The Helsinki School of Economics Student Association (Kauppakorkeakoulun Oppilasyhdistys) was founded on October 7th 1911 as a student association for the first Finnish-speaking university-level business school. During its first years, the union had only around 70 members and limited financial resources. KY’s flag, student ribbon and emblem all date back to the start of the student union, and are still used today.
In 1923, the name of the association was changed and the Helsinki School of Economics Student Union (KY) was founded. The prohibition on alcohol created some challenges for KY’s active cultural sector, but thanks to clever students, one did not have to merely sip lemonade at most parties. In 1927 Wäinö Bonsdorff, the dean of the university, gave the student union its own space – a school courtyard building. The dream of building a house of their own, however, had started to develop in the students’ minds.
Financing an own building was a long process. On the way, several fundraisers were organized, with a raffle being the tip of the iceberg in 1930. The tickets were in high demand: according to the news, a burglar on a local housebreaking had only stolen KY raffle tickets. The KY Building’s land-purchasing agreement was signed in 1939 and construction planning commenced immediately. New students’ mursu education and international student internship exchanges were also started during the 30s.
During the World War II students fighting in the field were sent study materials thanks to KY. Traditional events, such as Mursujaiset and Wappu, were organized despite the war. The KY Building was finished in February 1940 and soon after, 42 KY members had the chance to move into their new homes in the top floors of the building. Additionally, KY’s own club spaces were opened in the building.
In post-war Finland time was spent rebuilding the society and the economy. As the business degree was changed to a three-year model, KY’s member base grew instantly to over a thousand members. KY’s first achievement in commercial entrepreneur- ship was the founding of the tobacco corporation Amer-Tupakka Oy in 1950. Amer’s Boston cigarettes quickly grew to be a popular brand thanks to cunning marketing. KY Sanomat, a magazine with two publications a year, was also established in the 50s.
A huge export trade show held in London in 1968, Finnfocus was the biggest event in KY history. With copious support, KY rented the M/S Finnpartner ship from Amer, which then sailed to London and promoted Finland and Finnish companies internationally. The project was a bold and risky investment, which ended up creating a lot of positive publicity for the student union. During the 60s KY was also active in the TV business: it was a shareholder in Tesvisio, a company behind the first commercial TV channel in Finland.
Political battles and, as a result, frequent changes in the KY Board depict the 70s at KY. The hot topic was the fate of the KY Building – should existing student housing be kept or should the building’s financial potential be better utilized? After a long debate KY decided to change the building’s dormitory into office space. This worsened students’ housing situations temporarily but in the long run turned out to be a profitable and wise solution.
In the 1980s KY members partied in the student union’s own restaurants; one of the most popular nightclubs of the time, KY-Exit, was located in the KY Building. In the whirlwind of the casino economy KY began to diversify its stock ownings and KY-owned companies were run through the Ekomen Group. Professionals were hired to lead the previously student-run businesses. KY was also involved in creating a new radio channel, Radio City, which would broadcast continuously for over 20 years.
Finland’s deep depression in the beginning of the decade also severely affected KY. The Ekomen Group declared bankruptcy in 1992. To balance finances KY sold its shares in Amer. The representative council meeting leading to the decision was followed by national news. During the 90s students’ rights were closely monitored as times were exceptionally rough. International activities became livelier and environmental issues emerged into discussions.
Increasing the service level was a major focus point of the first decade in the new millennium. In this spirit, KY created a fund for international exchange, from which all students going on an exchange received compensation for their traveling expenses. In addition, the apartment offering kept on expanding when new apartment buildings were finished in Arabianranta in 2006 and Arkadiankatu in 2009.
As Aalto University was formed, KY’s status as a student union was retracted and it returned to its roots as an association on the first of January, 2010. During the first years, KY searched for its place in the new field and looked for new directions. In 2015, after more than 100 years in Töölö and 75 years in the KY Building, KY expanded to Otaniemi, Espoo. The main office was set up in Espilä and a new event space, Saha, was acquired. To embrace the Aalto community in full, KY changed its official name to Aalto University Business Students in 2016.