Santtu Winter – a civil engineer and an inventor

It was 1985 when Pertti and Eila Winter packed up their bags in their home town Iisalmi in Eastern Finland and headed west to the Washington State. They settled in Seattle, where Pertti had a job waiting as a pulp and paper consultant in a Finnish company called Ekono. Eila worked in accounting for another company. Nine months later Santtu was born. At the time the family lived in Bellevue, a suburb of Seattle.

“Adventure was definitely a big part of it. They wanted to explore the world a little bit, Santtu, now 27, thinks about the parents’ big move.

He enrolled in the University of Washington, majoring in Civil Engineering and graduated from there in 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree. When he turned 18, Santtu got a dual citizenship. His parents moved back to Finland in 2004, this time in the capitol region. The young man stayed behind in Seattle. He fell in love with Amy Schlilaty, a lovely brunette from the affluent neighboring community of Issaquah They got married in the Summer of 2008. That same year Santtu started working for CH2M Hill, an engineering company.

Santtu and Amy Winter now make their home in Portland, Oregon.

“I’m enjoying married life. I think one of my favorite parts of it is companionship. My wife and I are the best of friends,” Santtu testifies. In fact, it was Amy’s studies that brought the couple some 200 miles south to their current home in Portland, Oregon.

“My wife Amy got a residency at a hospital here. She is going to be a dentist. We moved just five months ago. I work for an engineering consulting company dealing with waste water,” Santtu explains.

In addition to his day job, Santtu has been tinkering something with his friends in a garage for quite some time now. It all started when his parents came from Finland to visit.

“They brought a game called Mölkky (mul-kuh), with them. We were on an Oregon coast playing it. It was a lot of fun. When I was in Finland a year or two later, I picked up my own Mölkky set, brought it home and played it at the park with friends. And people would stop and ask, what are you playing,” Santtu reminisces.


Santtu created his Palikka game from an old Finnish tossing game called Mölkky.

Mölkky is a tossing game. There are 12 wooden pins that are 5-6 inches tall and they are numbered 1 through 12. You set them up in a tight, little group. Then you have a slightly larger log that you toss underhand and try to knock off as many pins as you can. The object is to get exactly 50 points by lobbing the tossing log at the tossing line – about three lumberjack steps away from the numbered pins. If a player knocks just one pin down, he or she gets the value of that pin’s number. The same goes with multiple knock-outs.

“So, me and a couple of friends decided that we should take the idea from Mölkky and try to expand on it and make it more versatile. That’s how the idea for a new game was spawned,” Santtu recalls.

“We tried to make it more like a deck of cards or like a dart board. You can play a lot of different games with the same game pieces. The only change we made with the physical set is that we added a 13th pin that is unnumbered. That opens up a lot of doors of different ways to play. You can play the Finnish game Mölkky and the Swedish game Kubb on the same set, Santtu explains.

Santtu tossing.

The new game is called Palikka, which means “block” in Finnish. It is a labor of love of three men: Santtu Winter came up with the original idea. Kevin Kotecki deals with the business aspect of things. Ryan Boyett is a carpenter, who actually builds the sets in his garage. Another Finnish-American, Marko Wallenius, is an artist, who created the Palikka mascot and the company website.

“We got into it for a couple of reasons. One, it’s a great game. The other was just the adventure of starting a business. I’ve never done anything like this before. So, there’s a lot of learning in how to develop a product and make in profitable. It’s also fun to develop something with your friends,” Santtu lists.

For anyone out there, trying to find a Christmas gift that is not made in China, why not consider a truly original gift – a Palikka set.

“We have a website You can buy it there on-line. It costs $39.50.”

Santtu and Amy playing the Palikka game.

Santtu and company have sold around 160 sets so far.

“At first I expected most of the sales to come from the Seattle area, because that’s where we started building them. But as it turns out, we have found customers from throughout the U.S. We have shipped Palikka sets to 25 different states. People hear about it from a friend, or they want to get the game for a friend or for a Christmas gift.”

Speaking of Christmas, Amy and Santtu plan to spend it up north.

“We are going up to Issaquah, where Amy’s parent’s live. That should be a lot of fun.”

Winter in Issaquah