Taking the first bite of the Big Apple – Del 2

Walter close up

Noget af det jeg elsker allermest ved iværksætter-livet er, at man langt hen ad vejen bare er nødt til at kaste sig ud i det, når man står overfor en ny udfordring. Tidligere har jeg været vant til, at kunne læne mig op ad viden jeg har fået gennem min uddannelse eller ældre kollegaers erfaringer.

Sådan er det ikke som iværksætter. Her må man typisk bare ud og prøve forskellige ideer og tiltag af, for at få sine egne “hands-on” erfaringer. Heldigvis er det en læringsproces, som jeg i den grad trives med.
Sådan var det også på seminaret i New York. Her skulle vi naturligvis også ud og prøve kræfter med den virkelige verden. I mit tilfælde betød det, at jeg skulle ud og finde nye forhandlere til Danmarks nye design-brand.

Efter et par gode pep-alks fra Mik fra Lemonsqueeze, var det på tide at flyve fra reden! Første gang jeg trådte ind i en butik i New York, var det en smule grænseoverskridende. Men der viste sig hurtigt et mønster. I modsætning til Danmark, hvor Danish design i bund og grund bare er.. design. Så er Danish design åbenbart super sexet i New York.
Det blev til i alt 5 besøg den første eftermiddag. For hvert besøg blev jeg lige en tand skarpere i mit pitch og jeg lærte hurtigt mere og mere om, hvad der fangede de forskellige forhandleres interesse. Til trods for god interesse i de første 4 butikker, gav det dog ikke pote.

Da jeg kom til den sidste butik, var der endelig jackpot. Her var det ejeren selv, der stod bag disken. Han bød mig velkommen og var meget begejstret for mine designs. Så begejstret, at han inviterede mig tilbage to dage senere, så vi kunne få alle de praktiske detaljer på plads. Jeg var ovenud lykkelig og helt paf! Havde jeg virkelig fået min første forhandler i New York!? JA SGU.

Det blev det sjoveste møde jeg længe har haft. Til trods for mine mange forberedelse anede jeg intet om deres “basic terms and conditions”, hvordan logistikken skulle strikkes sammen eller hvordan vi skulle forholde os til betalingsvilkårene. Men vi satte hos ned og gennemgik alle forholdene punkt for punkt. Til sidst kunne vi give håndslag på et godt samarbejde.

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Tony fra ABODE

Kommer du en dag til New York, så tag endelig en tur forbi ABODE i Williamsburg. Her vil Tony og Brian helt sikkert tage rigtig godt imod dig.

Men det stoppede ikke med en ny forhandler. Mik havde lige et sidste es gemt i ærmet. Ugen igennem havde vi talt om muligheden for, at få mine figurer på hylderne hos én helt særlig forhandler. Her talte vi om en forhandler, der i min verden var fuldstændig uopnåelig. Men Mik havde en vej ind. Tilbage på kontoret kom Mik hen til mig “Fredag kl. 17.00 møder du op på denne adresse! Dont be late”.
Fredag kl. 17.00 troppede jeg så op hos et af New Yorks mest eftertragtede designbureauer. Efter en rundtur i deres allerhelligste lokaler og et indblik i deres nyeste produktudvikling, fik vi os en god snak om mine produkter. Igen en vanvittig og surrealistisk oplevelse. Et halvt års tid forinden stod jeg hjemme i værkstedet i Nordsjælland og drømte om hvad mine små hvaler kunne blive til. Nu sad jeg så i et imponerende kontor midt i New York og talte med et ikon indenfor design. En mand, som nu ville gøre sit for, at få mine designs afsat hos en forhandler i den absolutte superliga inden for design. Det var næsten ikke til at fatte.

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Turens mest spændende kaffemøde

Efter mødet vidste jeg ikke, om jeg skulle slå vejrmøller hele vejen ned af Broadway eller tage i byen og købe den største flaske champagne jeg kunne støve op.

Ugen var ved at komme til sin ende og det var så småt på tide at vende næsen hjem ad igen. Kufferten var tømt for designfigurer og i stedet fyldt til randen med oplevelser, indtryk og ikke mindst en ny forhandler.

Hvad jeg ikke vidste på daværende tidspunkt var, at et tilfældigt møde den sidste dag i New York, med en ikke helt tilfælde skolelærer, skulle vise sig at tage hele konceptet for Design by Witt i en helt ny retning… Men mere om det i næste blog.

ABODE
Go Grow
Lemonsqueeze

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Taking the first bite of the Big Apple – Part 2

Walter close upOne of the things I love most about being an entrepreneur is, that when facing a new challenge, most times you just have to go out there and trust your gut feeling. Earlier I used to depend on knowledge I had gained through my education or experiences from older colleagues.
As an entrepreneur you can not do this. Instead you just need to go out there and try out different ideas and approaches. This way you will get your own ” hands-on “ experiences. Fortunately, it is a learning process that comes very natural to me.
This was also the best way to learn during the seminar in New York. Here we had to go out and test our products and concepts in the real world. In my case, I had to go out there and find new retailers for Denmark’s newest design brand.

After a few good pep-talks from Mik, it was time to leave the safe surroundings at Lemonsqueeze. The first time I walked into a design store in New York, it was a bit scary. But I soon discovered a comforting pattern. Unlike in Denmark, where Danish design basically just is… Well… it is just design. So it turned out, that in New your Danish design is super sexy. That afternoon I visited a total of 5 design stores. For each visit, my pitch got a little better and I quickly learned more and more about what caught the retailers´ interest. Despite some good interest in the first 4 shops, no one bought anything.

When I walked in to the last retailer, I finally hit jackpot. Here it was the owner himself, who stood behind the counter. He welcomed me inside and was very excited about my designs. So excited that he invited me back two days later, so that we could get all the practical details sorted out. I was truly happy and excited. Did this really mean, that I just landed my first retailer in New York!? I think it did!

It turned out to be the funniest meeting in a long time. Despite preparation, I did not know anything about their “basic terms and conditions”. Nor did I know anything about how we would deal with the logistics or in what way we should come to terms with the payments. But we sat at down and went through all the terms and conditions point by point. Eventually we were able to shake hands and they could start selling my designs.

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Tony from ABODE with his first Tokens of Happiness

If you some day come to New York, do not hesitate to stop by ABODE in Williamsburg. Tony and Brian will certainly invite you in and take really good care of you. And please do give them my best.

But it did not stop with a new retailer. Mik had just one last thing hidden up in his sleeve. Throughout the week, we had discused the possibility of getting my designs on for sale at one retailer in particular. We where talking about a retailer, that in my world was completely unattainable. But Mik might just have a way in. Back at the office Mik came up to me and said “Friday at 17:00 you will show up at this address! Dont be late”

That friday at 17.00 I showed at one of New York’s most respected design agencies. After a tour around there offices,  we sat down and had a good talk about my products. Again a crazy and surreal experience. Half a year ago, I was back home in the wooden workshop in Denmark. Here I was making my little happy designs while I was dreaming about what might be. Now I sat in an impressive office in midtown Manhattan and spoke with an iconic in the design business. A man who now tried to help me sell my designs through the nr. 1 retailer on my list. It was almost impossible to comprehend.

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The most exciting coffee meeting in a long time.

The seminar was coming to its end and it was about time to return home. The suitcase was now missing all my designs and instead filled with good experiences, lots of impressions and not least a new  retail contract.

What I did not know at the time was, that a random meeting on the last day in New York, with a not so random schoolteacher would turn out to change the whole concept of Design by Witt… But more on that in the next blog.

Lemonsqueeze
Go Grow
ABODE

Taking the first bite of the Big Apple – Del 1.

IMG_7135“Yes Martin, we would love to sell your beautiful designs”.
Wauw!! Denne ene sætning markerede endnu en fantastisk milepæl for mit lille designfirma. Ikke nok med, at jeg nu kunne jeg tilføje endnu en spændende designforretning til listen af forhandlere. Nu kunne jeg også føje den første forhandler i New York til listen.

Det virkede fuldstændig uvirkeligt. Af alle steder kunne jeg nu sige, at mine små designfigurer kunne købes i New York. Tænk hvis jeg kunne få flere forhandlere!? Tænk hvis dette kunne føre til et uventet lille gennembrud og bane vejen for et helt nyt marked og helt nye muligheder. En velkendt frase poppede uundgåeligt op i mine tanker “If I can make it there, I´ll make it anywhere”. Man havde vel lov at håbe og give den indre optimist frit spil.
Men hvordan kommer man hele vejen fra et lille charmerende værksted i Nordsjælland, til pludselig at stå og give håndslag til en forhandler i New York?
Som med alt andet omkring dette lille iværksættereventyr, var det en god blanding af hårdt arbejde, en hulens masse networking og ikke mindst en god portion held.

Jeg havde været så heldig, at blive optaget på Copenhagen School of Entrepreneurships iværksætterprogram “Go Grow” et par måneder for inden. Go Grow er et program skræddersyet til at hjælpe iværksættere som mig selv, med at udnytte deres fulde potentiale.

Go Grows primære formål var, at gøre de enkelte start-ups klar til at vækste ud over landets grænser. Min første indskydelse var, at satse på det skandinaviske marked. Det virkede umiddelbart mest overskueligt og realistisk. Men midt i forløbet på Go Grow opstod en spændende mulighed for at komme lidt længere væk fra lille Danmark.

Alle deltagerne på Go Grow fik en invitation til, at deltage i et spændende seminar i New York.

Formålet med seminaret var at lærer os, hvordan man erobre nye markeder og i særdeleshed hvordan man kommer ind på det amerikanske marked. Bag seminariet stod Lemonsqueeze – et ungt og ambitiøst firma, der med kæmpe succes havde skabt et koncept, som hjælper udenlandske virksomheder ind på det amerikanske marked

New York var ikke ligefrem en del af min oprindelige plan. Slet ikke så tidligt i processen. Men nu hvor chancen bød sig, var det bare om at slå til. Så kufferten blev proppet med design-figurer og jeg sprang på et fly tværs over Atlanten.

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Mik Strøyberg, som står bag Lemonsqueeze, overgik alles forventninger med et imponerende line-up af de vildeste rock starts inden for iværksættermiljøet. Hver dag var der nye indlæg fra iværksættere, som vi ellers kun kunne læse om i diverse tidsskrifter. Her var alt fra et ungt fundraiser-geni fra Forbes “30 under 30”-liste, til et besøg på Kick-starters hovedkonter. Kick-starter er for iværksættere, hvad Google eller Apple er for IT-nørder. Jeg var blæst bag over af begejstring!

Herudover var der ugen igennem et stort fokus på alle deltagerne i seminariet og vores virksomheder. Holdet bag Go Grow og Lemonsqueeze gjorde alt for at hjælpe os med de udfordringer vi hver især måtte have. Hele ugen kulminerede i en investor-pitch, hvor vi fik mulighed for at sælge vores virksomheder og ideer ind til seriøse investorer.

Men der var også et andet og mindst lige så vigtigt formål med seminariet. Vi skulle også have testet vores små skrøbelige iværksættervinger af og se om de kunne bære, når vi for alvor skulle flyve fra reden og forlade de trygge rammer på kontoret hos Lemonsqueeze. New York ventede lige udenfor døren og det var tid til at tage den første bid af “The Big Apple”.

Fortsættes i 2. del. Læs med allerede nu på torsdag.

* Kæmpe tak til holdet bag Go Grow og Lemonsqueeze for den kæmpe hjælp og støtte de har givet.
Lemonsqueeze
Go Grow

 

Taking the first bite of the Big Apple – Part 1

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“Yes Martin, we would love to sell your beautiful designs”.

Wauw!! This one sentence just marked another great milestone for my little design firm. Not only did it mean that I could add yet another design store to my list of retailers. It also meant that I could add my first retailer in New York to the list.

It seemed completely unreal. Now I could say that my little designs could be bought in New York City. Imagine if I could get more retailers!? What if this could lead to an unexpected breakthrough and pave the way for a whole new market and new opportunities. A familiar phrase inevitably popped into my mind “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere”. Well at least I had my hopes up, and why not be optimistic about it.

But how did I end up here? How did I go from my little charming wooden workshop north of Copenhagen, to suddenly finding myself shaking hands with a design retailer in New York?
As with everything else concerning this little entrepreneurial adventure, it had to do with a good mix of hard work, an awful lot of networking and not least a big portion of luck.

Luckily enough, I had been admitted to the Copenhagen School of Entrepreneur Ships incubator program “Go Grow “, a few months before. Go Grow is a program specialized in helping entrepreneurs like myself, to reach their full potential.

The primary purpose of Go Grow is to help  the start-ups go to new markets outside the boarders of Denmark. My first intuition was to focus on the Scandinavian market. It seemed most likely and  manageable. But during the Go Grow course, I got an unexpected opportunity to reach just a little further than the Scandinavian countries.

All the teams on the Go Grow program got an invitation to participate in an exciting seminar in New York.

The purpose of the seminar was to teach us how to conquer new markets and in particular how to get into the US market. The invitation came from Lemonsqueeze – a very succesful young company. They had created a concept, that helps companies enter the US market

New York was not exactly part of my original plan. At least not this this early in the process. But since the opportunity presented it self, why not take it and just let my little Walter swim with it. I jam packed my suitcase with my little designs and jumped on a plane across the Atlantic.

NY-kop

Mik Strøyberg, founder of Lemonsqueeze, exceeded everyone’s expectations with the impressive line-up of true “rock starts” within the entrepreneurial environment. Every day there were new lectures from entrepreneurs, that we would otherwise only read about in various magazines. One day it would be a young brilliant fundraiser from Forbes “30 under 30”-list, the next day we would visit Kick-starters headquarters. Kick-start is for entrepreneurs what Google or Apple is for IT-geeks. This was truly mind blowing!

During the week, the people at Lemonsqueeze had a strong focus on all participants in the seminar and our businesses. The team behind Go Grow and Lemonsqueeze did everything to help us solved what ever challenge we might be facing.

The culmination of the seminar was an investor-pitch. We should prove ourselves, and pitch our businesses and ideas. And so we did.

But there was yet another important purpose of the seminary. We should once again prove ourselves and see if our tiny fragile entrepreneurial wings would let us fly. It was time to leave the safe environment at Lemonsqueeze, and go kick in some doors and take our very first bite of the Big Apple…

Will be continued this thursday when part 2 is released.

* A big and thank you straight from the heart to the teams behind Go Grow and Lemonsqueeze. Your help and support meant everything to me. Go Grow Lemonsqueeze