Built upon a foundation for a passion for the Highlands, The Voima Group is a fledgling Haliburton County-based marketing agency looking to help local businesses with their branding and promotion.
The Voima Group was founded by Amanda Virtanen and Geoff Schultz close to nine months ago and is set on providing clients more than its services such as brand development, creative content, media relations, social media management and website creation. They also want to be collaborators with their clients to enable the Highlands soar to new heights.
“We want to keep our agency focused on local businesses, to benefit not only the businesses themselves, but to build up overall awareness and growth of Haliburton [County]. Our clients are a really cool mix of hospitality, retail service, restaurants and manufacturing. Ultimately, we want our clients to see us not only as valued partners, but as trusted advisors and a true extension of their business – a real part of their team,” they said in an email message.
Their own start benefitted greatly from the Starter Company PLUS program facilitated by the Kawartha Lakes Small Business Entrepreneurship Centre (KLSBEC) in Kawartha Lakes and supported by the Haliburton County Development Corporation, who is available for queries. Haliburton County is included in the catchment area for the KLSBEC. This is a business training and mentoring program, which they learned through Tracie Bertrand, Manager of Tourism Haliburton County, who informed them of the opportunity in an electronic newsletter last winter.
“The program has been a huge benefit to us. The Voima Group has only been around for nine months, so we hit the ground running focused on our client needs and moving a million miles an hour. The program allowed us to take a step back and refocus on our own business goals and needs. It gave us a really good foundation to build on for the future in terms of planning and growth. The grant itself enabled us to enhance our home office with all new custom desks and cabinetry (which we worked with local manufacturer, Chaulk). Our new home office is so efficient and has really helped us be more organized and comfortable,” they said.
The program benefits early-stage businesses (no more than three years old) with starting, expanding, hiring, purchasing equipment or machinery, and it facilitates relations with the next generation of local entrepreneurs. The program also offers successful applicants free access to training, mentorship and eligibility for a grant up to $5,000. It is run twice a year. Funding for this program is made possible by the Ontario government. The next intake is March 13 and will run in April, 2023. There is limited space so apply early. See www.kawarthalakes.ca/en/business-growth/starter-company-plus.aspx for more details. The program’s past program participants based in Haliburton County include Beyond Plasters, Eco Herb, Highland Technical, TheOccurrence, and the Purple Door Pottery Studio.
The Voima Group’s founders loved the opportunity for mentorship offered through the program.
“We’ve had so much incredible support and advice from our mentor and program lead, Sandy Greenberg. Now when we’re making business decisions for ourselves, we often ask, ‘What would Sandy do?’ We need to make T-shirts. LOL,” they said. “We love that the support is on-going, and even after the official program ‘ends,’ there’s continued monthly support and meetings with Sandy. We also have access to other business advisors and experts whenever needed. The sessions themselves included information from special guests focused on bookkeeping, legal, digital, and more.”
This support combined with the community’s, which they have been working diligently to serve, has been invaluable for the start-up company. They are grateful for this and the relationships forged.
“The support has been phenomenal. We’ve worked with over 20 businesses and organizations since launching The Voima Group. Our client-base is consistent and steady – for that, we feel so grateful. We’ve received many leads and recommendations from the community, we couldn’t be more thrilled. Even to have a local business just ‘like’ or ‘share’ a Voima Group post on social media – it warms our hearts each and every time,” they said.
Names are tied to everyone’s identities and for The Voima Group their name is connected to the heritage of one its founders, Virtanen, who has a Finnish background. Translated to English, voima is a Finnish noun, which means force, power and strength. It came about after a conversation between the founders, and Virtanen’s father when trying to think of word that represented “strength.”
“The goal being enabling businesses to become the strongest, most powerful forces – in their marketing and promotions (with our help, of course). We just thought Voima had a nice ring to it as well,” Virtanen wrote in a message.
Their advice for anyone interested in starting their own business and are unsure about where to start or what to do to, is simply, follow their heart
“Do what you know best. Don’t try something that you don’t have any expertise in. Make sure it’s your passion (because you better be okay to do it on a Friday night or Sunday morning too!). Know that it’s a journey that changes from day to day. Be flexible. Be creative. When you’re forming your business plan, talk to other business owners and understand their path and learning. Most importantly, go with your gut. You know what you’re good at and how you can succeed. And, apply for the Starter Company Plus grant. It’s truly been invaluable to us!” they said.
Since starting their business, the couple said the past several months has been an education, which has included a lesson in belief.
“We’ve both worked for many organizations in our 20-plus years (each) of our professional lives. It’s scary taking the leap out on your own. But I think what we’ve learned is that we can totally do it and we just keep leaning into our past experiences and expertise – safe in the knowledge that we’re skilled and have a lot to bring to the table. We’ve also learned so much from our clients, about their specific lines of businesses. It’s been an incredible journey thus far!” they said.
The Voima Group is more than an agency.
It is a commitment and a step towards a balanced life for its founders, Virtanen and Schultz. They admit it’s a “definitely a work in progress,” but having the trust of their clients has made it easier.
“We’re available to our clients 24/7 – yes, actually! – but we’ve also been able to create trust with our clients which has allowed us to travel a bit, and they know that we’re only just a text or call away, no matter where we are. Having a home office is incredibly handy as well, so that we can work whenever we’d like,” they said.
At the end of the day, their relationship between each other – they were engaged this past February and will marry this coming June, their clients and the place they call home is rooted in love and drives them towards living the best life in the “most beautiful place on the planet.”
“We’re both raised in the Greater Toronto Area, but have always loved coming to Haliburton [County] as kids and then into our adult lives. We’ve collectively lived here over 15 years full time and wouldn’t change a thing. The seasons, the people, the landscape … there’s so much opportunity and growth here. The businesses are so entrepreneurial, so enthusiastic, so creative – it really fuels us and keeps us going! And when the ‘work day’ is done, we just step outside and enjoy the incredible nature that surrounds us.”