Noise pollution. For once there is a technical term that sounds exactly like what it means: the distracting clamour of noises and echoes we often encounter in large public spaces, open offices and even at homes.
Turku-based Soften believes the solution to these noise problems doesn’t have to be hidden away inside wall and ceiling structures. The company creates acoustics panels and dividers that can be tailored to meet any interior design need.
“Of course, our core focus is acoustics, but besides that the most important factor for us is how a product looks,” stresses Sami Helle, CEO and founder of Soften. “We aim to make stylish and easily transformable products which you are not ashamed to put on display in any space.”
While acoustic products have existed for decades, not many companies can boast over 80 colour options and various patterns (including waves, lines and even Moomin characters). In addition, Soften’s modular panels don’t require any special installations skills or tools but can be fitted with Velcro tapes. This means the shapes, sizes and colour combinations they create can be quickly adjusted when the inspiration strikes.
Shining light on noise
Now Soften aims to take its product versatility to the next level. A year ago, the five-person company introduced a new cutting method which makes it possible to create almost any shape – such as a company logo, text or an artistic vision – out of its acoustics panels.
“We noticed there is a lot of demand from designers and architects to create exactly the installation they want,” explains Helle. “The designer makes the drawing, sends it to us and we feed it into our cutting machinery. We can quickly and cost-efficiently make the products the customers wants.”
This has been already tested with projects such as creating brand-compliant floating acoustic elements for the trendy Flow music festival in Helsinki.
This isn’t the only new product line for Soften. In late 2016 the company launched its first acoustic light named Bellø. The half-sphere-shaped ceiling light absorbs sound to create a feeling of privacy. Like all Soften products, it is manufactured in Finland and made of chemical-free, non-allergenic and recyclable polyester-felt. But getting the light to the market was a real test of the 11-year old company’s manufacturing expertise.
“Although the product looks simple, its manufacturing is challenging. It took us a long time to hone our mould and production methods to make it work,” Helle says. “But the light has been very well received, and we would like to invest more into the lighting side.”
Lights aside, Soften is confident tailor-made acoustic products will become its calling card internationally. The company already has customers in select European markets, as well as in Russia and the United Arab Emirates, but this is the year Soften will invest heavily in expansion.
“Internationalisation is where we are going to get our growth from in the near future,” Helle says. “Our focus areas at the moment are Japan and the UAE.”
Soften has already found local agents in both markets and has stands booked at trade fairs in Tokyo and Milan. But Helle has no misconceptions success will happen overnight.
“You need to have many nets cast out internationally because it always takes time to build demand,” he says. “In five years’ time, we want to have the same turnover from all the new markets we enter as from Finland.”