Finnish company Balmuir counts the likes of George Clooney, Tina Turner and the Swedish royals among its customers. Now the family-run company has set its sights on building a global lifestyle brand.
The turning point came for Heidi Jaara 10 years ago. She had forged a successful international career at Nokia Siemens Networks, but in the back of her mind she was always sketching clothes and home collections.
Then came the devastating news she was not able to have children. For Jaara it was the moment she decided to focus on her dreams: the Balmuir lifestyle brand was born. Jaara was determined to follow her passion for handcrafted products and natural materials.
“I have always worked internationally so that was what I wanted to continue. I was in Frankfurt, I marched to the finest boutique on Opernplatz and showed them my designs. That is how it all started,” she recalls. “In 2010, we went to the world’s biggest interior design fair Maison&Objet in Paris and immediately with a big stand. We have always done these things with flair.”
The gamble paid off. Today Balmuir’s products are sold in over 70 countries and its customers include star power from royals to Hollywood celebrities. The company’s fashion, home and gift products are stocked by some of Europe’s most famous department stores, including Liberty in London, TSUM in Moscow and Breuninger in Germany.
The icing on the cake? It is not only Jaara’s business which has grown. Much to her surprise, Jaara became pregnant and she now has two children of her own.
Jaara credits Balmuir’s success with its focus on quality, trustworthiness, being genuine and plenty of leg work. Notably in its early days, the company participated in six fairs per year in Paris alone.
Balmuir uses natural materials and traditional craftsmanship and Jaara believes this is central to the brand’s appeal. Jaara cites her childhood home near Oulu in Northern Finland as the driver behind this and the region remains her biggest inspiration.
“We like clear colours and nature. Where we live we are surrounded by it and at our vacation house, where we spend a lot of time, the closest street light is on the other side a lake,” she explains. “All our materials and colours come from nature, but we always have some exciting twist.”
Balmuir’s designs include reindeer nappa gloves, salmon skin wallets and cufflinks covered with stingray leather. Many of the products are manufactured in Finland but Jaara also handpicked family run businesses across Europe, some which Balmuir backed to get off the ground.
A global showroom
What comes next for Balmuir is brand stores. In Finland, it already has stores in Jaara’s home city of Oulu, and a Helsinki store opened in August. Now Balmuir is looking to expand internationally.
“We want to keep our great retail partners, but also build our own brand store network,” Jaara explains. “They are more like showrooms, it’s a place where people can see and feel the products. The concept is more about appealing to the senses.”
Like everything Jaara does, here Balmuir’s plans are ambitious: the company aims to open 20 stores over the next five years. Be brave, be curious and get to know your markets, this is what Balmuir has lived by and it is the advice Jaara passes on to all aspiring entrepreneurs.
“Buy a plane ticket and go to the most important fair in your industry. See the buzz and the trends and think, what could you do differently,” Jaara says. ”Mistakes happen, but the important thing is to define what is the twist you can offer and what are the values of your company.”