A story of how it all started…


Year 2006. The phone was ringing. Kalle. I walked into a quiet room to speak.

  • Ok, I’m in.

The decision was made. I was terrified.

A few years earlier, when I was leaving Evata’s office in Spain, Kalle Soini, the new office manager for the company, walked by. Kalle stopped in the middle of his thoughts and raised his head to greet me.

  • Sami, I have an idea… What if we would start our own company?

I thought about it for a moment.

  • Yeah, let’s do it.

Kalle continued on his way and said:

  • Let’s come back to this later.

Later came a little later than I had hoped for and at a time when the decision was no longer easy. When I left Evata and the real estate business soon after that previous conversation, I was left with a seat in Kalle’s executive team of about 120 people. The future seemed bright at that time.

On the other hand, it is every entrepreneur’s dream to have their own company, to see how their own ideas would fare in the market. The business cycle was good and I had enough experience. It would have been wise to enjoy a calm work life at this point. A divorce crisis, an unfinished private house project and the creation of a new company at the same time is not a good equation.

All in.

In my farewell talk, I thanked for the years that have passed.

  • For some reason, my life has gone in cycles of about seven years. Just as the Bible mentioned seven fat cows and seven lean cows, one episode ends and a new one begins. I really don’t know if the past years have been fat or lean. We’ll see.

The next week, I started in a new office on the other side of the Kamppi centre in a small room. We were initially two owners and one employee. The first workstation was a laptop on a DeWalt drill battery box. A few times the thought of “what have we done” crossed my mind. However, there was a lot of work and quite soon we started hiring a new workforce.

Cooperation with Kalle went well and we slowly became friends. Before the joint venture, we didn’t know each other much other than through a few work acquaintances. Challenges at work – and in life in general – strengthened our friendship and laid the foundation for genuine partnership.

  • … and finally, I would like to end our presentation by saying that although we are now a small start-up company, our goal is to become an important Finnish Architects Office in five years. Here’s our estimate of growth and the number of people we plan to hire over the coming years. In a few years, we want to be an office for about thirty people, in our view, the organization will be most effective…
  • So how are you going to get there? Asked a customer.
  • So how are you going to attract a lot of employees and so much work?
  • Well, I trust my personal charm here …

Kalle couldn’t keep his laughter.

The early days of open-mindedness and the joy of work began to bear fruit. We moved quickly to larger premises in the same property, got the right assignments and the company grew. – But the budget was tight, as always.

  • What about this first summer vacation? Can we afford to have any vacation? Kalle asked
  • Well no. Or if we do, then there will be no money at the beginning of September.

A moment of silence. Kalle continued.

  • We are moneymen!
  • Well damn! That’s what we are!
  • There’s no problem here then.
  • No, let’s go on holiday!

And we shook hands.

In the fall, I said to Kalle that yeah, we might be moneymen but broke moneymen.

Years went by and things progressed. Sometimes forwards and sometimes backwards. All in all, a lot happened during the journey, divorces and new families, birth and death, joy and despair, friendship and hate. That is full life and a little more. In the end, after eleven years, we have achieved all our goals and more. It was time to make new goals.

Eleven years have passed since we began. The company has grown from a plucky minnow to a significant player in the industry. The company, been launched by two entrepreneurs, has become a true joint-stock company of about 80 designers, managed by six shareholders. At the same time, the dynamics and responsibility of doing things have increased. It can be rightly said that the first part of the story is over, the curtains are closed for a moment, coffee and bun are being served during the break and then the next part of the story begins.

The starting blog series will tell you a story about what Architects Soini & Horto Oy is now and we will be in the future. It opens the way to the future, creates meaning for our work, and hopefully rewards and hopefully entertains the reader.

We continue with the values we have chosen: openness, trust, responsibility and courage. We will further develop these into a more concrete form, both in our actions and in our writings. We strive to challenge ourselves to improve our thinking for both our customers and the community.

Sami Horto, Partner, Architect SAFA