Finnish startup Jalla Board started as a project of Vuolle Setlementti Ry, an NGO in Oulu that stands for equal education for everyone. The aim of the project was to help those who struggle in today’s competitive environment, such as asylum seekers, immigrants and the long-term unemployed. What started as a project grew into a business – today the company builds longboards made of Finnish birch and southern walnut.
Two of Jalla Board founders worked for Vuolle Stlementti project and the third one came in as a voluntary worker to start a wood-crafts group. They started to make long boards. First feedback did not take long and soon they noticed that people liked their boards and were willing to pay for it. The decision was made – the project needs to grow into a company.
Today the company offers a range of products. Besides long boards, one can also buy custom made jewellery and clothes. Although the competition in longboard and clothing industry is quite high, the company believes that its values and mission will make it unique in the market.
“We believe that working will lead to people getting along in society. That’s why we want to give work opportunities to as many refugees or dropouts as we can. And that’s why our every longboard is handmade by a refugee or another kind of an underdog.” – comments Matleena Aarikallio, business development manager at Jalla. “Doing things with your hands is very empowering for someone who has the talent and sparkle for it. We believe that people can get back their self-esteem and motivation when they get to work for a cool international brand that appreciates their skill.” – she continues.
Jalla Board aims to offer more handmade products made by various action groups, including armed guards and low income pensioners. The company’s goal is to make Jalla Board a well-known brand that gives its employees, partners, and consumers a sense of being part of socially significant efforts. Many projects across Europe start to follow this thinking. For example, Fresh Sight from Edinburgh is starting a project with Jalla Board to search for similar business models in their area.