How did the entrepreneurial collaboration in Rovaniemi begin?
It all started back in 2014 when two local entrepreneurs, Pasi Hiukka and Esa Auer, sat down to talk about the state of their beloved hometown. They couldn’t help but notice how so many local shops around them were having a hard time. It felt to them that the big chains and stores were doing well, but the small, often family-owned and -operated shops were suffering. The money spent shopping didn’t seem to stay in Rovaniemi, but instead went in the hands and pockets of bigger corporations, whose headquarters were either in Helsinki or somewhere outside of Finland. The two men talked to their fellow entrepreneurs, as well as several local entrepreneur organizations such as Entrepreneurs of Rovaniemi, Women Entrepreneurs of Rovaniemi, Rovaniemi Development Ltd., and the City of Rovaniemi, which promised financial support for the endeavor.
The group felt that if consumers only realized how important supporting the local economy, people would do so. The answer, it seemed, was simple: businesses need to highlight the fact that they are local. After that, everything happened fast. Likiliike – literally, a shop that is “close” or “near” – was founded in June of 2015. For those who have visited Rovaniemi, the symbols on the Likiliike logo are obvious: reindeer antlers, coupled with the landmark of the town – the Jätkänkynttilä bridge.
The team of entrepreneurs weren’t trying to create a passing fad. Instead, they wanted to kick-start a movement. They succeeded, with flying colors. By the time Likiliike made its big launch in September of 2015, it already had 75 member businesses. Today, the number has tripled – and there is no end in sight to the growth.
An essential part of the ideology of Likiliike is that member businesses don’t compete by lowering their prices. Instead, they highlight the fact that the money spent at a Likiliike benefits the entire region, both directly and indirectly. Likiliike, too, is an active participant in the wellbeing of the Rovaniemi area, and donates money to local nonprofits and charities. Another way in which Likiliike works to improve the attractiveness and livelihood of the region is by arranging several yearly events, such as market events and festivals, where everyone is invited.
The response to Likiliike, from both visitors and locals alike, has been overwhelmingly positive. There has been both national and international interest in the concept and many have expressed their desire to do something similar. At a time of multinational corporations and global giants, Likiliike represents something that people everywhere should cherish and preserve: their local culture, heritage, and roots. To us in Rovaniemi, those are the things that make Lapland the wonderful place it is. By shopping at a Likiliike, customers are helping the local economy and supporting the area’s entrepreneurs, which helps Rovaniemi thrive and grow.