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Veera Ylikotila: Xeraliving Are Making Gorgeous Linen, Textile And Paper Sustainable Products

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Veera Ylikotila | Xeraliving

Tell us about yourself?

I’m 26 years old young entrepreneur. I established my first company at the age of 21 by myself, but now I have the delight of working together with Jenni as we started our company Xeraliving together one and a half years ago. I’m a bit of a workaholic. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with friends and family, decorating the home, and doing sports.

What do you think is the single biggest misconception people have when it comes to startups?

There are people who think it’s easy, and there are people who think it’s so hard it can’t be done. I think everything is possible if you just take one step at a time.

If you could go back in time to any moment from your journey, and give yourself one tip, what would it be?

I would say it’s okay if you can’t do everything. Actually, I’m still learning it, but I hope I could have had that mercy for myself a long time ago. It’s okay to be just a human!

What makes you stand out as an entrepreneur?

I’m very curious and want to learn everything. I do a lot of research on things I find interesting or important. I believe in myself and think I’ll always find a way. But I also do know we need other people, together we’ll make it better!

What are some of the best working habits you’ve gained over the past couple of years?

I have learned to ask for help if needed. And I’ve learned it’s impossible to get everything done; the more you work the more there is work. It’s important to have some free time and leave something for tomorrow.

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Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?

Xeraliving was launched in October 2020 by two young entrepreneurs, myself and Jenni Hakkarainen. Before launching we spent a whole year making big plans and thinking everything through. Of course, everything can’t be thought before, there have been many surprises and many of them not so pleasant. Covid-19 has affected a lot of the production.

Even though everything is made in Europe, there have been problems and delays and, of course, multiple fairs and events have been cancelled. Also, those where we planned to launch Xeraliving. There are only two of us but we have outsourced as much as possible (production, warehouse, logistics, etc). We design the products and do marketing, sales, and customer service.

Where do you see your business in five years?

I believe there’s a lot more of us then! Maybe 3-12 employees in addition to us two. Right now we have a total of 86 resellers in 15 countries and the numbers are increasing. In five years, I want us to have a piece of the market share so that we are known in Europe. There will also be new products and categories in our catalogue, not only textiles and papers.

What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you in getting there?

Lack of resources. Currently, we’re still only a company of two people, and it’s very limited what we can do compared to big companies.

Talk to us about your biggest success story so far?

In September we participated in the showUP event in Amsterdam. We had sent the parcels there so that they should have had plenty of time to make it but it didn’t go so smoothly. We left Helsinki on Friday afternoon, and the tracking showed the parcels would be delivered that day.

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A couple of minutes before boarding I noticed a message “not delivered”. I panicked a little and called them, they say the driver didn’t have time to deliver today and they will be delivered on Monday. The event was from Sunday to Monday and the building on Saturday. I asked if it’s possible for us to pick up the parcels from somewhere, but they said it’s not possible before Monday as nobody works on weekends. We (I was there with a friend of mine) tried to think of every possible option but nothing seemed to work until on Saturday morning I got an idea of contacting every possible person on LinkedIn who could help.

I managed to get direct contact with the place where the parcels were! We rented a car and drove almost to the border of Belgium and we got the parcels! It was a busy and chaotic day, but we did get everything done and the fair was a big success – our stand gained a lot of attention.

How do clients and customers find you? Are you much of a salesperson for yourself?

Most of our clients and customers come from Instagram. For gaining resellers different marketplaces have also had a significant role. I don’t see myself as a great salesperson, but I do it anyway and I think I’m improving my skills from day to day. Cold calls are the hardest ones, but I do like the process after that, getting to know clients and maintaining a good relationship with them.

What one tip would you give to fellow startup founders?

Believe in yourself; by that, you get others to believe in you and your company too. Don’t be too hard on yourself though, mistakes will make you stronger.

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And finally, what do you hope the future brings both you personally, and your business?

I hope for my well-being and my company’s success. Xeraliving’s motto “nothing but pretty things and better choices” sums it pretty well. I hope we can really make a difference by giving the consumers a chance to make better, sustainable choices. I want to be happy, and I want Xeraliving to make people happy. Let’s spread happiness!

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