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Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs
News blog26 December 2022Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

“Our vision is to become the leading circular accessory brand in Europe”

An interview with 33 Under 33 entrepreneur Evi Oivanen

Secrets of Success Evi Oivanen 33 under 33

On the Promoting Enterprise portal we are talking to all the entrepreneurs on the 33 Under 33 list. This Secrets of Success initiative aims to shine the spotlight on a selection of successful young entrepreneurs, documenting their stories in an effort to inspire others to consider entrepreneurship as a career path. Today it is the turn of young Finnish entrepreneur Evi Oivanen.

Tell us about your business

Cuitu is a sustainability-awarded company, founded in 2019, in Turku, Finland. It creates accessories made from upcycled materials, such as cutting surplus from professional diving suit production. In addition, Cuitu utilises straps from webbing lash production and deadstock or slowstock materials from various production companies, supporting a more sustainable allocation of materials. Following the upcycling principle, Cuitu reduces the fashion industry’s impact on the environment. All the items are locally produced, near the sources of leftover materials. This way, we are able to avoid unnecessary transportation of the materials, and can support local production. All the Cuitu items are embedded with an NFC chip that demonstrates the value chain’s transparency. Cuitu’s style is urban and unisex. The design is inspired by 70’s futuristic vibes, urban landscape and forward-looking positivism.

Where did you get the idea from?

The idea was conceived during a university start-up course, where the three co-founders met for the first time. We shared a passion for minimising waste and developing meaningful products. Likewise, we struggled to find items that matched our style that were created responsibly. Our tour of a local diving suit factory revealed that they generate a lot of cutting surplus in their production, which ends up as trash. In that same year, we started collecting it and developed our first item using it, resulting in a successful launch of the business. That is how Cuitu’s story began.

How old were you when you first decided you would start your own business?

I was 24.

How did you get it off the ground?

During the university start-up course there was a competition every year to select the best university start-up in Finland. For us to move on to the finals, we had to win in several phases, which we did, and which eventually led to us winning the entire competition. It gave us a nice boost to grow our business. After the competition, we participated in a local start-up accelerator programme, which pushed us even further. These networks helped us start the business and find relevant help whenever we needed it.

Who did you turn to for help?

The networks we accessed through the competition and local start-up incubators.

Describe some of the obstacles you faced as a young person starting out in this business.

Initially, we felt that we were not always taken seriously because of our young age and early-phase, so we worked hard to remove any doubts. The Finnish investor community is primarily tech-oriented, and as we first pitched our sustainable fashion idea to this audience only, we didn’t receive much encouragement as they didn’t value our idea. We have since discovered more relevant audiences to pitch to.

How do you define success?

Seeing happy customers and inspired partners, and making an impact in the industry.

What was the most challenging aspect of setting up your business?

I believe it was in getting to the next level in making sales.

What has been the most rewarding part of your journey so far?

Happy customers!

What are the future goals of your business, and how will you go about achieving them?

Our vision is to become the leading circular accessory brand in Europe, serving the needs of environmentally conscious yet style-forward urban citizens. Through pursuing growth, we are able to tackle the leftover material issue on a larger scale, and to support a more sustainable allocation of materials within the industry and across the board. We want to change the way we perceive material waste. We are achieving this goal through collaboration, adequate funding and our team’s passionate attitude towards making a circular impact in the industry.

What advice would you give to other aspiring entrepreneurs out there?

Surround yourself with people whose skills you truly value, turn to them when you need help. The only way to make progress is to get out of your comfort zone. And finally, do not be afraid of making mistakes, that’s how you’ll learn. If you make a mistake, you will be remembered for how you handled the situation, not what went wrong.

Follow and learn more about “Secrets of Success: 33 under 33” via the app.

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