Why did you do it? That is probably the question I´ve been asked most times over the last year, since I decided to take a leap of faith and start out as an entrepreneur. To be completely honest, I have also asked myself that very question once or twice. Why on earth did I quit a somewhat safe and sound career as a real estate agent with a relatively reasonable income, in favor of a funny and in so many ways crazy idea?
An idea of doing something so different from what I knew, as to start designing, producing and selling wooden interior design figures. A crazy idea without any guarantee of earnings or success.
Why did I give up my suit, tie and Audi in favor of a t-shirt, hoodie and bike – and a lot of fresh air? Why did I replace my beloved Omega watch in favor of a wooden watch? Although a very elegant wooden watch I got as a gift from a like-minded entrepreneur, who has now become a very good friend. Why did I choose to become an entrepreneur just to work harder than I ever did before? Why the hell did I do it?
As long as I can remember, I have had the desire to create something on my own, as well as the desire to be free. Free in the sense that I should not be dictate by the decisions of others or have them decide for me. At the same time, I had longed to be doing something I would be passionate about. Not just something I would be fond of doing, but something I would truly love to be doing. Something that would make me loose track of time. Just like when I as a boy would spend hours on end in my father’s workshop, while working passionately on a new project.
Back then it might be a new toy or something I was working on, usually with a good friend. When we thought our new project was absolutely perfect and ready to go, my father would give us his input and ideas on how we could optimize and improve whatever we were working on. Have you considered a different sort of wood? Why not stabilize here? What if you cut of this end? I’ve lost count of how many times my dear father would stick his head into the workshop or would knock on the door to my room late at night, just to talk about a new idea or a new detail he had thought about. I have always admired this ingenuity and care for detail. Something both of my parents have passed on to me. And for that I am truly grateful.
But if being a real estate agent wasn’t enough for me, then what on earth would be? The real estate job was actually okay. It had a high degree of freedom, but still something was missing. I did not decide for my self and I didn’t loose track of time while working. Nor did I feel, that I was creating something. When I was off duty, I enjoyed my spare time and didn’t give any thoughts to the job.
Again and again I had been brainstorming on great ideas with a very dear friend of mine. Some ideas better than others. But we never came up with the perfect idea and we never really did anything about the ideas. Strangely enough it wasn’t before I returned to my father’s old workshop, that I once again would come up with an idea and a project, that I would be strongly passionate about.
By a bit of a coincidence, my girlfriend at the time and I, caught a renewed interest for my father´s old workshop a few years back.
An authentic workshop. Here you would find all the tools and utensils you could think of. The smell of wood hanging in the air. Sawdust on the floor. Dust and cobwebs in the corners. Planks and stumps of wood stored in an organized clutter and during the cold winter the old firewood own would keep the workshop warm. The perfect place to unwind from an otherwise busy and stressful everyday life.
We started making things and designs we had seen in stores, and we quickly became good at it. We had fun making something ourself, that we actually wanted to put on display in our own home. Slowly I also rediscovered the joy of letting my self go working on a project and to pay closer attention to details. Quiet fast we also started getting orders from close friends and family .
However, two individuals in my family were not that easy to impress. My dear cousin, who worked with interior designs in a wide known home furnishing store and then my dear brother. They recognized the talent, but to be impressed they would have to see some originality in the creations. If they should be impressed, I would have to make my own designs.
But I was a real estate agent and not a craftsman designing stuff. So the idea of making some design of my own seemed somehow silly. Yet I could not let go of the idea. It would actually be interesting to create something I had designed myself.
Finally on a cold and dark winter night in February, I decided to do something about it. I made myself comfortable on the sofa with a drawing pad and pen. The idea was to draw a simple design with a positive expression. Slowly this little guy began to take shape on the drawing pad. A small cheerful whale with a charming smile and a contagious spirit. I put the drawing away, but came back to it again and again over the next couple of days. I made a few minor adjustments, but I keep the basic shape.
The following weekend I took a trip up to my parents’ workshop and I made the very first Walter.
When you face the facts, there was still quiet a long way from standing in my father’s workshop making a single model of Walter the Whale, to actually start out as an entrepreneur with a serious business plan and a professional batch production. So how did the idea to start Design by Witt manifest itself? Where did the motivation and the drive come from?
As with so many other interesting stories about entrepreneurship, it was a good mix of chance, luck and good contacts that really got me going. My dear cousin and brother was finally impressed.
This gave me the motivation to try out more designs and soon Walter the Whale got himself a new best friend – Hannibal the Shark.
Close family and friends seemed to be excited about what I was doing. This gave me the feeling, that I finally had a project I could work more seriously on.
Suddenly I had the unique opportunity, to practice on a project that I started from scratch. What if I could build something where I would not let myself be hemmed by a manager or a management team. What if I could create a life where I would be working on my own conditions and on my own ideas. This would give me the freedom I had always strived for and dreamed of. At the same time it would all be built around a fun hobby and in close contact with my family.
These factors combined seriously kicked of my inner motivation and creativity.
To be continued…