A Wonderland out of wood figures*

Meet Anne Paso, the founder and Creative Director of Lovi

Meet Anne Paso, the founder and creative director of Lovi, a Finnish company that makes flat packed 3D decoration figures of wood. An innovative woman who loves problem solving, interested in everything. She reads a lot, likes long deep conversations. A person full of ideas.

Tell us more about your family, How was  Anne as a kid?

I was a silent drawer, reader and I wanted to be a boy, Asterix to be more specific. I loved comics and Asterix was my favorite at the age of 5, so I became him. Simple. I kept asking difficult questions. Finally, my mom told me to read encyclopedias to check the right answers. I'm still the same, I keep finding the answers.

You studied industrial design from the University of Lapland in Finland, did you start your brand Lovi immediately after you finish the career or did you work in another company before you became an entrepreneur?

After my studies, my daughter was born and I didn’t’ want to work too far away from home, so I employed myself by offering design service for other companies. I was not too picky, I designed logos, t-shirts, souvenirs, shop interiors etc. At the same time, I made my own experiments with wood because I saw that it is not so easy to sell your skills all the time for new customers. There were not so many customers in the small Lapland town in Finland, where we lived in.   I wanted to show how long you can get with good design. One of my experiments was a wooden bauble for Xmas tree instead of the plastic ones.

For the people who don't know , can you tell us more about Lovi?

Lovi is a Finnish company that makes flat packed 3D figures of wood, designed and patented by me, the pieces are assembled by hands without any tools. Lovi has importers and agents in many countries, Europe, America, Asia, Middle East. And in addition to this, it has a web shop and it ships worldwide. 90% of the products are exported outside Finland, Japan is a big market for us. Finnish and Japanese have something in common mentally. We both like silence and harmony. We like the simple design and natural material. It is deep in us. Lovi´s products are 100% made in Finland. 

Why did you decide to use wood? where did you get the idea of making figures in 3D and assemble the pieces without tools?

The idea came when I wanted to design the wooden baubles for Xmas trees. I created a structure which is patented. I patented it because I saw that I could use the same structure for different shapes. Wood material came first and then the product. Wood is so much better than plastic and even better than paper, which is mostly stone by the way. We use only birch plywood, which is a very common material and grows in its natural areas in Finland. I fell in love with wood during my studies. We had top-level cabinet makers teaching us and I learned a lot from them. I didn’t like plastic at all. It made me feel bad, because of the lack of character and because it is not good for the environment. In Finland we have a lot of wood material and I think we should use it in sustainable way. Not to sell it as cheap bulk, but high-quality products instead. My principle is to produce all my design in Finland, I want to know the circumstances exactly. This led to the idea to let people assemble their Lovi figures by themselves. It is also good for your brains to get some exercise. The product was already flat-packed during the test sale, but when I talked with the customers, they said that they would send the flat-packed Lovi Baubles as Xmas gifts. It was an ideal gift to send because it is flat, small and light. This gave me the idea to add a postcard like a label on the reverse side of the package.

Your design trees, animals and ** Moomins, seasonal figures as elf's and *** Miffy,  how do you decide what figures you are going to create? what is your criteria?  Your star product is a tree , why ?

"I have learned to listen to the customers, since the very beginning. The wisdom is there. But I process the idea to my very own. Selling products have made me a better designer. It is commercial after all"

I have learned to listen to the customers, since the very beginning. The wisdom is there. But I process the idea to my very own. Selling products have made me a better designer. It is commercial after all.

If I was an artist, it would be only me. But doing the sales forces me to reflect my ideas with people. It is very fascinating. The Lovi Tree was originally designed for fairs to get people’s attention to our smaller products. Lovi baubles were hanging on the Tree and the shape of the branches was designed so that there are lots of places for the baubles and other hanging ornaments. But I meant it to be a real product too. And tree symbolizes our nature related values and origin of our products. “Wooden Creations from the Forests of Finland”. You can see that text in our packages.   By designing the Lovi Tree we created the Lovi World. Someone has said: “When you create, create a world.”

Anne, you are a very successful entrepreneur in Finland, even you got financing from the European Union to grow your brand , how was your experience in applying for the grant? What is the recipe for your success?

My recipe: Follow your own path.  Actually, everything your company does is branding. The product is in the core, how it is made what are your company values etc. Thinking all that is very natural to me. You have to think of all the aspects. It is not like making a trend. It grows from inside to out. I couldn’t do it the opposite way. In the case of the EU for example, getting the grant requires filling in forms and all kind of bureaucracy, but all support is welcome. Our officers chose us to give funding because they believed in us. Making plans and thinking ahead and getting some funding to get it all really done helps a lot. They are not huge sums of money but all help is welcome since we finance our growth by cash flow. In a way it keeps the decision making in our own hands. It is very important.

What is the reality of your day-to-day?

All days are totally different. Reality is ad-hoc. I have to react at different things, but the older I get the more I like better planning.

Do you have any particular philosophy that guides your career decisions?

I have to be honest to myself, to be able to see myself in the mirror. I want to watch people on eye level too.

What is the biggest challenge you've faced?

Being a boss. I am not good at it. Luckily my husband is CEO now.

What do you love most about your job? & what is the most difficult part?

I love to do so many different things, I love problem-solving and creating processes. Lack of money, you cannot fulfill all the millions of ideas. Or maybe it is just a good thing.

If you could, would you change any steps you took in your career, and if so, what would you change?

I should have believed in myself more than I did in the beginning.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

To ask other people’s opinion about a problem. Three people solve a problem faster and with better quality than just one.

You have a husband and a daughter, how do you balance your personal and professional life?

I have a daughter, born in 2000 at the same time with my master’s degree ;-) Been married to my husband Mikko since 1998. As badly as most of us. But we are very close, we talk a lot together and keep eating dinner together always. After that we take our coffees and gather in our living room, just talking. There is no TV, and that forces us to socialize. Even our dog knows that. When we take our coffees to the living room, she follows us and starts chewing her toys.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Different things.  Walking dog, meeting friends, singing Karaoke with my family, watching movies etc. We just started dancing, I hope it will keep my brains fit when I grow older.

What are your plans for this 2019 personally and professionally?

More free time, less but better work. 

There is still the glass roof for women in the world especially in Latin America, fewer opportunities, jobs underpaid just for that fact of being a woman etc. Have you experimented the glass ceiling? if yes how you have gotten over, if not, why do you think is that?

"I think in Finland the glass roof is very thin. Finland is also one of the best countries to combine motherhood and work. I should be more grateful for that. Thanks for reminding! In general, men in Finland have a really equal mindset"

I think in Finland the glass roof is very thin. Finland is also one of the best countries to combine motherhood and work.  I should be more grateful for that. Thanks for reminding! In general, men in Finland have a really equal mindset. It is really easy to co-work with them. After my studies I started as a designer, it was hard to convince elderly men that their products need some design to be better and sell better. Back then I was only 25 years old and living in a small city in Lapland. That actually helped me to empower myself and create Lovi. It would be me who would decide how important it is to have good design in a company.

What tips can you give to young girls who want to work in design?

Get out from your bubble, socialize with people outside your group. Design companies need economic experts, sales, marketing etc. Don’t be arrogant because you know so little. Do sales, and get out from your comfort zone! 

I think in your position, many people may have the wrong idea of who you really are (personally),  and what do you (professionally),  with this idea in mind, what is being Anne and what's not?

I am not just an artist, I have a very strong practical side too. Professionally I think the whole way from material to the consumer. I love creating new ways to do things and I love to do it economically. It is not just creating nice lines and drinking latte.

Who is the woman you admire the most and why?

There are so many, but one comes to my mind without thinking: Tove Jansson, great artist, author, and illustrator. Along with many other things she created Moomins. She created the whole world, writing and illustrating the novels and comics. And Moomins have so much to say. I recommend everyone to really read the original novels.

Something else do you want to add or share with us?

As a company, we want to do our part for a better future. We started planting trees in 2009. Ten years later, in 2019, we have 50 000 trees planted in areas affected by flood, erosion or drought. Read more at www.lovi.fi  . We also made all our consumer packages plastic free last year.

Notes: Miffy is a child character created by Dick Bruna. Miffy is a bunny.

*The mumins are the fundamental characters in the series of books and comic books by the Finnish writer and illustrator Tove Jansson. They are a family of white Scandinavian trolls, of round aspect, with great morros and that looks like the hippos.

Name: Anne Paso

Sector: Design and decoration

Company: Lovi Ltd

Designation: Creative Director & Founder

Country: Finland

Social media: IG: @lovi_finland