From real estate agent to entrepreneur – part 2

MetroHere is the continuation of the story about how the whole idea of Design by Witt occurred. If you haven’t read the first part yet, you may want to read the first blog post – From real estate agent to entrepreneur.

After I made the first edition of Walter the Whale in my fathers workshop, my new little project “Design by Witt” quickly startet to evolve. There wasn’t hardly any waken minut of the day, where I wasn’t coming up with different ideas or new projects regarding Design by Witt. My closest friends and family help in the process of brainstorming on the new ideas and initiatives. The whole business structure surrounding Design by Witt was slowly starting to take form. But if I wanted it to look professional and if I wanted to be taken seriously, I would also have to do it professionally. This made me think about founding my first very own company. It should be a real company with a registered VAT-number, a website, a business plan and everything else that one would need in a serious company.

My biggest challenge was, that I knew absolutely nothing about how to build up your own start-up in the design business, building a website or structuring a company. But one thing is was good at, was gaining help from my network. Both privately and professionally. I would never have gotten anywhere, if it wasn’t for the enormous help I got from day one! Help that I in every way is deeply grateful for.

Equipped with a potent “lets do it” attitude, an uncontrollable motivation and a good deal of impatience I began to work on my project. A great lawyer from my network helped my to found the company. For that I needed a name! “Witt” seemed like a no-brainer, so I wanted to go with that. But unfortunately it turned out, that the name was already taken. Since I was making design, I instead wanted to go with “Witt Design”. So I made all the paperwork and founded the company.

Afterwards a really good friend of mine helped me purchase the domain for my website. But when we wanted to buy the domain name “Witt Design” this name was also taken! Back to coming up with a new name! Quickly I come up with “Design by Witt”. Fortunately is name was available both with the registration authorities and for the domain. So I changed the company name with the authorities and finally I was established. It was an amazing feeling and I felt like I was walking around with an S on my chest! So now I just had to structure the company and built the website and webshop. But to do so I also needed a logo. Back to the drawing board. Very quickly (read: a lot of long nights, a lot of help from close friends and some great deal of frustrations) I now had my very own one man company, making my own designs and having my own website. I was so proud and super excited. Finally! I had created something that I could build on. And that I would! I could not help it.

When I showed my designs to people I met, they seemed enthusiastic and they liked the energy I put into the project. This created a synergy that just made my motivation and my drive grow even more. Quickly, I updated my website, expanded my concept and suddenly I also had my first retailer. It was an amazing feeling, to know that my small handmade figurines was now being bought by people who wasn’t friends or family.

Quite early in the process I got my big chance. My cousin had arranged a meeting with the Purchasing Manager in one of Scandinavia’s biggest and most exclusive design and home furnishing warehouses. If I wanted to look professional before, now it was even more important to come on as a serious and well-established company. In order to appear strong and serious, I called up a good friend of mine and offered him the job as sales director. He accepted and a few days later we sat down at a presentation meeting with the Purchasing Manager of this exclusive warehouse. I toke out the designs from my backpack, unwrapped them from towels and presented the individual designs. Meanwhile my new sales director asked about order sizes and delivery terms. In retrospect we were probably out presenting just a bit too early. But I guess there was no law against being an optimist.

The Purchasing Manager could see the potential and was happy with the products. But as she very kindly explained to us, she was not ready to take the products in commission. That would require a bigger production, professional packaging, barcodes and basically just a more serious set-up.

Although we did not close any deals that day, I now had a very concrete goal to target. I had to find a manufacturer who could supply us with a high quality production of the designs.

A year would pass after our meeting with the Purchasing manager, before I got my first batch of products home and stashed my apartment completely with boxes of my design products.

It was an indescribable feeling! There I was, about to open my very first Design by Witt gift box – I was thrilled! But I had not come this far without tons of hard work.
I had been around the country, to find a manufacturer in Denmark. Unfortunately, either the quality or the cost were acceptable. This led me to Slovakia and Romania. Here the production price was absolutely acceptable, but the quality of the products were no way near anything that could be accepted. During the process, more than once I was presented to a Danish company, which was specialized in production of design products in the East.

Every time I dropped it, because I thought it would be too resourceful and difficult to start up production in the East. But again, via my network, a meeting with production company was set up – Thank you again to the Go Grow manager. For the first time I met someone with the kind of commitment I had been looking for. Here I sat opposite an old (still young of age) cabinetmaker who took my products very seriously. They could make the products under the best possible conditions and at the same time I felt we really hit it of. 7 months after our first meeting, this company could deliver the first batch of products.

Alongside the search for the right manufacturer, I also started to built up a more serious structure around my company. I went from a private one man company, to a more serious business structure with a holding company and an operating company. I assigned an advisory board and assured me the proper design registrations and trademark protections. Most importantly, I applied to join the Go Grow – an entrepreneurship program at CSE, Copenhagen School of Entrepreneurship. Luckily I got in. The help and the network I got there, was more and better than I could have ever dreamed of. I was lucky to get in on a wild card and suddenly I found myself studying at the entrepreneurial school. Here I had to work on my KPIs, my CRM system and my VPs. Not to forget my GTM-level and my revenue streams – plus my pitch. Google quickly became my best friend during this period.

Go Grow gave me exactly what I needed and more. Go Grow made my business more structured, streamlined and expanded my mindset. From being myself and with a single retailor, I got a company with three foreign trainees, production in the far East and sales in Denmark and New York. Yet the entrepreneurial journey had only just begun.

The first steps into the life as an entrepreneur has been the most fun I’ve ever done. It has undoubtedly been extremely hard, tiering and not without sacrifice. But there is also a reason why my new motto is: If it was easy, everyone would do it! But the hard work was nothing compared to the enormous boost and the indescribable satisfaction it gives, to build something from scratch. Something, that with a little luck, maybe turn into being something greater than just a business involving me.

As a real estate agent, I worked to earn money. With Design by Witt, I work because I can not help my self and and because I think it is incredibly exciting and fun. At the same time, I now have the opportunity to do something good for others. Right from the start I decided to support different charity organisations. Besides some small sponsorships, I quite early decided to go in and support the WWF. There was no profits from the company yet, but the feeling of giving something back made it worth it. And the sponsorship fitted perfectly into the concept of the Tokens of Happiness.

So why was it, that I decided to quit the life as real estate agent to become an entrepreneur? Why I drop the easy path and instead choose the uncertain one? After all, for me it was fundamentally all about feeling free and trying the adventure. My biggest fear was to spent an entire working life not trying something else and not see what I could do with my potential.

My good friend – the one who accepted the job as my sales director – said it best. One day I was complaining a bit about the uncertainty and lack of financial bonuses I had been accustomed to as a real estate agent. He listened, but just said ” I hear what you are saying Martin. Just remember, every morning you wake up as a free man” Continue reading

Fra ejendomsmægler til iværksætter – del 2

Metro

Her er fortsættelsen af historien om hvordan hele ideen til Design by Witt opstod. Har du ikke fået første del med, kan du med fordel læse første blogindlæg – Fra ejendomsmægler til iværksætter.

Efter at have stået i min fars værksted og lavet den første lille udgave af hvalen Walter, begyndte hele projektet omkring Design by Witt hurtigt at tage fart.
Der gik stort set ikke at øjeblik, hvor jeg ikke gik og legede med forskellige ideer og muligheder omkring mit lille nye projekt. Jeg brugte de nærmeste venner, min kære kusine og lillebror til at spare med om nye ideer og tiltag. Det hele begyndte langsomt at tage form, men hvis det skulle virke professionelt, var jeg også nødt til at gøre det professionelt. Det fik mig til at lege med tanken om, at starte mit første rigtige firma. Det skulle være en rigtig virksomhed med CVR-nr, hjemmeside, forretningsplan, struktur og hvad der ellers hørte sig til. Udfordringen var bare, at jeg absolut intet kendte til opstart af virksomheder inden for design, opbygning af hjemmesider eller opbygning af en virksomheds struktur. Til gengæld var jeg rigtig god til at bruge mit netværk, både privat og professionelt. Uden den enorme hjælp jeg fik fra dag ét, var jeg aldrig kommet nogen vegne med mit lille verdensfirma. En hjælp jeg på alle måder er dybt taknemmelig for.

Udstyret med et voldsomt gå-på-mod, en ustyrlig motivation og en god portion utålmodighed gik jeg i gang. Først fik jeg hjælp til at oprette et firma af en god advokat i mit netværk. Først skulle jeg dog lige have styr på navnet. Jeg synes Witt var lige til højrebenet. Men det navn var desværre allerede taget. Nu var det jo design jeg arbejdede med, så jeg gik med Witt Design og fik oprettet firmaet. Herefter hjalp en rigtig god kammerat med køb af et domæne til min hjemmeside. Men da jeg skulle vælge domænenavn var Witt Design taget. På den igen! Hurtigt kom jeg frem til Design by Witt, som heldigvis ikke var taget nogen steder. Jeg fik ændret firmanavnet hos erhvervsstyrelsen og var nu etableret. Det var en vanvittig lækker følelse og jeg var slet ikke til at skyde igennem! Så skulle jeg bare have struktureret firmaet og bygget hjemmesiden op. Men for at gøre det, måtte jeg også have et logo. Tilbage til tegnebrættet. Inden jeg havde set mig om, (læs: en masse lange aftner, en masse hjælp fra tætte venner og en del frustrationer) havde nu mit helt eget enkeltmandsfirma med egne produkter og egen hjemmeside. Jeg var pave stolt og ovenud begejstret for mit lille projekt. Endelig havde jeg skabt noget konkret, som jeg kunne bygge videre på. Og bygges det skulle der. Jeg kunne slet ikke lade være.

Når jeg viste figurerne frem mødte jeg begejstring og folk kunne lide den energi jeg lagde i projektet. Det skabte en synergi, som bare fik min motivation og mit drive til at vokse. Hurtigt fik jeg opdateret min hjemmeside, udbygget mit koncept og pludselig havde jeg også min første forhandler. Det var en fantastisk fornemmelse at vide, at mine små håndlavede figurer nu kunne købes af folk udenfor min vennekreds.

Min helt store chance fik jeg ret tidligt i processen, da min kusine fik sat et møde op med indkøbschefen i et af skandinaviens absolut størreste bolighuse. Her var det om noget vigtigt, at fremstå som et seriøst og veletableret firma. For ikke at møde op helt alene med ansvar for alle poster i firmaet, ringede jeg derfor til en god kammerat og tilbød ham jobbet som salgsdirektør. Han accepterede og et par dage senere troppede vi op til præsentionsmøde. Figurerne havde jeg med i min rygsæk, pakket fint ind i viskestykker. Jeg præsenterede de enkelte designs, mens min nye salgsdirektør spurgte ind til ordrestørrelser og leveringsbetingelser. Set i bakspejlet var vi nok lige tidligt nok ude, men det var vel ikke forbudt at være optimist.

Indkøbschefen kunne se ideen og var glad for produkterne. Men som hun meget venligt fik forklaret, var hun ikke klar til at tage produkterne ind. Det ville kræve en stabil produktion, professionel indpakning, stregkoderegistering og i det hele taget et mere seriøst set-up.

Selvom vi ikke fik lukket en ordre den dag, havde vi nu et helt konkret mål at gå efter. Der skulle findes en producent, der kunne levere et designprodukt i høj kvalitet.

Et år skulle der gå efter vores møde med indkøbschefen til, at jeg kunne fylde min lejlighed op med bjerge af kasser fra det første batch af designprodukter. Det var en helt ubeskrivelig følelse, at side med den første gaveæske fra Design by Witt i hænderne. Men det havde også krævet hårdt arbejde at komme dertil.

Jeg havde været land og rige rundt, for at finde en producent i Danmark. Desværre kunne hverken kvaliteten eller omkostningerne accepteres. Det førte mig videre til Slovakiet og Rumænien. Her var produktionsprisen absolut acceptable, men kvaliteten kom på ingen måde i nærheden af noget der kunne accepteres. Under forløbet blev jeg dog flere gerne præsenteret for et dansk firma, som havde specialiseret sig i produktion af designprodukter i Østen. Umiddelbart tænkte jeg, at det var for resourcekrævende og besværligt at starte en produktion op i Østen. Men igen, via et eminent netværk, fik jeg sat et møde op med produktionsvirksomheden. For første gang mødte jeg det engement og commitment jeg havde søgt hos de andre producenter. Her sad jeg overfor en gammel møbelsnedker, som tog mine produkter seriøst. De kunne lave produkterne under bedst tænkelige forhold og  samtidig havde vi en rigtig god kemi. 7 måneder efter vores første møde kunne de så levere varen.

Sideløbende med jagten på den rigtige producent, fik jeg også bygget en mere seriøs struktur op omkring min virksomhed. Jeg gik fra et enkeltmandsfirma til en struktur med et holdingselskab og et driftselskab. Jeg fik tilknyttet et advisory board og sikret mig div designregisteringer og varemærkebeskyttelser. Vigtigst af alt var nok, at jeg søgte om optagelse i Go Grow – et iværksætterprogram på CSE, Copenhagen School of Entrepreneurship. Den hjælp og det netværk jeg fik her, var vildere end jeg nogensinde kunne have drømt om. Jeg var heldig at komme med på et wild-card og kom for alvor i iværksætterskole. Her skulle jeg have styr på mine KPIér, mit CRM-system og naturligvis også mine VPér. For slet ikke at tale om min GTM-plan, mine revenue streams og mit pitch. Google blev min bedste ven i den periode.

Go Grow gav mig lige præcis det jeg havde brug for og mere til. Go Grow gjorde min virksomhed mere struktureret, strømlinet og fik udviklet mit mindset. Fra at være mig selv og en enkelt forhandler, fik jeg et firma med 3 udenlandske praktikanter, produktion i Østen og salg i DK og New York. Alligevel var iværksætterrejsen stadigvæk kun lige begyndt.

De spæde skridt ind i tilværelsen som iværksætter har været det sjoveste, jeg nogensinde har lavet. Det har uden tvivl været ekstremt hårdt, resourcekrævende og ikke uden ofre. Det er heller ikke for sjov skyld, at mit nye motto er: Hvis det var nemt, så gjorde alle det! Men alle anstrengelserne kan på ingen måde måle sig med det enorme boost og den ubeskrivelige tilfredstillelse det giver, at bygge noget op fra bunden. Noget der med lidt held måske får lov til, at bygge sig op til noget større end bare at omfatte mig.

Som mægler arbejdede jeg for at tjene penge. Med Design by Witt arbejder jeg fordi jeg ikke kan lade være og fordi jeg synes det er vanvittigt spændende og sjovt. Samtidig har jeg nu en anden mulighed for, at gøre noget godt for andre. Lige fra starten besluttede jeg mig for, at støtte op om godgørende formål. Udover lidt små-sponsorrater valgte jeg ret tidligt at i forløbet, at gå ind og støtte op om WWF Verdensnaturfonden. Der var på ingen måde økonomisk overskud i virksomheden, men følelsen af at give noget igen var det hele værd og så passede det bare så godt ind i konceptet.

Men hvorfor var det så egentlig, at jeg sprang ud som iværksætter? Hvorfor droppede jeg den sikre vej til fordel en uvis og snørklet sti? Når alt kommer til alt, så handler det i bund og grund om friheden og eventyret. Min støreste frygt var, at bruge et helt arbejdsliv i rammer hvor jeg følte mig bundet og begrænset.

Min gode kammerat – ham der blev sat ind som salgsdirektør – sagde det i virkeligheden bedst. En dag vi var sammen, fik jeg brokket mig lidt over usikkerheden og de manglende økonomiske bonuser jeg havde været vant til som mægler. Han var forstående, men sagde bare “Det er også helt rigtigt Martin. Men bare husk på, at du hver morgen vågner op som en fri mand”

From real estate agent to entrepreneur

Walter&Witt

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? Continue reading

Fra ejendomsmægler til iværksætter

Elephant light

Fra ejendomsmægler til iværksætter – Del 1.

Hvorfor gjorde du det? Det er nok det spørgsmål, jeg er blevet stillet flest gange, siden jeg tog valget om at springe ud som iværksætter for lidt over et år siden. Skal jeg være helt ærlig, har jeg da også stillet mig selv netop det spørgsmål en gang eller 3. Hvorfor i alverden var det nu lige, at jeg droppede den ellers sikre karriere som ejendomsmægler, med en relativ fornuftig indkomst, til fordel for en på mange måder skør ide? En skør ide om at lave noget så anderledes som, at designe, producere og sælge træfigurer. En skør ide uden nogen form for garanti om indtjening eller succes. Continue reading