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I’m Blue bottles the most Finnish of flavours

The name of the brand is a pun: the slogan is “I’m Blue but happy”.Edvin Ingman

Yo listen up, here’s the story about a little… drink from the forests of Finland. I’m Blue is just as catchy as its namesake hit song from 1999 – and likely to be much more than a one hit wonder.

Four young students are rushing to leave the school building just before the alarm is activated. Last-minute studying for tomorrow’s exam? Group work left until late? Vandalism? No: an international business idea in the making. If they don’t go bankrupt, that is.

“Had we left 10 seconds later, it would’ve meant losing all of our money,” says then-student, now-I’m Blue CEO Ida Salo laughingly. “All four of us had invested 40 euros in the company, and the fine for setting off the alarm was around 160 euros. It was a close call to say the least.”

It was late 2015, and Salo and her three friends had been testing recipes for their Junior Achievement (JA) Company of the Year school course. The task was to create either a service or a product that could work as a real-life business as part of their entrepreneurship study module at the local upper secondary school in Espoo.

What was cooking in the home economics classroom was a refreshing wild blueberry beverage made out of natural and healthy ingredients. The only issue was that no one in the quartet had ever even made juice before.

“Yep, there was a lot to learn, so it was a bit of a process,” Salo tells.

The end result was 89 full bottles of wild blueberry soda, the very first batch of I’m Blue. It was supposed to be 90, but well, accidents happen.

“It was a hectic time and we were in a hurry, so one bottle dropped and broke,” Salo explains.

A drink for good conscience

Shards might bring luck. The first 89 bottles were delivered to local restaurants, and in 2016, the project was pushed further. I’m Blue received a few awards from JA Finland and represented the country at a European competition for young entrepreneurs, raising interest from abroad.

The bottles are no longer hand-filled in a school classroom, but that’s where the story started. CEO Ida Salo is second from left. Image: I'm Blue

The actual company was registered in 2017, just before the final exams of the founders. They had higher education entrance exams to prepare for, too, but that didn’t stop anyone from making time for I’m Blue; everyone was just far too excited about it.

“When we started to plan our product, we wanted to create something that was natural, healthy and food, because we all love food,” Salo tells. “I’m Blue brings these together: it’s natural, clean and of high quality, and it also tastes great. It’s a good way of sharing what Finland is all about.”

The low-sugar but high-taste drink can be used in cocktails, but it’s also a refreshing beverage on its own. Salo points out that it can be enjoyed with “good conscience”.

“Some sweet drinks give you a sugar rush but then make you feel bad, because they’re really not that healthy. I’m Blue has a fresher and more natural taste than traditional soda, and the hint of lime adds a bit of energy to it.”

Passion keeps pushing

I’m Blue is no longer bottled in the classroom, but by a Finnish subcontractor. All berries are of Finnish origin.

The founding quartet graduated last year, and now three of them have continued studies. All live in different towns and studying of course takes up a huge chunk of their disposable hours, but everyone is still involved in running the company. There are plans to create new, equally natural products.

Orders have been coming in from abroad too, so internationalisation has already begun. Salo says that the company doesn’t target any country or region in particular, but instead throws its nets all over and see what the catch is. So far, the greatest interest has come from Southeast Asia.

“You could call it a ‘divide and conquer’ technique.”

As the founders are busy with their undergraduate degrees, there are plans for some recruitments in the near future. No one has thus far planned on leaving I’m Blue, though.

“For as long as we’ve got the drive and passion for this, we’re 100 per cent in. Passion has been a big deal for us from the word go, and it hasn’t faded.”

Wild blueberry, or bilberry, is a very Finnish flavour. Image: Edvin Ingman
By: Anne Salomäki