We are used to showing you all our beautiful colored vases, paper flowers, candlesticks, and oil candles, but today it's time to give you a look down into the engine room and an insight into us who are behind Studio About. In this edition of our Advent calendar, we will talk about how and why Studio About came into being, and what challenges an entrepreneurial dream can bring.
A new year has just begun, and we are on the other side of the globe, namely Bali. The year is 2015 and we (Mikkel and Soffy) have just ordered our joint CVR number for the design company About Form and Function (former name).
Mikkel Lang Mikkelsen is a trained architect and worked at the time as a freelancer. And I (Soffy Dombernowsky) am a trained editor and photographer from Danmarks Radio. We had long wanted to do something together, a kind of free space where we could develop professionally and personally while having fun. We were sure that with our different competencies we could create something cool and hopefully big in the long run. We are both quite energetic, and if we set ourselves something, then it will happen too. But what exactly our joint project should contain would prove to be reflected in our journey around Asia.
Our first stop was Nepal, where we were on a longer hike in the Annapurna Mountain range. A completely enchanting trip, where we walked for days in all kinds of landscapes and felt life all the way down in our sore big toes - and yes it was life before children, pasta salad and cuddling times. In the town of Pokhara, where you start your trekking, there was cashmere everywhere and we fell in love with beautiful blankets and scarves. Subsequently, we got hooked on some notebooks in India. The contacts to the various companies were saved and the bags filled with samples, which we thought the rest of Denmark's population should also benefit from. We had now traced ourselves to what this joint project was going to be. A design company where Mikkel had to develop and draw interior objects, and I had to market using my skills with a camera .
We have always been hugely interested in design and especially design, where there is a nerd to create the most simple and aesthetic expression without compromising on function and quality. It should also be reflected in our objects, and the intention was to meet the needs of a creative and experimental modern lifestyle. Our designs should be accessible to all, for expensive design is not necessarily equal to good design. One last important element was that it should be easy to pack, send and use, so it made good sense to create interior objects.
In addition to blankets, scarves, and notebooks, Mikkel had a drawer project - a series of mouth-blown, spherical glass domes that had been used for a lamp project in his education. The drawings were adapted, and we now had our own first design: the hanging glass vase.
BACK IN DENMARK
In Denmark we found a manufacturer who blew technical small glass gadgets for a university. It was an old friend who knew this glassblower, because there were not many who blew in the type of glass that we wanted to use. It was important for Mikkel that the vases were sharp and minimalist, and therefore the glass type should be borosilicate. Because with that type of glass, the expression becomes light and much more precise than with traditional glass such as cabin glass.
Mikkel handed in drawings, and he blew us our first zero-series. I still remember when we stood with our first design in hand. Having something on a drawing that had been turned into a physical product - it was a wild feeling.
Emballage was procured in West Jutland, and in the beginning, we packed our bubbles in the allotment garden in our newly purchased cardboard tubes, of which we had ordered far too many. They came on large pallets for our apartment, which we then towed up to the 5th floor. We had bought a stamp on which we rolled our name, and it took an enormous amount of time to pack 7 cardboard boxes filled with bubbles from our glassblowers. But they had to have a packaging so there was no way around it. We participated in various markets because what did the consumer really say to our new vases? Luckily, they loved it, and another glass collection was created - the standing bubbles and flower tubes.
FROM HOBBY TO SERIOUS BUSINESS
Stores began to cater, and it became difficult to keep up with demand. We decided to send the production to Asia in the autumn of 2018, and a hobby project gradually became more serious. It was a lengthy process with a lot of frustrations. Several suppliers were in play, but after a lot of communication and prototypes back and forth, they managed to find a glass supplier.
The collections have been expanded, more stores have been added with the help of agents in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands, and the packaging in the allotment garden house has been replaced with a real stock of Aarhus harbour.
Studio About has grown organically over the years. With a start-up capital of only DKK 25,000, the company has quietly developed into what it is today, a company with enough capital to be able to develop new designs and strengthen the sales link, and roughly be in about 100 stores around the world.
It may sound easy to start an entrepreneurial adventure, but it's hard work in every possible way and the operation takes up an enormous amount of space. The hardest part is all the communication that takes up a lot of one's time. And one of the things that surprises me the most is how long the processes take. From the time Mikkel has his first sketch ready, it usually takes 6-8 months before a finished prototype is ready for production. There are plenty of tips to give if you are considering starting your own business. One of the things we have placed enormous emphasis on is testing our prototypes on a sales platform, eg a design market before the final production. Is it something that the consumer wants, what do they say about colors etc? Here you get a clear message if you have a design that can be sold. We have also always cut it tight, so we have ordered as little as possible, however, within the requirements, because there is always a minimum order when ordering from Asia. However, it can be difficult in the scaling process, but then you must accept that it is okay to be sold out of a collection occasionally. Another piece of advice that has been heard before. You just must jump into it because what's really the worst that can happen?
We often talk about why we do it. Every time we conclude that creating something and hopefully making others happy makes us want to keep going. We're still evolving personally and professionally, and it's hugely rewarding to have something together as a couple, so all our talk over the dining table is not just about our kids, and when I read this post, I cannot help but be a little proud.