filled with work orders, but winters proved difficult.
From early on I realized that cleaning and scanning weren’t enough, but we had to be able to do other stuff as well. We started to provide cured-in-place pipings after training period in Germany at the end of 2008. In summer 2009 we already had noteworthy accounts. The business grew as the piping was in growing demand, and we also introduced new partners.
The business direction was, however, exhausting. Scheduling, lack of competend labourers and other things led to me longing for a change in scenery. I ended up staying at Sewerex until 2014. During my years in the company I got to experience an unbelievable number of different phases, and I also got a little money for my savings as a farewell.
As I told you, I was quite comfortable with the lavatory business. As running my own company was draining, I planned to switch industries altogether. The first porta-potties, 10 of them, I had already bought in 2010. In the midst of running my business, I kept my ideas in the drawer for years. I even tried to sell the potties to Lassila & Tikanoja as I felt that the idea wasn’t going to succeed. (They didn’t buy it, well done, Mika!)
The loo business stayed at the back of my head, while I was too afraid of the biggest competition in the industry, Bajamaja. Their name was used as a common noun for porta-potties used in festivals all across the country, which created hardships for new entrants to the market. I went on to think of as good as a name, when in spring 2011 a sudden epiphany happened to me. I remember taking a shower and remembering the bullying that had happened to me at primary school. The bullies would shout spoonerisms of my name, Tomi Kuikka, and then it hit me… Pasi Kuikka (a mix of another Finnish man’s name and my surname) with switched first morphemes on each word would make up a word in Finnish meaning a place to pee. That was it! The shower would have to wait as I sprinted to my computer and reserved the domain www.pasikuikka.fi.
After my epiphany it took a couple of more years until I got to start the business for real. In 2013 I opened the website, but the business was put on hold as the previously purchased loos were already long gone. The first summer was not a success, as we didn’t have any porta-potties, but for the next summer season 2014 we got a few products to keep the business running. From 2014 and 30 portable loos we grew to have 550 loos in summer 2018.
The starting phase felt simple enough, as I equipped constructions sites and some small events. Little by little the business grew, and in spring 2017 I was already supplying 100 loos for a horse show in the middle of Helsinki. After that came 140 units for a scouts camp in Southern Finland. In spring 2019 we lost a contract for a 400-unit order, but we were still occupied with Espoo’s underground project. Kalasatama construction sites in Helsinki also had most of their porta-potties from us. I believe that every bigger construction company in Finland has used our services at some point.
The future for us seems bright, and our aim is to grow and become market leader in the capital area. We are bringing in new models, such as a retro model specially designed for weddings. The whole industry is looking towards a radical change, when loos with underpressure technique will hit the Finnish market. Now, remember this as my greetings: We bring in a clean toilet, you make yourself at home so the next person will have a decent visit.