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The Co-founders journey began in 2016, when our founder Ia decided to build the ideal consultancy she would have needed as an executive herself. That drive and our founding principles still define our work today.
We know how it’s like to be in your shoes. For us, everything starts with empathy. We’ve worked as executives ourselves and it’s the cornerstone of our approach. Empathy powers the way we collaborate with each other, and with our customers and their stakeholders.
We don’t do templates, and we don’t do short-term. We know from experience that renewal projects can be stressful to deal with. That’s why we’ve taken many steps to minimize your risk and maximize the long-lasting impact of our work together, from initial no-strings-attached meetings to staying on as interim team members.
We energize and enable. We try to be your best partner by being your most human partner. We challenge and push you, but we also energize you and lift you up as a newly found expert and an internal champion of the change we've been working on.
We are big enough to maneuver grand projects but small enough to care. Our multidisciplinary team of strategists combine a wide skill set of research, strategy, and design, with a deep, personal passion for arts, humanities, and social sciences. We are your all-in-one team, dedicated to our work together from start to finish, from the big picture down to the smallest details.
We don’t do makeovers. We believe in business strategies that take people’s experiences and societal phenomena into account. To make strategy a reality, we need to listen carefully to both internal and external audiences. We base our strategies on insights that bring a whole new perspective on your business.
For Ia, a perfect day involves learning lots from fascinating people and then taking time to consider this new-found knowledge, ideally while lounging by the sea. This devotion to continuous self-development has helped her build a successful, two-decade-long career in branding, business development and design management. In this time, she managed renowned consumer goods brands, such as Kekkilä, Hasselfors Garden and Fiskars. Today, she is also a board member at Harvia and a 3rd generation owner in a manufacturing business.
A firm believer in the power of brands to change the world for the better, Ia relishes the chance to turn ingenious ideas into reality. This might involve anything from coming up with secret ways of communicating with her children to helping companies to move into entirely new business areas.
Her enthusiasm for organising, experimenting and starting new things, with an eye to the future, means she is also a keen gardener and a farmer. Not only do these endeavours give her time to ponder, but they also let her imagination bloom. Unsurprisingly, she felt very much at home at Fiskars and Kekkilä, where she drove the creation of a new brand look and feel, the redesign of all together almost 100 products, as well as innovative go-to market concepts.
This unique combination of expertise, experience and enthusiasm led her to start Co-founders in 2016. Her aim is simple: to nurture companies’ brands and culture. To see how well she’s doing, why not drop in and say hello.
In the 13 years since gaining her Master’s degree in Business Management and Communications, Alexandra has been busy. She’s worked wonders in branding and communications for industries as diverse as publishing, finance, food packaging, lighting, maritime tech and art, to name just a few. This has taken her from Romania to Spain, Belgium and Finland, which is lucky, because she loves getting to know new cities and their galleries, bookstores and cafés. Above all, meeting people from different cultures is to her the best part of being a citizen of the world.
Alexandra has enjoyed developing her expertise ever since she would discuss politics, books and society with her grandfather during their jaunts through the countryside. One example of this is her passion for collecting art books from around the world, which drove her to establish HKI Art Communications, a Helsinki-based company to promote arts and culture to local and international audiences. She’s also enhanced her flair for business by working as an Account Director at Miltton.
Nowadays, she is getting a deep dive into understanding human behaviour by taking a second degree in Psychology at the International University of Valencia. This allows her to challenge herself mentally and create new services that help clients lead their desired company culture.
What drew Aapo to Co-founders is the inherent connection between brand and culture. Aapo loves to research people and find the deep, grassroots human insights about customers and employees. Combine that with the analytic mindset of an industrial engineer who majored in Strategy, and a can-do attitude absorbed from the startup ecosystem, and you’ve got a strategist ready to tackle any brand or culture project.
From closing sales with Silicon Valley startups to helping the world’s most advanced digital advertisers to do better paid advertising, Aapo has managed to do a lot for his age. Prior to joining Co-founders, he served as the Chief Marketing Officer at Slush and worked on rebranding and renewing one of the most experienced Nordic venture capital firms, Inventure.
The best way to spark up an enthusiastic conversation with Aapo is to ask about one of the too many books he is in the middle of reading. Currently he’s into basics of semiotics and sociology, Hermann Hesse – and of course – branding. Aapo’s clients include Lemmes and Fluo.
A true nature lover, Sonja feels most fantastic when trekking on horseback in the Alpine wilderness of her current home country, Switzerland. Knowing this, it’s easy to see why she’s dedicated her career to helping companies do business in a way that’s good for the planet. She’s a keen advocate of science, and consequently enjoys challenging and expanding on her own and others’ ideas in debates, whether at a research conference or in a corporate boardroom. To fuel her creative mind, she also likes to read and read some more… everything from marketing research journals to astronomy and magazines like Monocle.
The above passions have been further fueled by her academic background, which has seen her develop exceptional expertise in co-creating sustainable corporate brands. With the unique insight gained from 10 years in marketing and a PhD on the role of companies in sustainability, she knows how to direct companies towards more sustainable futures. Not only does she succeed in this thanks to her experience of crunching data, but also because of her empathy, energy, and determination – qualities she shares with her hero, Michelle Obama.
Sonja balances her demanding work days with yoga and meditation, which she also teaches to others as a yoga instructor. If you visit our office and see someone in a tree pose, you’ll know you’ve met Sonja. She’d love to help find balance for your business, too.
Whenever possible, Laura starts her day with a morning swim in the lake at her family’s summer cottage.
She has 20 years of experience in neuropsychology and brain research, and she is a mix of an empathic professional with customers and patients, and a scientist with a curious mind.
In her PhD, she studied burnout and its effects on brain functions and cognitive performance, and that research challenged her own thinking about stress. At Co-founders, Laura helps us to understand the profound influence that our mindsets about stress have on our wellbeing, performance, and health. She brings along science-based knowledge and tools to utilize stress to enhance flexible thinking, decision making, social skills, emotional intelligence, and creativity in company context.
By changing your mindset about stress, you change the game and move towads a healthier organizational culture.
Reija loves a good challenge when she sees it. She prefers meeting it head on, fueled by her favourite quote from Yoda: “Do or do not. There is no try.”
It motivates her to project a vision of how things could be and then do the hard work to get there. In the process, she trusts her intuition and acknowledges the power of serendipity – those wonderful coincidences that lead her path in the right direction.
During her 20+ years of experience in building and managing brands at high-profile companies like Unilever, Fazer and Nokian Tyres she pushed her own boundaries in helping businesses evolve and transform. Today, in addition to her role at Co-founders, she is a board member at Kamux.
Reija has a soft spot for chocolate and tennis (not necessarily in that order), and she’s always up for a good match. She describes tennis as pure joy, something that she can do endlessly and still love it. Living in the US, France and Sweden created her appetite for cultural experiences – which she now shares with her family whenever they get a chance to travel.
Reija is curious, warm and compassionate. She believes laughter is vital for us humans, because everything is easier when served with a pinch of humor.
In an ideal world Ponniah would kick-off every day with a session of yoga, a swim, or a run. This dedication to keeping his body and therefore mind in great shape has helped to support his 20-year long career in management consulting. With successful spells at Accenture, Ernst & Young and Oliver Wyman, his experience is both extensive and wide-ranging.
For inspiration, Ponniah looks to a range of sources including; Elon Musk for his achievements in business, technology and space exploration; Nelson Mandela for his determination and leadership; Greta Thunberg for her no-nonsense communication of the climate crisis. This is reflected in his enthusiasm for exploring a diverse range of professional subjects himself, from company strategy to change management, from technology innovation to energy transition enablement. The list goes on.
As a busy and dedicated dad, he’s also learnt to approach life’s challenges, big and small, in a structured and a methodological manner. This is exactly the same way he works. For him, one of life’s great privileges is being trusted by his clients to look after their businesses and their interests. To find out more, why not drop by at our office. You’re assured a warm and very sociable welcome.
There’s nothing Axel enjoys more than using software to develop innovative solutions. While some people might see this as work, for Axel it’s what puts a spring in his step and a smile on his face. It’s why he spends time enhancing his expertise at Slush, Hive Helsinki, Hanken School of Economics, and even at home.
This love of developing new solutions, whether a to-do list app for himself or an entire resource sharing platform for students at Hive, is what makes him such a big fan of ingenious innovators such as Elon Musk. For Axel, it’s a dream come true to discuss big tech challenges with big tech thinkers. With his focus on web-based solutions, machine learning and full-stack development, he believes the future will be a truly mind-blowing adventure.
However, he’s not waiting for tomorrow’s world to live life to the max. He’s already spent a year in the Dominican Republic, where he learned that he should never judge a book by its cover, that paradise beaches are even better than they look, and that family is truly fantastic. If you’d like to know what else he finds fantastic, why not pop into our office and join him talking tech.
Lila loves to experience new people, new cultures and new foods. Her fondest memories are of grilled calamari meals by the Mediterranean, the tastes and aromas garnished with lots of learning and lots of laughter. Her childhood in Southern France, where life revolved around long lunches, have driven her to live and study in Finland, China, and the UK. As a lover of languages, her perfect day involves exploring interesting places with unfamiliar faces, enjoying everything a city has to offer, whether that’s Helsinki or Havana.
To build her academic knowledge, Lila studied Politics, Economics and Philosophy at the University of Warwick. A true people person, she’s equally at ease shimmying to salsa with her South American friends as she is singing along to classic Queen tunes at a party. This trait helps explain why Lila is a natural at community management. To see for yourself, why not come by and join her for a café au lait. We promise you’ll want to stay for a second cup.
Dr. Arndt Pechstein is an energetic mix of a scientist, serial entrepreneur, change consultant, and keynote speaker (yes, also on TEDx stage!). Arndt holds a doctorate in Neuroscience and is an international expert voice on topics as diverse as design thinking, bio-inspired innovation, agile transition, and circular economy. As a founder and CEO of phi360 consultancy and a founder and chairman of the Biomimicry Academy, he is “future-proofing organisations”. And it’s this focus on driving a just, sustainable, and desirable change that Arndt brings to Co-founders.
Arndt is based in Berlin, Germany.
Eva has an international background having lived in 7 countries on 3 continents and an extensive 25+ years experience in marketing, branding, corporate social responsibility projects, PR, and communications for global brands such as Samsung and Red Bull. She has a background from both small growth-phase and large multinational companies in consumer electronics, electric vehicles, cosmetics, travel, beverage, and consulting industries.
Eva is passionate about innovation, people, consumer insights and the art of communicating the value that products or services add to people’s everyday lives. She is also very excited about the opportunities of digitalization, of new smart technologies and their impact on business decisions, sales channels. consumer behaviours, learning, information flow, communication, and sustainability.
As a solution-oriented creative thinker, Eva challenges the obvious and continuously looks for innovative solutions, methods and new business opportunities based on consumer and market insights and trends. She is an excellent communicator and negotiator across language, country and cultural borders and barriers.
In her free time you can find Eva running in any weather, cooking and baking favourites from close and afar or preparing brunches or dinners for her large extended family and friends.
Tommi Juusela is a noticeable board professional and an angel investor with a passion for helping family-run businesses to renew and transform. Tommi holds a Masters Degree in Law and has a broad background in senior leadership positions both at Nokia and Neste.
With a deep commitment to environmental sustainability, Tommi regularly conducts expeditions to the Arctic region and has recently published a children’s book on climate change and microplastics. In Co-founders, Tommi helps us to up our game whether it’s about sustainability or strategic renewal.
Alastair is an expert in cultural transformation, helping leaders, teams and businesses change and adapt how they work. Motivated by the belief that everybody is creative, he empowers people and businesses to employ an artful approach to serious problems, and finds the world a better place for it.
Alastair was the driving force behind the award winning Catalyst programme at Unilever. Today, he is the director and founder of Creamer & Co., based in London and New York.
“A humanist working in the tech world, always seeking new opportunities.”
Marjo Miettinen is one of the owners and Chair of Ensto Group, an international technology company founded in 1958. Marjo has a diverse business background from a family business Ensto and a solid expertise in entrepreneurship, ownership, and board work.
In 2019 she was elected Chair of the Board of the Federation of Technology Industries in Finland, a lobbying organisation for technology industry companies. She is also Chair of the Board of TT-Foundation and a Board Member in Confederation of Finnish Industries, Technology Academy Finland TAF, Finnish Business and Policy Forum EVA, Economic Research ETLA, EM Group Oy and state owned company Solidium Oy. She is a partner at Boardman Oy, which supports owners, board and management. At the beginning of 2021 she became a Board Member of P2X Solutions Oy.
Marjo holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree and developing competence and education systems are topics that interest her. In 2020 she was appointed Member of Research and Innovation Council at Ministry of Education and Culture (TIN) in Finland. She is one of the founders of the Women in Tech network in Finland, which is an organisation network for promoting technology careers for women.
Marjo is highly passionated in people management, arts and design. She believes that by combining culture and business, there is a great chance to create something truly unique.