Meidan Studio is a Maritime concept industry based in Kuusankosi, Finland. Meidan Studio does not build or engineer ships but instead they redesign parts of the interior and exterior. Their team consists of five hardworking individuals. Ekaterina Malukhina is the graphic designer, in charge of designing the website and establishing visual communication with the customers. Jukka Eskelinen, the Chairman of the Board, is in charge of business to business and business to customer areas. Tuula Karatvuo is in charge of research and the psychology behind perceiving customer expectations. She provides texts ranging from manuals to scientific reports in both English and Finnish. Andrei Patrushin, a designer with a background in manufacturing and engineering, is in charge of prototyping and testing. Last but not least, Pasi Korhonen, the CEO, is the one who maintains the big picture. He provides a holistic approach when it comes to designing and marketing products.
I interviewed The CEO, Pasi Korhonen, and the Chairman of the Board, Jukka Eskelinen about their business and how it operates.
What sort of business tools do you use?
We use a variety of tools for 3D modeling, graphics, video, administration, and communication. For modeling we use 3D Max and Rhinoceros. For the graphical work we use Adobe products like Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. When we work with video, we use other Adobe products such as After Effects and Premier. For administration purposes we use Microsoft Word, Excel, and Outlook. Most of us also use webmail. Communication tools are also vital to our workflow. We use Skype to keep in touch with our clients and Facebook for internal messaging. Naturally, we all have mobile phones to expedite the process.
Do you use cloud services?
Yes, but we also keep backups on physical hard drives. We use Google Drive and Dropbox because for the amount we need, they are free, so there are less bills to worry about.
How did you start the company?
Actually at Kyamk, but I (Pasi) have been an entrepreneur since 2002. The official launch date of Meidan Studio was on the 21st of November in 2010. We had contracts drawn up which covered each part that needed addressing. Jukka already had some paperwork ready from a previous company so that saved some time.
How were you initially funded?
All of our funding comes from customers. We did not have any investors or work through any startup programs. Our philosophy is to focus on the “big fish” first and then continue by referrals. If the customers like our work then hopefully they will tell their friends, who will tell their friends, and so on.
What does “passion” mean to you?
Our entire company has a strong passion for ships. Honestly though we gained knowledge as we proceeded. We barely knew anything about ships before we started Meidan, but through our customers we learn vital information. This increases our passion further and we pass this passion back to them and they in turn learn from us. Networking is very important.
What was the hardest part of starting your business?
Actually starting, for sure. Finding the motivation to commit 100% and start. Another obstacle was trying to find an appropriate domain name which had not yet been reserved.
What are some of the issues you face?
As far as our finances are concerned, we are always unsure of what will happen next. The paychecks are not so consistent because we may have customer after customer but sometimes we go without customers for an uncomfortable amount of time. Those are the times when we worry a bit. We stay motivated though and continue through these harder situations. When there are gaps between these customers we have to forego our own salaries and limit our own personal expenses, but this is the life of an entrepreneur. Then to make matters even more perilous, the customers usually have customers of their own who have an additional timetable. We must take care to respect not only our time, but our customers, and their customers. It can be quite stressful.
There are also some issues more applicable to the maritime industry as a whole. Fuel consumption is the biggest lifetime expense. In the past, ships would travel from China to the U.S. traveling at about 25 knots (nautical miles per hour) the entire time. More recently, to cut down on costs and to create more efficient shipments, the speeds have been dropping down to 16 knots. While it may take a bit longer for the ship to arrive, it is worth the money saved on fuel. These fuel costs have also lead the industry further towards crafts which emit zero pollution. Some of these ships can actually gain energy from the sun, for example, we are working on a cruise ship which transforms some parts into a solar panel while docking.
What kinds of products do you design?
In the past we have taken it upon ourselves to reshape the outer design, coloring, and graphics for a 266-meter crude oil carrier. We were initially handed a 3D model of the hull and some drawings. With this we planned out a new outer design, rethinking the lines and colors to provide the best possible solution for Aker Arctic and their customers. The coloring was altered to work well in the arctic environment. A blue akin to the color of the artic itself was used for the hull and for the deck we decided on a strong red hue to promote optimal safety.
Another Aker Arctic/Mobimar Ltd. product we have improved upon was the ARC 131 Trimaran Icebreaker. They wanted us to make it more appealing to potential customers. Our team went through various color options and shapes to find the best possible end product. Not only did we build upon the looks of the ship but we also improved the functionality. It really helped with promoting the cost-saving features of this vessel to the clientele.
We are currently working on a submersible bulk carrier. A vessel which can transport massively heavy equipment or even other ships by loading them underwater, taking the cargo to its destination, then bringing it to the surface to offload it. It is a very interesting and useful method of freight transport.
What about the future, five years from now?
Finland is in an interesting situation in which the west side of the country is focused on building ships where as the eastern side is actually instructing students on how to build and design them. In five years we plan on being one of the leading design offices in the Baltic Sea. We are already off to a great start.