JONI MALMI -- MAKIA Biz Wiz
If you are one of the lucky ones to score a career as a pro rider, the world presented to you is something else. To put it rough -- you ride, travel, party, ride, travel, party and RIDE. The geographical borders diminish and you become a global citizen. Most new kids on the block get a bit crazy at first as it's something that they have dreamt about for as long as they remember and they are SO ready to live out their dream -- right there and then. As they should. But there comes a time when you need to start weighing your future options a bit further. What's gonna happen if I get injured and my riding career is over? What will I do after I'm too old to stick the same tricks as kids half my age? (note! doesn't apply to every rider out there, but some - yes) What happens when my sponsorship deals get cut out? I'm not saying that stressing out too much is good, but some consideration regarding your life after riding as a pro surely doesn't hurt. Joni Malmi is a perfect example of a rider who hasn't placed all his eggs into one basket, if you know what I mean. He already runs a very stylish clothing company called MAKIA, makes music and occasional videos, DJ's and run’s a club night, while still living the life of a well established pro rider. So why don't we ask the man himself where he got his biz wiz and inspiration from...
1. Hello Joni! I ran into your colleague, MAKIA's Sales Manager Totti at Easter and in the late hours of Friday night we realized this is an interview waiting to happen. So here we are. How's life treating you and whereabouts are you at the moment?
It’s hectic at the moment, but I can’t complain. I took a couple days off from filming in Canada to come home to Finland and take care of some MAKIA stuff and to see my girlfriend. I’m going back to Whistler as we speak for the rest of the season to finish off my part in the new FORUM team movie. Be sure to check it out next fall.
2. So tell us a bit about how MAKIA got started? Was it just you at first or was this a group effort -- right now MAKIA employs 4 people, right?
It was me, Jussi Oksanen and Ivar Fougstedt in the beginning, before it actually even was a legit company on paper. We wanted to create a streetwear company that we would be stoked on. After printing some t-shirts, the new excitement kinda died down and everyone seemed to be busy doing something else. At that time I didn’t feel like giving up, so I lucked out and met my old friend and fellow Hammer pro Jesse Hyväri who had just graduated from a tailoring school in Helsinki. We shared similar views and ideas, so we started working on MAKIA together. It took me a while to gather the right people around us and get the engine back going again, but it is slowly coming together. Big thanks to Jesse who didn’t give up when there where moments he easily could have. Now we are lucky to have Janne and Totti also working for MAKIA. Myself and Janne are only “part time" though, as we also pursue other careers for now.
3. There's a lot of snowboard/skate influenced street-wear companies around, trying to break into the business. Back in the days the slogan "rider owned, rider driven" might have brought some extra credentials to the business, but it seems that nowadays it doesn't really mean that much. Most companies try to emphasize how street cred they are... or what’s your view about the matter? What makes MAKIA stand out from the others?
I think it’s awesome that some companies are still rider owned. Like Burton, FORUM, Stepchild, etc… it means they usually care more about their riders and customers. As a clothing company we don’t want to focus on any particular group of people. Our pieces are what you could call ,approachable by a wider audience. If you’d want to categorize MAKIA I guess you could say it’s for people like myself who have grown out of the “skate rags" and want to dress a bit more casual. We want to bring an easy choice to dress stylishly without bothering your head too much with it. You know, when you can wear the same shirt from your grandma’s birthday to the nightclub. The clothes really reflect some what of a timeless nordic “less is more“ attitude and that is where Jesse and his ideas/designs really make the difference.
4. Have you studied business or have you learnt your skills mostly by experiencing and living the pro rider life? If you are smart enough to listen and focus, I bet there is tons to be learned by truly getting involved with your sponsors and how they master the product design, development, production, and other elements of the business.
I can’t say that I’m a skilled business man yet, not even close. But thank god I have people around me that know more than I do and have some valuable experience that I can learn from. Everything I know, is pretty much learn as you go. I’ve studied some books and taken a few classes, but confronting actual people and situations teaches you so much more. You can go to any school, but if you don’t have any social skills, drive, good attitude and the right people around you... My life is a constant vacuum of information, I try to absorb as much as I can, it’s a learning process. You know, I’d way rather work on a music or a clothing project than play playstation all day long. I guess it just comes down to that. If you want to use your days doing nothing or doing something. Starting a clothing company from scratch and making it profitable is an immense mission that I want to accomplish
5. You seem to be a man of many skills (music, arts) -- I've seen some of your photographs and find them really amazing. Do you feel that running your own clothing company is a good way to use your creative side too?
Definitely. I think it’s a good way for me to channel all that energy into something that me and my partners can maybe actually make a living from in the long run. I mean, I’ve kept myself busy in all kinds of projects from directing music videos to organizing club evenings. But now, this is actually serious business with other people’s income depending on it also.
6. Do you feel, yourself, as if you have made smart moves regarding your future and this is the way things will stay even if you finish your pro rider career someday? Or do you still have other ambitions that you aim to fulfill?
Of course, looking back at all the money I’ve spent on crap electronics and nonsense, I could have saved more and bought a few less cars, but I don’t really regret any of the things I’ve done. I own a house and some other shite, but still, the kind of money I make from snowboarding Isn’t enough to retire now and maintain the same lifestyle for another 30 years. I wouldn’t even want to. I need projects and action in my life. I’m not the kind of guy to have a five year plan on my personal life at this point. I don’t know if I’d be any happier if I had more than what I’ve got. I’m grateful that I’ve been lucky enough to do what I love and get paid for it. Thanks FORUM, Special Blend, OAKLEY, Vestal...haha.
7. What's the most fun about running your own business and on the downside -- what sucks the most?
That I myself am responsible for the outcome of my work and hopefully someday get to collect the fruits of my labor. The downside is that your personal life is blended in to your work. If you are self employed you pretty much work all the time in some ways.
8. Your business is located in Helsinki, Finland. Do you see yourself settling down there at some point or maybe running your post as a remote work from a beach somewhere down in California?
I love Helsinki and I think that is where I always want to be based out of, at least to some extent. You cant really run a company from the other side of the world and be serious about it.
9. You held a snowboard contest called "MAKIA company challenge" a few weeks ago at the infamous ski resort called Talma in Finland-- how did it go and how did MAKIA's personnel do in the contest? I mean all of you are more or less current/former pro riders, right?
Did Totti claim to you that he was Pro, haha... We got last place as a proper host should always get. The event was an idea of Totti and Jesse to get all the old farts together on the hill and have some fun and do some networking. There were companies from skateshops to advertisement agencies, a grill and some tunes. Next year we are going to hype it up a bit more and get the office boys to try and break a world record.
10. And as a final question; where are you off to next and how are the summer plans looking out? I’m typing this on a flight to London to connect to Vancouver and ride pow tomorrow in Whistler. We are shooting the FORUM movie ‘til the end of may, after that I’m going on a two week long roadtrip with my girlfriend and then back to Helsinki to work on MAKIA. Thanks… and a good spring/summer for everyone reading this.
Like Joni mentioned in the interview; life is a constant learning process. Be aware and suck it in. When pursuing different paths in life -- experience is what we get, even if some of those paths don't lead nowhere. And those experiences will come in hand at some point of your life fo sho.
For more info about Makia and some more creative output of Joni just click here.