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Jenni Jalava - Martinex Family, Island Cottages, Winter and Music

What do you do in the industry?

I am the product director at Martinex, a Finnish manufacturer and distributor of toys, games, clothing, giftware and housewares.

I buy, sell, create, design, develop and manage the toys and games in our range. As this is a family business, and I am part of the family, I have also other responsibilities and I get to be part of many things happening in the company. That means every day is different and mostly very exciting!

Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?

I could say I was born to the industry. My grandfather, after whom the company was named after, imported toys to Finland. The original Martinex was sold to Brio, a Swedish toy company, in the late 1960’s and my father was “sold” with the company to become the CEO of Brio Finland. I spent most of my weekends at the showroom and I think I was around 5 when I was sitting in my dad’s office, my feet on his table and told anyone who came in that when I grow up, I’ll be like my dad! In good and bad, that is pretty much what I became J My parents started with Martinex again in 1986 and I started then as the filing person, filing letters and faxes. I was so interested in whatever was going on, that I read most of the faxes. When I started full time 10 years later, I already had a pretty good knowledge of many things.

What is your claim to fame in the industry?

I have invented a few games to local licenses that sell very well here in Finland. Our current big success, a trivia game called Smart10 has been developed from its original idea by me and my game designer Aleksi.

What trends do you see in toys or games that excite or worry you?

What excites me is that playing games together with friends and family continues its growth and being a counter force to all the time we are forced to spend on our computers, pads and phones

What worries me then again, is seeing how kids are somehow forced to be all grown up so early. Looking at my own 8-year old and remembering when I myself was 8, there is a massive difference. I got to be a child for a very long time. There is a lot of good in today’s digital world, but there was a lot of good sides in being creative and dealing with many hard things through playing with toys. I still played with Barbies when I was 12. A few years ago, when I bought a Barbie to my 6-year old niece – and that was “so last season” and “for babies”.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

I get to do fun stuff and yet again use my head in oh so many ways. But of course, the most rewarding thing is to see people play your games and having products you have been developing.

What’s your workspace setup like?

We have a beautiful office, showroom, warehouse complex. My room here really can be noticed… It is packed with games, toys, samples, catalogs and …. my skies!

How do you recharge or take a break?

Most of the summer and weekends between April and October I spend on our summer cottage. It is on an island, which is one of around 200000 islands in the Archipelago of Turku. While there in Iniö, I have a sea kayak, or I can go orienteering in the neighboring island or go somewhere with my boat. During the winter time, I love x-country skiing. It can be even -25 degrees and I would still go skiing. As long as you keep moving and keep your face covered you are ok.

Where did you grow up and how did that influence who you are today?

I grew up in Turku Finland. But I have lived for a year in Texas and one term in college in Ireland, giving me a bit of a perspective. I also counted that during my working years, I have actually spent around 2 years in Hong Kong…. I am very proud of being a Finn and of course it has had a massive influence on how I am and what I do, also how I do things. The only time I would like to be from a bigger country is when I am ordering stuff. Would be great to give a massive order sometime, but orders can’t be that massive, when you are buying for 5 million people.

Do you have any kiddos?

I have two boys, 8- and 11-years old. They have taught me a lot and also helped me a lot with what I do. My younger son seems to be (so far) following my footsteps, he told me once “mom – I will come to work any time you need me”

This is a true family business. Here in our warehouse sale last year are all the members of the family, who were working those 3 days. My sister Riia, she is the CEO of Martinex, her daughter Amanda and son Alexander and husband Kaj. My parents Tuula and Risto, who are the founders of Martinex and me and my boys Jaakko and Joonas.

Do you play any musical instruments? If so, which one(s)?

I played the piano and the violin for nearly 14 years. I also sing and have sung in a choir for the past 30 years… I still play the piano every now and then and now that my son is playing the violin, I am rehearsing with him, and have thought on going to play in an orchestra again. But I don’t have the time for it. I have so many hobbies I would like to do, but too little time. Maybe when I retire I will have time….

Summer of Winter?

I love both, but if I really need to choose between these two, I would take winter.

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