There are many young people, and older ones too, who dream of turning their hobby into a vocation. For Juho Ruokolainen, a twenty-three old from Keuruu, this dream is about to become a reality. Together with two of his friends, Ruokolainen established a business specialising in stunts on motorbikes and snowmobiles. Stunt shows are one of the revenue sources of StuntFreakTeam.
Raised in Keuruu, Central Finland, Ruokolainen got his first bike when he was seven years old. Although nearly eclipsed by skateboarding, his interest in motor vehicles persisted and became part of his daily life. Because stunt displays and practice sessions consumed most of his time anyway, Ruokolainen decided to establish a few years ago with two fellow-aficionados first an association and then a company, the StuntFreakTeam. Now it was time to find out how long it would take to transform a passion into a living.
The young persons started producing stunt-related videos and disseminated them through YouTube and other video and image sharing sites, such as Instagram. Video sales in itself is not much of a business, but the attendant visibility attracts sponsors who usually come forward to propose collaboration themselves.
The StuntFreaks finance their operations also through public stunt events.
“We gave our first show in Keuruu in 2008. We were also invited to participate in the American Car Show in Helsinki, because the organisers wished to display new stunt bikes. At the moment we employ nine riders across Finland, including the three of us, and we give about twenty shows annually. We are prepared to do more if need,” Ruokolainen says.
The team’s practice ground lies in Petäjävesi, some twenty-odd kilometres west of Jyväskylä. In an urban setting , finding such an extensive location, isolated from other traffic, would not be that easy. Riding fast, as well as the performance of jumps and tricks, requires ample space around it. One of the team's owner-partners relocated recently from Central Finland to Sodankylä for the winter season to practise stunt driving with snowmobiles.
Support available locally
The young entrepreneurs received a start-up grant from the ELY Centre for the initial year, as well as an investment subsidy from the LEADER group Vesuri. There was a need to expand the scope of business operations, because the maintenance and servicing of bikes is rather expensive. The threesome came up with the idea of selling stickers designed for bikes, snowmobiles, handsets and cameras via their own online store.
This business is yet to take off fully, but there has been promising signs of interest. Finnish consumers
are taking their custom increasingly online. One of the advantages afforded by online business is its accessibility: products can be ordered from anywhere, nationally and globally.
“Online stores are efficient in every aspect. No fixed office or store is required, and the site can be maintained and transactions carried out irrespective of location,” says .Antti Leppänen, in charge of the company's video production and graphic design.
Filming corporate videos is an additional source of income: StuntFreakTeam makes presentation videos on the customer's premises, with the team members and their bikes involved. The men prefer, however, focusing on the production of their own videos and events.
“My father and brother have helped us out in business matters. I am responsible for formal business administration, such as contracts and other duties related to my role as CEO. In addition, we retain an accountant, but there are all manner of documents and other practical tasks to attend to. In the future, we intend to outsource as many chores as possible in order to be able to focus on our core business,”
Ruokolainen tells us. Apart from motor vehicles, the young persons must also be familiar with diverse IT hardware and software. In addition to the duties of CEO, Ruokolainen also photographs stunts and designs stickers and banderols, for example. He acquired his camera skills in making advertisements in his father's company. Leppänen is responsible for the general image of SFT, website maintenance and video production. In addition to their impressive website, the partners have also created Facebook pages, which have already over 30,000 fans.
Sales operations and the online sticker store are managed by the third member of the team, Janne Myllyoja, who is also a graphic design professional.
“The goal for the current year is to attain such business profitability that we can live on it. As for myself, I gave up a steady job with a good salary for my dream of living by stunt riding and all things associated with it. In the beginning, however, one must work for a long while without any pay,” Leppänen states. Last December, the team visited Sweden to make their second short film. The film is premiered on several locations in Finland from the end of February, and the team members will be touring with the film. The visit to Sweden combined business and pleasure. The entrepreneurs tested the durability of their stickers offered for sale and met with their collaboration partners.
A special world revolving round stunt riding
Juha Ruokolainen says that riding is not the only thing that keeps him addicted to the world of stunt.
“There is so much more to it besides riding. Social interaction, fixing bikes and spirited atmosphere are important, whether on the road or during practice sessions. In the same way, one gets kicks from the designing, filming and final viewing of videos.” And then the obvious question. Surely, this wild showmanship , with all the explosions, riding through fire and performing jumps, must be dangerous? How many injuries has the team sustained?
“One must brace oneself for the eventuality of accidents, but we do not consciously take any major risks. All stunts must be duly practised in advance, and one must never rush headlong into the most hazardous stunt. If injuries do happen, a convalescent can of course be present in the practice sessions and take part in the planning of future operations,” Ruokolainen states in a cool manner.