• Sanni Kaikkonen

Starting over from scratch is also a driving force

It will certainly come as no surprise that as an event professional, I also spend a major part of my freetime at various events. At the beginning of March, I participated in the regional meeting weekend of the Junior Chambers International in Lohja Spa. After surviving the two intensive days of training followed by some gala glamour, I smiled all Sunday through as I thought about all the new contacts and interesting encounters the event had brought. My entire spring calendar was full of events I was so looking forward to, both in Finland and abroad.

The original post was published 3/23/2020 in the blog of Evento-magazine.

Even in my worst nightmares, I could not have imagined my smile clotting only four days later. After the government banned the organization of events for more than 500 people in Finland until the end of May, my promotion company was suddenly among the many companies in the event industry whose business received a full death overnight. Before the next weekend came, almost all of our spring assignments had been cancelled: fairs, corporate events, shopping centre events, award ceremonies, and trade campaign days. When gatherings of more than 10 people were alsobanned, restaurant promotions and tastings in grocery stores soon followed. The events I had planned for my free time went in the same crash, and suddenly my spring calendar was empty.

The shock was huge at first. On Friday the 13th, we had already switched to telecommuting for an indefinite period of time. Soon, my 9-year-old business, which I had cherished with pride like my own child, had been made almost unviable. Sunnyone Promotion employs three people full-time, including myself, and more than 300 freelancers on a gig basis all over Finland. After the initial shock, anxiety about the employees struck my consciousness first. For permanent staff, I immediately decided that dismissal was not an option. Even a layoff would only occur if the situation were prolonged and the existing funds would no longer last. I spent the evening followed by the government announcement on acute crisis management. I personally contacted each of our clients by email and stated that cancellation due to force majeure would be free of charge to them. I saw no other option when the goal was to have a satisfied customer who would return even after the crisis. It was much more difficult to inform the situation to freelancers, as they had just lost their entire income for at least 2,5 months and at that time there was still complete uncertainty as to whether they would receive for example unemployment benefits at all. Despite the difficulty of the situation, we received tremendous understanding and support because all the companies in the event industry were in the same situation. As a first step, I started to find out what other work freelancers would be willing to do than events or promotions. I knew that changing a business to another would not happen overnight, but in the midst of chaos, I sought inspiration to set a new direction for action.

“In the midst of chaos, I sought inspiration to set a new direction for action.”

Corona took everything for a moment but starting all over again from scratch is strangely also a driving force. I had already been thinking of a new product development idea in the back of my head for some time, but no time or budget had been found to implement it before. Now it is another situation.

Today I typed the first development funding application in the company history to Business Finland. As of this day, it is not yet clear whether we will be able to execute our dream project. The mere possibility itself is the best feeling for a long time. If we manage to get the funding needed, it may well be that the corona crisis is the best thing that has ever happened to this company. If not, the world is still full of opportunities.

”It’s not what they take away from you that counts. It’s what you do with what you have left.”

Sanni Kaikkonen