Customer service with a big heart 

The Kerimäki-based service station Behm faced particular challenges when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the spring of 2020, followed by the war in Ukraine a couple of years later. However, the entrepreneurs managed to keep the business profitable through these crises. 

Miia and Joni Behm became entrepreneurs when they bought a service station run by the parents of one of Miia’s friends. The service station was a meeting place for the whole village. Customer service and sales were familiar to Miia and Joni, so entrepreneurship was a natural extension of their previous careers. They run their service station as equal partners, each allowing the other to play to their strengths. Joni is responsible for the workshop and everything related to it. Miia takes care of the office work and is more responsible for the shop. They work together on general service and maintenance work. 

Miia and Joni also act as employers. The Behm service station employs three workers, who are an invaluable resource to the entrepreneurs. 

Vitality for the village 

What inspired the acquisition was a strong desire to realise a personal vision and bring new services to the villagers. In addition to the traditional fuel sales, café, car wash and betting services, the station has a small machine repair shop that services, repairs and sells outboard motors, electric bikes and snowmobiles, among other things. The services are developed in line with customer wishes. 

– We have both lived in Kerimäki all our lives. The fact that we can play our part in keeping our small village vibrant was one of the deciding factors in becoming entrepreneurs, Miia and Joni explain. 

The Enterprise Agency Itä-Savon Uusyrityskeskus was an important support in the decision-making process, helping the couple to make sure that the business had the financial basis to succeed. 

– It is a good idea to get a deep understanding of the financials and history of the company you are buying. We received a lot of support and good advice from the Enterprise Agency, for example on arranging funding, says Miia. 

Katja Remes, CEO and Business Coach at the Enterprise Agency Itä-Savon Uusyrityskeskus, says that Miia and Joni are the perfect people to continue the service station business. 

– Self-service gas stations have become more common, and traditional service stations have often remained empty. Fortunately, this was not the case in Kerimäki, where the competitive situation for fuel distribution remained good as new entrants were found. Miia and Joni have a positive attitude and, despite the challenges, they don’t get discouraged, they are always looking for a positive solution and new ideas. 

Strong confidence in the future 

A positive attitude was needed in the early days of the business, when the whole world was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and the subsequent sharp increase in costs. 

In Kerimäki, grapevine proved to be a better marketing channel than social media. At first, the whole village was completely quiet due the COVID-19 restrictions, but as word spread, the workshop began to swarm with customers. The small machine repair shop was extremely busy as people had time to get their small machines serviced due to a lack of other activities. This gave Miia and Joni the confidence that their business could survive anything.