Features The Archipelago Business Development project gave new insights

Tiina Thörnroos was one of the participators of the project Archipelago Business Development. The project aims at developing new business models in the archipelago by forming partnerships between entrepreneurs and start-up companies in Finland (including Aland Islands) and Sweden.

Published in the printed edition of Baltic Worlds BW 2019:2 pp 86-87
Published on balticworlds.com on June 18, 2019

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Lappo has been inhabited since the 13th or 14th centuries. Today the number of year-round inhabitants is around 30, but in the summer you will see more people as the tourists arrive. In 2004, there were 58 inhabitants on Lappo, so like for many other islands in the archipelago the trend has been decreasing. Consequently, the local school closed down in 2010 and now the children attend school on Brändö.Once on Lappo, you do not really need a car because you can walk or cycle around the island, which covers 8 square kilometers and measures 4.3 kilometers from north to south. You can also arrive by boat, and there is a well-equipped guest harbor that is open between mid-May and mid-September. In addition to the harbor, you can find a post office, library, museum, shop, and summer restaurants on the island.

For accommodation, there is Tiina Thörnroos, who can host up to 50+ people in her different lodging alternatives. Tiina Thörnroos was one of the participators of the project Arcipelago Business Development.

“This is a full-time job for me, and during the summer months we also hire a cleaner. My husband, parents, and in-laws provide a helping hand when needed. My husband works in mainland Åland during the winter, so I am very grateful that he is around during the busiest summer period. Our children are growing up, so it is not a problem that I work full-time, and they always know where to find me if they need me. When autumn comes, I have sometimes worked 90 days in a row without a break, so I am quite tired and it can take up to a few months to recover. By that time, it is time to start again. Falling ill would be a disaster, so you do not fall ill — you take a pill and go to work.”

How do you market your services?

“I have many guests who return every year. In addition, I market through my website, on Facebook, at fairs, and through retailers. We lack a clear marketing strategy, but we are constantly striving to find new ways to reach people.”

What are your biggest challenges?

“The biggest challenge comes from changing operating conditions due to decisions made by others without a proper impact assessment. As an example, ferry schedules, booking rules and regulations, or the way the travel agents prioritize might change. These changes have a large impact on our business. Our next challenge is to gain visibility and stand out from all the noise and the sea of different offerings. Those who would need us the most, i.e. those who need a break from everyday life, are perhaps the hardest to convince.

Is there anything you think that the state or the municipality could do to improve the conditions of businesses?

“We are completely dependent on functioning traffic arrangements. All of the uncertainties regarding traffic and schedules make it difficult for both residents and visitors. Fewer inhabitants results in fewer people able to take care of things, and a place that is not taken care of is not attractive to visitors.”

Who do you cooperate with?

“On Lappo, everyone is dependent on each other, so we cooperate with more or less everyone on the island, which is a definite strength. However, we also collaborate with other entrepreneurs outside Lappo, including different coaches, travel agents, and Visit Åland, and we are open to all possible future ideas for cooperation because we realize that nobody is strong on their own.”

What is your vision for the future of this place?

“We want to be a part of making Lappo an attractive visitor destination so that we can make a living here all year long. I cannot really say how to achieve that vision, but one thing that visitors are interested in is a wide variety of services. However, that would need further investments and more service providers because one person cannot do everything. Another thing is that it should be easier for visitors to reach Lappo, but we have the same dilemma there; who would do it and how could they make a profit from it? It would also help if our guests would realize that the archipelago is well worth visiting also outside of summer season.”

What have you got out of participating in the project Archipelago Business development?

“Previously, we used to ‘shoot from the hip’; we did about everything that came to mind and seemed like fun. Now we have realized that we have to analyze and choose carefully what to focus on instead of doing everything we consider fun. Moreover, the analysis and selection needs to be based on where we can make a profit. For example, I would love to have more shops for selling different things, but I would need high sales in order to achieve a return on the investment and to pay salaries for people to work in the shops.” ≈

Archipelago Business Development is a project financed by the Central Baltic Programme 2014–2020. The total budget for the project is 1,638,511 euro, of which ERDF is providing 1,228,883 euro. The project aims at developing new business models in the archipelago by forming partnerships between entrepreneurs and start-up companies in Finland (including Aland Islands) and Sweden. The project also aims at exchanging knowledge between existing businesses and new potential entrepreneurs.

 Existing businesses’ start-up expertise, paired with coaching techniques and the “Loopa”-method models for cross-border business development, will be used to educate and support entrepreneurs and business-counselling services. Students will be involved in co-coaching companies, internships, projects and thesis-work. The project will also organise international seminars to stimulate networking, knowledge-sharing and business development involving key stakeholders. The use of digital technology will result in the creation of platforms and applications to support cooperation in partnerships, business activities, sales channels and recruitment pools.

The target is to develop 10 new business models for existing companies through diversification, new seasonal solutions or cross border cooperation. A minimum of 60 existing SMEs will take part in the development process and we expect to trigger the creation of five new startup businesses.

Read more at: www.archipelagobusiness.eu


  • by Annemari Andersén

    Project leader of the EU Interreg Central Baltic-financed project Archipelago Business Development. Works at the Department for Research and Development at Yrkeshögskolan Novia in Turku, Finland. MA in business administration and 20 years of experience working as a consultant for industrial companies.

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