From being marginal to conquering the world


From idea to business For operating businesses Design Wellbeing & Sports 6.2.2018

Founded a couple of years ago, the Lahti-based Steaks Contact Wear is a clothing company that is aiming for the European and American markets. Originally designed for roller derby, women’s own team sport, this collection of protective wear is currently also searching for a market in other contact sports. LADEC has been strongly involved and provided support in the company’s fast-moving early stages.

The founder of Steaks Contact Wear, entrepreneur Suvi Alalantela, is originally from Tampere. After graduating from Lahti Institute of Design with a degree in wearable design, Alalantela worked for five years at Luhta before deciding to found a business around her own clothing collection. Steaks Contact Wear largely originated from her own need.

‘Seven years ago, I was founding a roller derby club in Lahti when I noticed that there was no protective equipment available that was designed specifically for this fast-paced contact sport. The protective equipment intended for other sports looked so awkward that women would rather hurt their bottoms than wear thick protective trousers. I decided to design a stylish and inconspicuous collection of protective clothing, made of technical material, which everyone practising this sport would want to wear and not be ashamed to do so,’ she says.

Fast-paced team sport

Roller derby is a sport which many people have primarily only caught a glimpse of in American movies. According to Alalantela, the women who speed around an oval-shaped track in roller skates, wearing micro shorts and fishnet tights, are as far from the real players of the sport as you can be.

‘This mental image originates from the early years of the sport, when roller derby was as much entertainment as American professional wrestling. Over the decades, it has become an action-packed sport, with its own divisions and Finnish championships as well as world championships. The sport is a fast-paced team sport that requires strength, speed, strategic intelligence and athletic ability. But above all, it’s fun!’ Alalantela asserts.

In roller derby, there are five players from both teams on the track at the same time: one jammer and four blockers. The teams skate in a single pack in close proximity to each other. The jammers get points each time they lap a player from the opposing team. The players can block players of the opposing team with their body and by knocking them out of bounds. Referees monitor compliance with the rules of the game and send any violators to the penalty box.

‘In all other women’s team sports, contact is usually forbidden, but not in roller derby. To succeed in the game, you need good team work, courage and a strong physical condition,’ she says.

‘If I can’t figure out how to solve a problem in the company’s development, I can turn to LADEC and Jyrki Rautkivi. He and Isko Lappalainen have been a great source of help and support in the founding and development of the company. It’s been nice to see that they still keep in contact and regularly ask how my company and I are doing.’

Reinforcement for sales

Good game intelligence and tactical skills are also required for Steaks Contact Wear’s budding efforts to conquer the world. According to Suvi Alalantela, there are some 500 people active in the sport in Finland and some 100,000 in the USA. The long-term goal of the company is to gain a 10–15 per cent slice of the entire American market, which will require the company to grow its sales, marketing and distributor network.

Suvi’s German business partner is in charge of the company’s website and online shop. The manufacture of the clothing has been outsourced to Finland and Lithuania, but reinforcement is needed for product sales and account management.

‘If I can’t figure out how to solve a problem in the company’s development, I can turn to LADEC and Jyrki Rautkivi. He and Isko Lappalainen have been a great source of help and support in the founding and development of the company. It’s been nice to see that they still keep in contact and regularly ask how my company and I are doing.’ 

Isko Lappalainen’s expertise was of concrete benefit to Suvi in applying for the CreMa funding for creative industries, among other things.

‘I’d applied for the CreMa funding before, but it wasn’t until I prepared an application with Isko that I was successful. The grant I received was almost exactly the amount that I hoped to get,’ Suvi says with a smile.

In order for Steaks Contact Wear’s business to truly take off, the collection also has to be marketed to other contact sports, such as snowboarding and BMX.

‘The expertise of the employees of LADEC truly shines in all types of consulting and the refining and commercialisation of ideas. They are like a big brother whom you can turn to whenever you need,’ Alalantela says in conclusion.
 

Text: Taru Schroderus