Laura Wathén and Katri Ylinen created a social network and a podcast around sobriety. Now, they promote the phenomenon through their company.
This spring has been very successful for Laura Wathén, 30, and Katri Ylinen, 31. First, the duo organised a Sober Furious event at the Kuudes Linja Club in Helsinki, which was sold out immediately. Then, their Darravapaana podcast produced for Yle was awarded in the well-being, growth and health category of the Audioland Awards as the Podcast of the Year.
The greatest miracle has been witnessed in the conversational culture: Wathén and Ylinen have managed to talk about total abstinence so that it does not sound like a dry sermon from the health authorities.
Laura and Katri know what they’re talking about. They both stopped using alcohol years ago.
“We noticed that people still have a rather one-sided view of teetotalism. Alcohol has been such an integral part of Finnish culture that if you do not go along with it, you will be considered a boring killjoy,” says Laura.
Laura and Katri set up the Darravapaa (‘Hangover-free’) account on Instagram with the aim to create a community for like-minded people. It turned out that there was a real demand for such a group: the account has already 22,500 followers. The Darravapaana podcast in Yle Areena has also found a loyal audience.
Laura and Katri have also founded a joint business, Darravapaa Oy.
“We realised that, if we want to achieve something concrete, we need to invest in this seriously. That said, we needed some time to digest the idea that abstinence from alcohol could be turned into a business idea,” Katri admits.
Can a value-based company be profitable?
Darravapaa Oy’s business idea is strongly value-based. Katri and Laura’s goal is to weigh on the Finnish substance abuse debate and promote public health, but also to increase the company’s turnover. This has caused criticism.
“Some people have criticised us on Twitter for making money from promoting substance-free values. It’s odd that they seem to think that all business must be based on greedy marketing strategies and making as much money as possible. The critics say that we should do this altruistically, for free. Even though this started as a hobby, we now want to do this for a living.”
Indeed, both women have put in countless hours of free work for Darravapaa without any promise of large dividends as of yet. Katri works full-time at the company, while Laura still has a part-time day job at a marketing and communications company. They dream of the day that Darravapaa has its own premises and hired employees.
“Our goal is to make Darravapaa the number one organiser of Sober Curious training and events. We want to change the Finnish working life and annual celebration culture so that you can also have fun without alcohol.”
NewCo Helsinki’s business advisory services have been a great help to Laura and Katri, especially in familiarising them with the cost structure and responsibilities of entrepreneurship.
“In the beginning, we didn’t know anything about pension payments. Our biggest fear was that we would end up heavily in debt in no time or accidentally commit tax fraud. The business advisor was able to reassure us and give practical tips, such as to find a good accountant,” Katri recalls.
Maria Korpisalo, Business Advisor at NewCo Helsinki, thinks that Katri and Laura’s business idea has potential as a success story because there is not much competition for the concept at the moment.
“Laura and Katri already had a vast social media network before the company was founded and a well-thought-out brand that they know how to credibly market.”
Like Darravapaa, many companies emphasise their values nowadays. Sometimes the whole business idea can be based, for example, on climate change mitigation.
“More and more entrepreneurs want to solve societal challenges while simultaneously doing meaningful business in accordance with their values. It can be mistaken for charity, which is not what responsible entrepreneurship is all about. Business is always economic activity.”
Korpisalo points out that the objective of a responsible and societal company is both to conduct profitable business and create added value for society.
“The company’s finances must be looked after to be able to promote the desired positive change. A profitable business is not in conflict with the creation of social well-being. On the contrary, as the business grows, so does the impact.”
“It is wonderful that young people, in particular, want to attain a wider impact through their work and see that their activities are of great significance.”
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