Thomas Kulla - partner in Riskas Snickeri since 2018

Thomas Kulla’s company LTK Products worked together with Riskas Snickeri in 2013 when Riskas manufactured the interiors for an OQS catamaran and LTK Products did the assembly. Five years later, Thomas Kulla became a partner in Riskas Snickeri. How did this come about?

– We worked intensively with Bernt and Riskas Snickeri during our first joint project and the work went smoothly. After the project we kept in touch and one day Bernt asked me if I was interested in becoming a partner. Although I’ve worked a lot with fibreglass in my life, I’m actually more interested in wood. That’s why it felt good to become part of Riskas Snickeri, which not only works with wood but also aims to preserve the traditions of craftsmanship. When I was younger, I actually built two wooden boats together with my father and brother, so that the knowledge of the craft wouldn’t go to waste. From a business point of view, we are also a good match; we feel the same way about the economy, the well-being of the staff and the growth of the company, and together we can offer a total concept with both production and assembly, which has been appreciated by our customers.


Like the Riska family, Kulla also has a long history in both the boat building and carpentry businesses. Can you tell us more about your background?

– My grandfather Alfred Kulla worked as a carpenter in the early 1900s. At first he was a furniture maker, but in the 1930s he began crafting smaller boats to order. In the 1940s, after the war, my father Birger Kulla began focusing solely on wooden boats, Kullabåtar, and at the end of the 1960s he started producing fibreglass boats. My father passed away in 1999, when I was 23 years old.

When did you start manufacturing boats yourself?

– My brother Mats and I have worked on boats together with our father our whole lives. When we came home from secondary school, we went to the workshop and worked for a few hours in the afternoon, which we got paid for. After secondary school, I started studying to become a boat builder in Jakobstad. When my father’s health declined, I had to finish my studies through an apprenticeship and work at home. My brother and I continued to run the company until 2009, when I founded my own company, LTK Products. In short, we offer various services in the boat manufacturing industry, including lamination and assembly. 


What happened next? LTK Products has grown a lot, was that your idea from the beginning?

– Within 2 – 3 years staff had increased to 5 – 6 people and we were working a lot in the field, mostly in the local area but also on a few overseas projects so the staff was spread out in several different locations. It became difficult to coordinate operations so we rented a space in Kållby. It made it easier to have all the staff under one roof. Today we’re 17 people strong and our production is still situated in Kållby, where we laminate boat hulls and smaller parts for Nautor and assemble Nordstar boats, among other things. The initial idea might not have been to grow this much, but there has been work available and I sometimes find it difficult to refuse. However, I’ve had to practise to say no and become better at it. I’ve been through a lot, both good times and bad, and learnt a lot.

Kulla’s boat manufacturing company in Oravais. Birger Kulla in action, installing the windshield on a Kulla boat in the late 60s.

How does an ordinary working day look for you?

– First I head to Kållby to make sure production is running smoothly. In the morning I do office work and plan upcoming projects together with Adnan Kelmendi, our project manager. Adnan has been with us since the founding of the company.  I often go to Riskas at lunchtime and discuss future projects with Bernt over lunch. Recently we’ve been talking a lot about a possible expansion of production. Then I go back to Kållby and even jump into production sometimes. There is also a lot of travelling involved, especially to Spain, where most of our foreign projects are. 


What’s the best part about your job?

–  That it’s so varied, no two days are ever alike. As an entrepreneur, I would also have to mention the freedom and the fact you get to be your own boss. I also enjoy the challenges and there are plenty of them. 


And what’s the most challenging? 

–  Taking care of the staff in the best possible way as we’ve grown so rapidly. The work itself isn’t challenging, but for example, major projects involving everything from planning the interior until it is installed in the boat always create more challenges. Of course it’s challenging to manage everything at work and also have time for the family. 


Why do you think one should collaborate with Riskas Snickeri? 

–  Riskas have a good reputation within the industry for a reason. Their quality, reliability and delivery dependability are all top notch. 


How do you personally view Riskas’ future?

– It’s interesting to be involved in the developments that are happening in production technology right now. There’s also good demand for our services and we have a good opportunity to grow. At the same time, I don’t think we should grow too much to keep the company more personal. Besides, demand can fluctuate rapidly and that’s why we are growing cautiously. Overall, Bernt and I have similar views on growth. We also have plans to move into new markets, including an interest in working with architects and construction companies to produce interiors for public spaces. However, that’ll be sometime in the future. 


Do you have any free time? How do you enjoy spending it?

–  I recently went on a work trip to Palma and after that we stayed for an extended weekend with the kids. I play volleyball two nights a week, and Bernt and I play golf together. Unfortunately that happens too rarely. I’ve worked a lot in my life, and still do, but over the years I’ve become better at taking it easy too. 

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