FSF Profile – Mika Rantanen
Mika Rantanen was the 3rd person to join the planning process of Four Sigma Foods (formerly known as LUONTOlife). As a co-founder Mika was instrumental in the design process of our company, and these days he’s in charge of our Partner Relations. In his role, Mika tries to find new ways to collaborate with other cool organizations. Right now this sport enthusiastic is opening up our charity functions and preparing to swim 3.8km, bike 180km, and run 42.2km. I’ve known Mika for 8-years now and that’s why I was so excited to interview him for this FSF Profile. So without further ado, let’s hear more from this fine young man.
The active childhood of a semi-chubby boy
Everybody knows Mika as a super sporty guy, who excels in almost any sport. So how did this guy get into such a physical daily rhythm?
Since I was only 4 years old, my sisters and mom apparently hated to go to public places with me. From what I’ve heard, the main reason was that I was constantly running from one place to another. Somehow walking just was never really an option. Starting those days I’ve been really into any kind of activity that raises my heartbeat and makes me sweat. Since elementary school my spare time has always been full of various sports. Depending on the season I practised orienteering, xc-skiing, athletics, tennis, and football. My schedule after school was filled with 7-14 trainings per week. I was out playing in the fields 24/7 and even spent the last few years of our comprehensive school in a special school for athletes. The superb feeling, what the outdoor air gave me, was something out of ordinary.
I’ve heard that your mom was a great cook, was she?
Well, yeah. She was! At that time I ate like a horse. I mean really, I ate like a horse! The only thing that kept me in a reasonable body size was my active lifestyle. Although, when looking back, there was one major flaw in my diet. All grains, sugars, and salts we used were bleached. My mom also loved baking. And gosh how tasteful buns and pies she made! We used to have our freezer packed up half way by her sweets. Combining my eating habits and the desire to go fast, for any outsiders watching a semi-chubby little boy sprinting around the neighbourhood must have been quite a sight. You could say that in those days I loved eating, and didn’t have a slightest clue what was healthy and what was not.
From leading troops in the military to leading 30 sales reps
All Finnish men have to go through a mandatory service period in the Finnish Defense Forces (note: not in the attack forces). So every year about 27,000 young men (including few females) are being trained. Only a handful of these are accepted to the elite programs, from which the Utti Jaeger Regiment is maybe the most prestigious one. Just like a few other FSF team members (Jaakko, Pauli, Matti), Mika also served in this Special Forces unit as a 2nd Lieutenant. So did this experience change Mika?
Sure. Before military I had a terrible fear of height. I felt that the best way to conquer that fear was to start skydiving and therefore I applied to paratroopers. The two-day test, including tough mental and physical exams, was followed shortly by a letter of a confirmation stating that I was approved for the Special Forces. But the tough tests were a cakewalk compared to the actual training. This 12-month school taught me a lot about leadership, endurance, and tolerance for unpleasant conditions. Schedules were really tight, especially on our training camps. Camps were usually anything from 1-2 weeks long where we daily advanced several dozen kilometers with a heavy 30kg gear on, without any proper sleep or food. These camps revealed the true colors of my colleagues and myself. I some sick way loved it. I was also lucky enough to be chosen for the Officer training to lead my peers.
What kind of career plans did you have in mind?
After my military service, I firmly belonged to the large group of people who didn’t have a clue on what to do with their lives. The picture was everything but clear. I had a degree in the field of automation technology, but after the school I knew it wasn’t for me. I liked business because of the broad perspective and working face-to-face with customers had always been a blast. I started my first entrepreneurial venture when I was around 20 years old, by selling e.g. mobile phone subscriptions and sport supplements. At the same time I found the personal development movement, and that discovery might just been the single most important thing that guided me forward. I read tons and tons of literature about developing my skills for example in positive thinking, problem solving, and determination. I was constantly blown away by my emerging mindset change.
Looking at your CV, I see you’ve been involved a lot with sales – why’s that?
Sales provided me a possibility to encounter great people and to learn about different business models. During one decade I a saw a large variety of most common sales channels. Some products or services were targeted to businesses, some to consumers. Some were big, some small. Some needed face-to-face meetings, other were covered with online methods. Although the partners I worked with were usually public listed companies, I enjoyed working in smaller organizations. It gave me space to try my own ideas as well as change positions in a faster pace. I sure leveraged that to the hilt. At 23 I was already running a 30 person sales team.
Finding 3BL – People, planet, profit
I got to know Mika as a motivated athlete and high performance sales person. Always wanting to “one up” the old records. But in 2008 everything changed and Mika started to explore himself in a much deeper way. This path has taken him across Europe and there he found the need to focus on something much more meaningful.
Why did you decide to move to Italy without a job?
After working for the same company for 4 years I felt that I was plateauing big time. I decided to move forward, not knowing what I should do next. I moved to Northern Italy, bought a race bike and enjoyed the mediterranean views daily. That long, six month holiday got me thinking how I see my life in the upcoming years. I bumped into Steve Jobs commencement speech back in 2005 at Stanford University. That short clip made an indelible impression on me. The vivid mindset of the former Apple CEO was something that stopped me.
I’ve always been very competitive, mostly towards myself. Pushing the personal boundaries had always given me more than it required. After acknowledging this, I started seeking for next test to take it to the next level. At that time the idea of biking over 4000km across Europe under six weeks got me excited. Shortly there were three other Sunday bikers interested on making this trip come true. It was all about accomplishing dreams. We called the project Road Dream and this is also the way I got to know Markus. To me it was something I thought I wasn’t capable of. We wanted this journey to be one of those stories you could tell to your grandchildren someday when sitting in a rocking chair. Despite our amateur team’s lack of expertise in biking we had a clear image on how it would feel finishing the last few hundred meters. In spite of the recession at the time, we managed to get sponsors to fully fund the trip. It surely wasn’t a flower dance, especially when we had over 10.000€ still missing from our budget only two weeks before the start.
During our pilgrimage from our birthplaces to antique Olympic stadion in Greece we carried out a charity fund raising for children in disadvantaged position. During the journey we got over 10 million viewers and listeners from the 11 countries we visited. Strangers coming to talk to you saying that they saw us on TV a week ago just felt odd in a good way.
After reaching Greece I calculated the outcomes of my previous years. I noticed how I had felt the best when I did something of my own. It didn’t matter was it a start-up or a non-profit. I think I’d found a piece of who I was…
Jumping into the world of Four Sigma Foods
So how and why did you get excited about the idea democratizing superfoods?
Having a flu a minimum of two times a year was almost obligatory and it just felt natural, since everyone else was facing it too. For the past 4 years I really started questioning my own eating habits. Most of the time I really liked to eat healthy foods, but the core problem usually was that it required too much willpower due to my old habits. It just wasn’t all that easy enough for me. When I received a call from Mikko explaining the business idea behind FSF, I got instantly excited. Combining a healthier lifestyle with work and helping others at the same time had all the ingredients what I wanted from my next adventure. After a few conversations I was convinced that this path was perfect for me and I joined Mikko and Tero to bring our ideas to reality
The ride in the past year has been truly awesome. I feel really privileged to be a part of this great punch. Fighting together to democratize superfoods really pushes us all to give our best. There’s whole lot of job to do in the field of health and wellness!
What are your next challenges?
I have an Ironman distance triathlon coming in September. That has kept me busy within the last six months. Especially the 3.8 km swim has caused a lot of headaches. Hopefully the wetsuit will keep me on the surface! Someday I believe I would like to go around the globe human powered. Maybe after 10 years, who knows… If you have any good suggestions, I would be happy to hear them!
I’m also busy working on our first FSF Charity! But I don’t want to spoil the surprise, so you need to wait one week longer before we announce the whole thing. I just want to say that I haven’t had so many butterflies in my stomach for a LONG time than in the last 2-months.