A former teacher is slowly building an impressive new brand on the island of Hailuoto. Ritva Rundgren is a 70-year-old businesswoman from Kempele who’s determined to make the world a better place through telling children her very own story of Mrs Santa Claus Finland.
Mrs Santa Claus Finland is a quiet, friendly lady with a curious mind and a soft smile. She’s based in a charming old log house in the middle of nowhere in Hailuoto.
It’s a magical setting for a woman with a mission. Mrs Santa Claus Finland wants every child in the world to go to school and get an education.
“With knowledge, every one of them can build a better future,” she says.
How it all started
Having retired after a 36-year teaching career at primary schools, Ritva decided to study education technology at the University of Oulu. She also enrolled at an innovation course at the Business School where fellow student Eeva Nikkola suggested that Ritva should consider creating a Mrs Santa Claus brand.
Ritva liked the idea and she decided that she wanted to build a business to tell the fairy tale of Mrs Santa. She’s developed a story of her own including a Christmas cat, a reindeer, a bird and an elf.
The business kicks off
Ritva drew on talent in her family to develop the idea: her daughter-in-law Mari Pohjanvesi drew beautiful pictures of her characters and made a dress for her – and she even found a house for Mrs Santa in Hailuoto.
Over the past years, she’s been visiting schools to tell the story and teach children to draw. She’s equally happy to draw on classroom blackboards and to use the technique of fast drawing and fast colouring on her Ipad.
The Christmas story is not set in stone: it takes on different twists and turns each time, and that’s part of the magic.
“You never know what happens when you start to draw,” Ritva says enigmatically.
She’s piloting activities with small groups of guests in her Hailuoto cottage, ranging from gingerbread decorating, handicrafts and playing in the snow: making snow angels and building snowmen. In summer, visitors will be able to enjoy picking berries and discovering mushrooms when joining Mrs Santa on her very own nature trail.
Hopes and dreams
Since coronavirus struck, she’s switched most of her activities online. “My aim was always to create a business on my sofa. So now I’m using the Internet to tell the story of Mrs Santa,” she says.
And she does it in her own sophisticated style: her latest Instagram videos show her singing Jingle Bells, throwing snowballs and teaching a simple technique to draw a Christmas elf.
It’s a beguiling mix of fun and easy learning that works remarkably well in a virtual world. With her social media presence steadily growing, Mrs Santa Claus and her team are doing their best to capture the imagination of the world’s children in 2021 and beyond.
Mrs Santa’s favourite food: rice porridge
Favourite drink: crystal clear water
Plans for expanding the business: “By 2025, I’d like to have more elves to help me.”
Pictures: Harri Tarvainen.