Responsibly produced clothes as an asset

Oi!Oi! Brazil Oy sells sportswear, which has been responsibly produced in the Brazilian countryside. The two entrepreneurs’ idea turned into a business with some help from Finnpartnership.

Miia Pirinen from Tampere, Finland, got to know Brazil initially through her dance hobby, but as the years have gone by, a major part of her business activities has become intertwined with this Latin American country. You will hear Brazilian rhythms played in Pirinen’s dance school, Energanzá, and her business coaching company, Kipinätehdas, organises trips to Brazil for its clients.

Pirinen launched her third company, Oi!Oi! Brazil, together with Kaisa Korkala. The company sells Brazilian sports and beachwear in Finland. The idea to import clothes came up a few years ago when Pirinen took a Finnish group of entrepreneurs to see the range of goods available from textile producers in north-eastern Brazil. “We came up with the idea of importing clothes from Brazil whilst visiting a large factory outlet,” Pirinen tells.

Valuable ideas from Finnpartnership

Soon after the business idea had come up, Miia Pirinen and Kaisa Korkala heard about Finnpartnership’s business partnership programme. They decided to apply for help with identifying Brazilian partners and to draw up their business plan.“Finnpartnership’s activities were well organised from the beginning. The discussions gave us numerous good ideas for getting started,” Pirinen says.

According to Pirinen, the information they received was invaluable because the pair had no previous experience of international trade and finding business partners in a developing country, such as Brazil.
“The project funding has also been financially important for us. Without it, launching our business would probably not have been possible.”

Small textile factories as partners

Oi!Oi! Brazil looks for partners in small factories whose operations are based on ethical values. According to Pirinen, particular attention is paid to the employees’ working conditions and occupational safety. Pirinen talks about ‘hand-picked’ clothes. The two Finns visit the factories themselves to choose the clothes for stocking. “The aim is to import into Finland carefully chosen products from small textile factories without any middlemen, whilst also helping entrepreneurs in poor areas to expand their businesses and employ local people,” Pirinen says.

Camboriun textile factory, located in the countryside close to the city of Recifen, in northeast Brazil, was selected as a partner. The company employs approximately 60 people and 60 sub-contractors. The direct link to the factories and consumers helps us stay in charge and take quick action if necessary. We know exactly what we get when we can check the quality ourselves. We also want to ensure that the sewers’ working conditions are decent.”

Plenty of demand for ethical clothes

Oi!Oi! Brazil sells its clothes in Finland through an online shop. A network of fitness professionals around Finland also acts as the company’s representatives. “Our aim is to continue selling unique clothes, not mass production. Diversity and quality are our assets.”

Pirinen counts the ethical principles as one of their assets too. She believes that there is a growing demand for responsibly produced clothes, even if cheap imports still have the upper hand. “The competition keeps getting tighter. However, many customers prefer hand-picked products, whose makers and the conditions they work in are well known.” The customers can also have their say on the product range. For example, on Facebook, Oi!Oi! Brazil asks people what kinds of products they would like to see for sale.

Dream of owning a clothing brand

Oi!Oi! Brazil currently concentrates on fitness and beachwear. According to Pirinen, the next step is to go global. The plan is to widen the market at least to Europe through the online shop. “Entering the global market means that we have to have thought through the logistics so that the products do not necessarily have to travel through Finland.”

Pirinen’s future dream is to own a clothing brand. This would probably mean establishing a subsidiary in Brazil. “There are two options for organising the production. We could either open our own factory in Brazil or utilise local sub-contractors. We are currently investigating which option would suit us better.”

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