It is the year 1990. In Switzerland, Geneva will host an invention fair. Veli-Jussi "Vessi" Jalkanen from Rautalampi, Finland, also arrives there. The man has his invention, just recently christened Salli, under his arm and without fear he faces the international fair visitors, presenting them the health-enhancing innovation.
– Salli was born because of the back problems or our owner. He had always been a keen rider and noticed that when he was riding, his back would not start aching, as it did when he worked in his office and used a traditional office chair, recalls Anja-Riitta "Anjis" Saarinen, Sales Manager of Salli Systems.
– Vessi discussed the matter with Osmo Hänninen, a physiatric specialist and the doctor said that saddle-like chairs didn’t exist yet, but encouraged Vessi, who has a resourceful and inventive mind, to make one.
From wood to Finnish design
Vessi put his saddle on a wooden stool in his office and started making a wooden model for a new chair. As the model of the chair began to emerge, he and his then agricultural worker tested different metal versions and worked on a suitable mold. The final seal to Salli’s birth came when they realised that there was a metal workshop and a local blacksmith in the village; now they could start working also on the height adjustment. Conveniently, the upholstery also could be done in the village by a local sewer.
– Salli's first model Salli Classic was born in 1990, and after the Geneva Invention Fair, Vessi went to a lot at other fairs to present the saddle chair. Salli did not yet have a stand of its own at the fairs, but Vessi was carrying the chair around to present it to possible partners, and received so many orders that it was time to found a company, continues Anjis the interesting story.
Anja-Riitta "Anjis" Saarinen in Sahala.
Strong women thrive at Salli
A strong woman, Anjis has been at Salli since the start. She is a nominee in Made by Finland competition that is arranged by Association for Finnish Work, because of a suggestion of her colleagues. Sometimes called Salli's tribal chief, she is a professional who works energetically and finds answers to all questions in Salli's "history books". Candidacy is deserved, as Anjis is always on the side of the customer, say her colleagues in their arguments.
In 2015, Kirsi Mannila was appointed the new CEO of Salli. She started at Salli in 2003 and knows the growth, development and the ways and wishes of the company thoroughly.
– Already in the early 2000s we worked hard to increase exports, and at the moment exports account for about 50% of the turnover. We export Salli to over 60 countries around the world. In 2010, a subsidiary was registered in Hong Kong, and in 2011, Salli ShenZhen Ltd was established in China. Through the China company we seek growth in Asia. At the moment we are investing in the Nordic countries and certain European countries.
Kirsi Mannila in her office. Note the Salli Base, you can relax your feet by rubbing them against the base!
Mission: to change the world
During 27 years Salli has built a strong brand and the existing products have been developed based on both customer feedback and own product development.
– We have Sallis for many needs. There are, for example, tilting, swinging, width-adjustable, extra strong and electrically conductive models. The latest are the Slim models with a smaller seat. Now also children and petite women can can easily find a suitable chair. New health products are also coming, as well as something totally new, says Mannila.
– Our mission is still to change the sitting culture all over the world. We are looking for more growth and there is still world to conquer. With this team we will do it, promises the CEO.
Sallis start their journey form a cowhouse
The production started in Sahala Manor, in the middle of beautiful countryside in Rautalampi, where an old cowhouse was transformed into production facilities. The production still operates in the same premises that have since been expanded.
Sales Manager Anjis is laughing at the fact that it is difficult for visitors to understand that Sallis are really upholstered as handwork in the middle of this atmospheric countryside, in the old cowhouse, and that hundreds of chairs are sent all over the world every week.
The premises look really idyllic. From the window you can see the manor yard, with its beautifully cut lawns and the lake in the background. On the other side the view is like in a painting: a barn next to the fields and Vessi’s Arabic horse in the paddock.
Hanna just cannot leave her Salli alone at home!
Almost everybody knows Salli
According to Anjis, the relaxing views help to work efficiently, but people work effectively for Salli also elsewhere in Finland, and in other countries too. Ooccupational therapist Hanna Ojutkangas joined the team of strong Salli women as a Marketing Manager for Southern Finland in the beginning of this year.
– It's easy to talk about Salli, because people already know these high-quality and ergonomic work chairs well. Sitting on Salli is healthier, fluid circulation works better, and sitting does not cause pressure on soft tissues. Salli also guides the body into a good posture, keeping the joints in neutral position, and enabling easy breathing which results in more oxygen in the brain. It is worth remembering that the effects of exercise can easily be abolished by sitting traditionally for eight hours at work. Therefore, sitting on an active Salli should be a privilege for everyone, Hanna suggests.
In her work, Hanna trains Salli's dealers, takes part in expos and contacts important stakeholders. As an expert in sitting health, she helps the customers to find the best model and size for the their needs and work.
– Salli suits almost everyone. Sometimes it takes a little time to get used to sitting actively and in a good posture, but it's worth while – your wellbeing will increase, Hanna promises.