Evi Oivanen is one of the three founders of Cuitu, a business that makes accessories from textile cutting waste. For her, success is an opportunity to influence people’s behavior and ways of working – if even just a little.
Having presented a rough business idea in the School of Business entrepreneurship class in 2019, Oivanen is now a full-time entrepreneur. That’s something she knew she wanted but she thought it would happen much further down the line.
“I thought maybe I’ll be a business owner around thirty. I had this idea that there is a rational path towards entrepreneurship and owning a business. But it’s not like that at all. You just have to start somewhere.”
Confident and creative, Oivanen has had her own proven way of doing things ever since she was a child.
“I’ve always had this need to make my own decisions. Back in daycare when the nurses were reciting rules, they specifically noted that these apply to Evi as well. Even as an employee, I kept coming up with various creative or alternative solutions. I did get good feedback but in my case, entrepreneurship might really be for the best.”
Cuitu’s accessories are manufactured from various recycled materials, including cutting waste from survival suits. Using surplus materials imposes certain restrictions on design and planning. However, Oivanen wanted the high-quality material to be the defining characteristic of the bag, and she’s not willing to compromise on that.
“We got this feedback once that the straps hanging on the sides of the bag are just too much. My reaction at the time was that, well, I’ll make them even longer. Meanwhile, feedback from London indicated that our bags should be even more over-the-top. While all feedback is important and we constantly put it to use in our product development, you have to make bold choices and statements in your design to stand out from the crowd in the international market.”
”Sometimes I find myself wondering if this makes any sense, trying to change the world with fashion.”
Determined and quick-witted, Oivanen is at peace with the challenges and uncertainties involved with running a startup business.
“Entrepreneurship is not for skeptics. I try to be relaxed about the constant uncertainty. Once founded, a business is in a sort of a limbo of undetermined length. Then at some point it either takes off or doesn’t.”
Having been a business owner for two years, Oivanen doesn’t see herself going back to working for others. The idea of entrepreneurship is a more wide-ranging concept for her. It’s a way to realize your ambitions with as little restrictions as possible, meet inspiring people, and have direct involvement in the issues you face.
“I’m not afraid of the idea of Cuitu someday going under. I’d probably come up with something else right away. The more immersed I am in my life as a business owner, the more certain I am about not going back to working for others
Oivanen often has eye-opening moments about how deeply rooted certain problematic ways of working are. For example, the sheer volume of how much cutting waste the clothing industry produces makes her shudder. But anxiety can be turned into an opportunity – and into business.
”Sometimes I find myself wondering if this makes any sense, trying to change the world with fashion. But I believe that growing the power and influence of our business is the best way for me to have influence on people’s behavior and established production practices. For example, I want to improve the network of local operators to avoid having to take production elsewhere.”
Oivanen shrugs, smiles, and concludes:
“There are so many problems in our society that it can be difficult to decide which ones to tackle. But as long as you tackle something, you’re on the right path.”