The entrepreneur who mortgaged his house – and entered the world market

Absorbest was the first in the world with a superabsorbent mat for operating rooms. Today, our products are sold all over the world. The success story began in Kisa in 1997 with an entrepreneur who quit his old job.

Rolf Rovaniemi has worked with product development for most of his life. First as a development engineer at Lilla Edet’s paper mill and then in charge of the development of diapers and feminine hygienic absorbent materials for Duni at Swedish Tissue in Kisa. When the company chose to shut down that part of the business, Rolf left the company. He took with him knowledge and ideas about absorption – and a vision of developing world-class absorbents.

At the age of 47, he started Absorbest together with Torbjörn Hansen.
— Being a little older was an advantage, really. The economic way of thinking was already in place, but I brought with me valuable experience from product development, production, quality and sales, says Rolf.

Absorbest soon got in touch with the fish industry and developed an absorbent mat for fish transports. Rolf chased customers day and night in Norway and after many sleepless nights he struck it lucky. The business was up and running. During the first year, the fish absorbent was produce manually here in the Kisa factory. A few people assembled the products and packed the orders.

— I mortgaged my house so I could afford to invest in machines. I would never have done that if I didn’t believe in my idea, says Rolf.

”The competition was tough, but our product would be better.

Rolf Rovaniemi, Founder and Owner

But Rolf and Torbjörn wanted to continue to develop their product and its usage in the fish industry, was somewhat limited. So what other markets could they get into? What niche businesses required absorption of large amounts of liquid? The answer was: health care.

Rolf contacted the chief physician at Ryhov’s hospital in Jönköping and went there to present Absorbest’s product. However, nobody in the staff had time for any demonstration – until Rolf dunked the mat in a bucket of water. Impressed by the absorption capacity of the mat, the nurses flocked around Rolf and began to come up with ideas on how they could benefit from the product.

Absorbest became the first company in Sweden – and in the world – to produce mats for operating rooms with superabsorbents. Through a German partner, DryMax OR quickly reached the European market. Success was a fact and soon, Rolf and Torbjörn also became interested in wound care products. The idea came when they attended a trade fair and saw the world’s first commercial superabsorbent dressing.
— We realized immediately that we could do the exact same thing. The competition was tough, but our product would be better, says Rolf. And that is how DryMax Woundcare was born.

Since then, Absorbest has continued to grow steadily. We have improved our products and developed new ones in our laboratory. We are currently investing in the US market. But the company is keeping its base in Kisa.
— I want the company to survive here. It is important for the area. Our employees should enjoy working here and get an opportunity to develop.
Rolf himself said he would stop working several years ago.
— But it’s too fun. And nowadays I have no sleepless nights!