2017 – Hard beatings and loving, supporting hugs

2017 was a wild year! A crazy wild year! A year full of amazing unforgettable moments, but also a hard that gave the me the hardest beatings. A year, where I on several occasions had to pinch my arm, just to make sure, that it all wasn’t just one happy dream. At the same time, it has been a year with countless sleepless nights. Nights were I found my self starring into the wast air, just hoping that it was all just a bad nightmare, and that I would soon wake up. But for better and worse, the year of 2017 has shaped Walter & me as entrepreneurs.
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When you are standing there, at the beginning of the year. Holding your fragile little start-up company in the hand. Just gazing upon the year that lies ahead, it is impossible to guess what awaits you in the new year. Basically you can only see a few weeks ahead. After that the road becomes unclear and takes a sharp turn around a corner. From there on, you can only guess what will happen and you just hope for the best.
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2017 seemed to start very nice and gentle. Instead, it hit me hard in the face with a cold and wet slap – or maybe it was more like a fist.  My financial fundament was pulled away from right under me. As an entrepreneur, one must typically prepare oneself to live under the concept off “boot-strapping”, as they call it. At first I did not fully understand what that meant or implied.

But as time went by, I got to learn the full understanding of the concept. Basically it means, that you have to cut down on your expenses… You have to cut down on everything! Revenues are small when you are a relatively unknown up-coming design brand. At the same time, it costs money to run a business – a lot of money. As a certain colleague in the real estate industry once told me “You have to burn money, to earn money”.

So to make ends meet, I helped a good friend a few days a week to keep his business flying. But on a cold January day, he announced that, from that day on, there would be no money for wages…
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It was a tough and unexpected message to get, but that’s how it goes. And as little Walter always says so happily “there’s always a reason to smile” And sure there was! A good friend and I got behind the wheel and drove across the country. Soon we had built a solid network of retailers. At the same time, there is nothing like a solid financial crises, to kick the creative boost.
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Never before had I started so many creative projects as in the first quarter of 2017. Particularly one project had potential and ended up being our biggest investment since Walter the happy little whale was born. A project we are looking forward to launch in spring of 2018.
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The hard beatings was soon replaced by a huge loving hug, when Design by Witt was voted Entrepreneur of the Year in Frederiksberg. It was a completely surrealistic experience and it was a huge boost on the self-confidence. The loving hugs was then followed with another huge loving hug from Illum’s Bolighus, who took on Walter and the other Tokens of Happiness. Getting Illums Bolighus on the retail list had been an main goal from Day 1 in Design by Witt.
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Summer and Autumn offered some tough months, which, as a matter of fact, had shaped me as a person and given both Walter and I some extra hair on the chest. Life as an entrepreneur is not always easy. It is basically about facing challenges and overcoming them. It can be exciting and fun in itself. But when the challenges come unexpectedly from people who are close to you, it’s in every way uncomfortable and ugly. It puts things in perspective and forces you to be more carefull about who to deal with. On the upside you do learn a lot of these challenges and become more hardened and professional.
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Fortunately, 2017 was not done showing off its good side. We had an amazing cooporation with Micheal Bundesens and in the autumn, it happened quite unexpectedly that Design by Witt won yet another prize – This year’s entrepreneurship-stand in Tivoli. I can honestly admit, that it was a bit of a chock to me. Luckily I was happily unaware of how much work it would really require, to get a retail stand in Tivoli.
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It meant 25 days straight in Tivoli with min. 12 hours working days. But it was 3 fantastic weeks and every day was nothing but adventurous. It was great fun meeting so amazing many sweet people. At the same time, it helped develop a whole new concept – namely the Walter machine. It became a huge hit. Again, I my dear parents gave there help and support.
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Tivoli gave us a beautiful fairtale ending of the year 2017. We are now in every way ready to cheer on an exciting 2018.
Once again, it’s not to say what the year will offer in advance. But Walter and I are really looking forward to making It a little bit extra happy. See you out there 😀

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One small step for Illums Bolighus… One giant step for Walter!

ILLUMS BOLIGHUS IS NOW REALITY

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This picture has been my visual goal and motivation every day for the last three years! A simple picture showing Walter being launched at Illums Bolighus. But ever since I started this journey with Design by Witt and my little happy Whale Walter, the only place this picture existed, was in my mind. I visualized the picture and burned it into my mind. Now, three years later, this picture is no longer just a product of my imagination. Today the picture is very real.

But how do you end up in the flagshipstore of Illums Bolighus? The nr 1. interior design retailer i Denmark. Why was Illums Bolighus the main motivation? And now that Walter is launched in Illums Bolighus, then what is the next goal and motivation?

About three years ago, I got this somewhat funny and crazy idea. For some time, I had had the dream and the urge to try to start up a project or a business of my own. On a daily bases I was working as a real estate agent. But I wasn’t completely satisfied, so I made a decision and quiet the real estate business to go start my own design brand. You can read the whole story here. 

My dear cousin was one of the first persons ever to lay eyes on this little design, I had just made. From the first moment she saw Walter the Whale, she told me, it should be sold at Illums Bolighus.

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She was working at Illums Bolighus herself, and quiet an expert on interior design. This statement did something to me. I lit up my motivation like never before.

Quiet early in the process, she managed to set up a meeting with the purchasing manager at Illums Bolighus. I showed up with a good friend, and we actually had a great meeting. The purchasing manager liked my designs and the concept. But she need something more. A concept and a univers surrounding the designs. On top of this she needed some nice wrapping and a guarantee for a serious and stable big scale production.

Two purchasing managers and 2,5 years later, my good friend and I showed up at Illums Bolighus again. We had been working on all the demands the first manager had asked for and once again my dear cousin had helped us set up a new meeting. This time Design by Witt was no longer just an idea of a business based in an old wooden workshop. This time Design by Witt was a serious business, with retailers all over DK and in NYC, London and Cologne. This time we had a professional set up, a unique concept and a happy univers surrounding the designs.
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45 minuets later we walked out of Illums Bolighus. This time we didn’t just have a great meeting. This time we closed the deal!

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Just getting out of Illums Bolighus

My friend and I went to a near by cafe, to just sit down and reflect on what just happened. As we sat there my friend looked at me and said “Martin! You still might not understand what just happen in there. But when you get home, you gonna flip out completely”. And he was absolutely right! The journey from my fathers wooden workshop, till finally being singed up with Illums Bolighus, had been one of the most exhausting experiences for me. So yes, I got emotional.

WorkshopThis is my beloved workshop 🙂

But the thrill of sealing the deal, was in every way worth the effort. At the same time it taught me an important lesson. If you go all in, work hard and fight for what you believe in, then anything is possible. For me personally this is the finally approval and blue stamp to show, that my happy little whale is recognized as a serious design.
Last week the company also won the “Entrepreneur of the year” award.

Walter & Illums Bolighus
So what now? What is next? Well, only time will tell 😉 But I promise you this! Very soon we will reveal our next big project. Another project that will take us yet another step closer to full-felling our main vision – To become the next danish design icon.

Learn more about Design by Witt at our webpage

WALTER THE HAPPY WHALE ON AIR

Walter the happy Whale live on air – Podcast

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“Hi Martin. Would you be able to join our radio-show tomorrow?”
Like any other morning, I was checking my e-mails. But this morning one email instantly caught  my eyes and got all my attention. It was from the radio show – “The 6 thinking hats”. A radio show made by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. Every week they invite a new hopeful and inspiring entrepreneur to join the show. During the show, a panel of 3 experts evaluate a case, that is presented to them. They use the 6 thinking hats, to get around the case – step by step.

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For sure I really wanted this! To go on air and talk about my happy whale! YAY – This was an amazing opportunity for me and Walter. The feedback you get on this show is to die for, when you are an entrepreneur struggling to survive. But now that the invite was actually right there in my inbox, I immediately felt some chills. Was I ready for this? How should I present my case? Would I leave the show, being judged as a guy with a great idea or just the crazy guy with a happy whale?

The odds for the last outcome was for sure present. These guys in the panel would for sure be super critical and hit me with skeptical and difficult questions. The pressure was on! Not only because of the short notice, but also because the audience –  People I highly respected! Fellow entrepreneurs.

I cleared my schedule and started preparing for the show. Basically I was just supposed to show up and have a nice and friendly chat about my concept and my idea. Like any straight A student, as an entrepreneur, you are supposed to be able to deliver a perfect pitch any time, any where. Never the less I started all over and worked on my 2 min pitch. And for the rest of the day, the only thing coming out of my headset, was the previous podcasts from the radioshow.

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The following day I showed up at the radiostation carrying my big jumbo sized Walter. When the girl at the reception saw me and big happy Walter, she immediately lit up in a big smile. But at the same time she looked at me a bit skeptical… “You know its a radioshow right? Not television”. I knew, I knew. But anyways, Walter & I always go together 🙂

I met up with the host. It had been years since I´ve saw him last. He used to be some grades above me at primary school. I remember him as a super cool and fun kid. Only on one or two occasions, I remember he gave my a good thorough face wash in the snow. It might have had something to do with the fact, that I had just hit him from behind, with a perfectly made snowball… Well, it´s all a bit fuzzy now 🙂

Half an hour later we were it the studio recording the show. “So Martin! You are an educated real estate agent. You´ve been in the business for years. Then one morning you decide to quiet and start you own design company making happy whales…”
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This opening remark sets a happy tone in the studio. The host continues “When I give advice to people who wants to start a new business, I always advise them to start in a field of their expertise. So how come you didn’t start a business in real estate? Instead you chose a business that you knew absolutely nothing about?”.

So the show is on, and the first critical question is presented. But I truly loved this question. Cause in the answer lies the whole reason why I did what I did. I off course agree with the host. It would be perfectly wise, to choose an area of you expertise. But – and this is my whole point – it is even more important, to choose something you are passionate about! To me passion is the secret ingredient for succes. Passion will be your inexhaustible resource for energy and drive. Passion will make you creative. Passion will make you stand out. And the truth is, I wasn’t passionate about real estate. To me real estate was just a job. Where as now, Im extremely passionate about creating Denmarks new design Ikon – Walter the happy Whale 🙂

The show went on and I learnt so much from listning to this super competent panel of entrepreneurial experts. They had some intersting points, some great feedback and some critical questions for me to answer.

So… Was I the crazy guy with a happy whale or the guy with a great idea?
In this podcast you can judge for yourself 🙂

Podcast – Design by Witt

Find Walter & the Tokens of Happiness here:
Webpage: Design by Witt
Facebook: Design by Witt
Instagram: Tokens of Happiness

Den største udfordring som iværksætter – min mor!

Jeg bliver ofte spurgt om, hvilke udfordringer jeg løber ind i som ny iværksætter og hvilke problemstillinger der giver flest kvaler. Det er faktisk et lidt uoverskueligt spørgsmål, som hurtigt bliver svært at svare på. For hvor pokker skal man starte??

Livet som iværksætter er unægtelig det sjoveste og mest crazy eventyr jeg nogensinde har kastet mig ud i. På vanvittig kort tid, har hvalen Walter givet mig så ufatteligt mange sjove, spøjse og uforglemmelige oplevelser, som jeg glæder mig til at underholde med på plejehjemmet om mange mange år. Men livet med en lille ny start-up, er også et liv med ben hårdt arbejde 24/7, konstante daglige frustrationer, udfordringer og uforudsete problemstillinger. Du kan læse om en alm dagligdag her: En dag som iværksætter

Men skal jeg pege på én enkelt udfordring, som uden sammenligning overskygger alle andre! Én evigt tilbagevendende frustration, som af uransagelig årsager bare ikke lader sig kue! En fuldstændigt uventet kilde til evig irritation, som bare får alle andre problemstillinger til at virke ubetydelige. Så er og bliver det min kære mor…

Nu tænker I nok at jeg er utaknemmelig. Men lad mig kort forklare…

Når jeg besøger mine forældre, så får jeg ofte en lille kærlig opfordring fra min mor om, at det kunne da være rart, hvis jeg snart fik et rigtigt arbejde. Jeg har slet ikke tal på, hvor mange gange jeg efterhånden har forsøgt at forklare hende, at “Design by Witt” er mit rigtige arbejde! At jeg aldrig i mit liv har arbejdet så meget, som jeg har gjort de sidste to år!
Men alt det hårde arbejde, kan min mor på elegant vis få kogt ned til en meget elegant formulering ala “Jamen så meget arbejde kan der da ikke være i, at få solgt de figurer søde skat…”

Samtidig kan jeg også mærke, at mine mere flydende arbejdstider giver anledning til en vis forundring hos kvinden, der ellers opdraget mig til at være pligtopfyldende og punktlig. Fra tid til anden får hun ringet til mig godt op ad formiddagen på en alm hverdag. Enten fanger hun mig ikke fordi jeg stadig sover eller også besvarer jeg hendes opkald med en meget grynet stemme.
Her fornemmer jeg straks en vis form for stram skepsis overfor min meget sløsede og laissez faire arbejdsmoral. Men så er det jeg får den indskydelse, at jeg måske skulle ringe til hende en gang i mellem, når jeg efter en 16-timers non-stop arbejdsdag holder fyraften ved 03-04 tiden en tilfældig hverdagsmorgen, fordi jeg har siddet oppe det meste af natten og knoklet med små drilske udfordringer. Det har jeg dog ikke gjort endnu…
Når alt det er sagt, skal det dog også sige, at min mor samtidig er den første til at støtte op om mine skæve og skøre ideer (dog måske ikke lige den med tatoveringen af Walter (#Beyourbrand).

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Gang på gang smider hun alt hvad hun har i hænderne, for at hjælpe mig. Naturligvis under højlydte protester om, at næste gang ville det altså være rart med et lille “heads up” i god tid, så ikke det hele skal laves i sidste øjeblik. Troligt lover jeg naturligvis bod og bedring. Det er så bare ikke lige sket endnu…Undskyld mor!

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(Her hjælper min kære mor med til bagning af Walter-kager op til jul)

Jeg må nok bare erkende, at et karriereskifte til et mere usikkert arbejdsliv ikke falder i god jord hos en kærlig mor, der kun ønsker det bedste for hendes børn. Jeg skal da heller ikke benægte, at jeg gerne ville vide hvad der for´ gennem hovedet på hende, da den ene af hendes håbefulde og ambitiøse sønner glædeligt kom hjem og fortalte, at han nu droppede mæglerjobbet og den sikre kilde til indtægt. Altsammen til fordel for at smitte små glade træhvaler og gøre dem til Danmarks nye design ikon.

Hvor skørt det end lyder, er jeg dog dybt taknemmelig for min mors små stikpiller, for det tænder ekstra godt op under min lyst og motivation til at lykkes med mit lille firma. De vækker en ukuelig vilje til at bevise, at drømmen om mit firma godt kan lade sig gøre og at det nok skal lykkes!

Så mens min far har lært mig håndværket, giver min mor mig motivationen – den perfekte kombination til et spændende iværksætter-eventyr.

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Følg med i næste uge, hvor du kan læse om min deltagelse i Dagens Mand 🙂

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En dag som iværksætter

5:20 står der i displayet på vækkeuret, da det ringer første gang. Jeg tillader dog altid mig selv, lige at snooze 10 min. Der skal jo være plads til de små glæder her i livet. Foran mig venter endnu en spændende dag i livet som iværksætter. Et liv hvor dagligdagen mildest talt er uforudsigelig. Da jeg ofte bliver spurgt om, hvordan livet som iværksætter er, vil jeg i dette blogindlæg forsøge at beskrive en helt almindelig dag.

Selvom dagene kan virke ret ustrukturerede, prøver jeg at skabe nogle faste rammer og rutiner. Det giver trods alt en vis form for balance. Derfor starter jeg altid dagen med lidt motion eller træning. Det giver mig en super fin start på dagen, samtidig med at jeg holder mig i form til dagens udfordringer. Denne dag starter med lidt boksetræning kl. 6.00. Så er man ligesom i gang.

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Kl. 8.00 er jeg klar til at tjekke mails og skabe mig et overblik over dagen. Kl 09.00 står den på morgenmøde med mine interns. Her får jeg en status på deres arbejdsopgaver og vi får lagt en plan for deres dag. Herefter smutter jeg videre. Kl 10.30 mødes jeg med en god kammerat. Vi skal have lagt sidste hånd på Design by Witt´s nyeste promotionvideo. Den kan du se her: Design by Witt – Tokens of Happiness

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Denne dag er vejret er godt og solen er fremme. Det giver mulighed for et hurtigt photoshoot hjemme i gården. Jeg mangler stadig de sidste billeder til de nye brochure, der skal bruges i forbindelse med en nært forestående lancering af et nyt design. Jeg når det hele inden mit næste møde med en af mine mentorer kl. 15.00. Efter mit montormøde når jeg lige på posthuset med de seneste bestillinger fra webshoppen. Herefter bliver det tid til en gang hurtig aftensmad, mens jeg får klaret en stribe telefonopkald til forhandlere og forretningsforbindelser. Vejret er som nævnt skønt, så springer atter i træningstøjet og tager mig en løbetur, for at rense hovedet og få lidt luft.

Kl. 19 mødes med Anette Hallev på en cafe rundt om hjørnet fra hvor jeg bor. Hun vil gerne lave et interview til sin skønne blog “Mormor på farten”. Anette vil gerne høre historien om min rejse fra ejendomsmægler med fast job, til livet som iværksætter uden sikkerhedsnet. Et liv drevet af passion og jagten på drømmen om frihed til at gøre hvad man vil. Du kan læse interviewet her:   Mormor på farten

img_3395Kl 21.00 er jeg hjemme igen og klar til at slappe lidt af på sofaen. TVét kører i baggrunden mens jeg får kigget lidt på det næste indlæg til min egen blog. Jeg må ærligt indrømme, at det er sjældent jeg slet ikke laver noget arbejdsrelateret. Der er altid noget at se til, når jobbeskrivelsen bl.a. spænder fra kreative direktør, driftsansvarlige, HR- og regnskabschef til salgschef, webudvikler, brandmanager, produktions- og produktchef. Men det er sjovt og jeg nyder det.

Klokken er ved at være 01.30 er det er så småt på tide at gå i seng. En´ ting er sikkert, i morgen er der ikke boksning kl. 6.00!

Læs med i næste uge, hvor jeg fortæller om den største udfordring som iværksætter – min mor 🙂

Entrepreneurlife

The display on the alarm clock shows 5:20 am, when it goes of for the first time. I hit snooze and allow myself just another 10 min. You have to enjoy the little things in life. In front of me awaits yet another exciting day as an entrepreneur. A life where every day is more or less unpredictable. People often ask me what the life as an entrepreneur is like. So in this blog post I will try to describe an ordinary day.

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Even though the days seem quite unstructured, I try to create some routines. After all, the rutines provide some kind of balance. Therefore I always start the day with some exercise or a good workout. For me it’s a super nice way to get started, and to keep myself fit for the day’s challenges. This morning I start of with a little boxing session at. 6.00. A good way to kick of the day.

At 08:00 am Im ready to check emails and plan the day. At 09:00 am I meet up with my interns. They are giving me a status on their work and we lay out a plan for their day. At 10:30 am Im off again to meet up with a good friend. We are going to make the last corrections on Design by Witt‘s latest promotional video. Design by Witt – Tokens of Happiness

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This day the weather is good and the sun is out. This allows me to do a quick photo shoot at home in the yard. I still need the last pictures for the new brochures, that I will need for my launch of a new design.

I manage to finish the photo shoot before my next meeting with one of my mentors at 03:00 pm. After this meeting I just have time to go to the post office, to drop of the recent orders from the web shop.

Then it is time for a quick dinner, while Im making a handfull of phone calls to some retailers and business associates. The weather is still great, so I decide to go for a run to clear my head and get some air. At 07:00 pm I meet up with Anette Hallev at a cafe just around the corner. She wants to do an interview for her wonderful blog “Grandmother on the go.” Anette would like to hear the story of my journey from realtor with a permanent job, to the life as an entrepreneur without any safety net. A life driven by passion and the pursuit for the dream of being free to do what you want. You can read the interview here:
Mormor på farten

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At 21:00 I’m back home and ready to relax a bit on the couch. The TV is on and running in the background while I get started on the next post for my own blog. Honestly I must admit, that it’s rare Im not doing anything not work-related. There is always something to do when when your job description includes everything from creative director, operations manager, HR- and accounting manager to sales manager, web developer, brand manager, production- and product manager. But it’s all fun and I enjoy it.

The clock gets close to 01:30 am and it is time to go to bed. One thing is for sure, the next day I will not be attending boxing at 06.00 am!

Look out for the next blog post, where I talk about the biggest challenge as an entrepreneur – my mom 🙂

Design by Witt – The movie

“Tak allesammen, thats a wrap!” Fotograf og instruktør Peter Vintergaard lyser op i et kæmpe smil. Vi har netop skudt sidste scene til Design by Witts  nyeste promotionfilm – Tokens of Happiness. Men hvordan kommer sådan en promotion film i stand? Hvor meget arbejde ligger der egentlig bag og hvorfor overhovedet lave den?

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Jeg ville fortælle historien bag Design by Witt og vise hvor inspirationen og passionen kom fra. Jeg ville tage folk med “behind the scenes” og vise hvordan de første designs blev til. Derfor tog jeg fat i Peter – en god barndomsven og en pokkers dygtig fotograf. Vi fik brain stormet på nogle gode ideer og manglede bare at få sat et fornuftigt storyboard sammen. Hvor svært kunne det lige være? Filmen skulle jo bare rumme nogle storslåede naturscener, give en fornemmelse af den autentiske stemning fra værkstedet og ikke mindst vise hvor vi vil hen med designet. Altsammen kogt ned til en historie på under 2 min. Det lykkedes heldigvis til sidst.

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Optagelserne gik som planlagt. Vi filmede non-stop fra morgen til aften og med hjælp fra en håndfuld gode venner, fik vi klaret det hele på en enkelt dag. Peter kunne nu se frem til at par dage i klipperummet, mens jeg skulle bestemme mig for musikken til filmen. Det lød umiddelbart som en men opgave. Men musikken skulle både sætte den rigtige stemning og passe til den voiceover der skulle indtales. Det blev til et par lange aftner/nætter i selvskab med hovedtelefonerne.

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Et par dage efter mødtes vi igen hos Peter, der havde sat et lydstudie op hjemme i garderoben. Det var i bogstavligste forstand i garderoben. Peter havde foret sit klædeskab med sofahynder og dermed ombygget det til vores lydstudie. Efter et par mere eller mindre heldige forsøg, fik jeg indtalt manuskriptet. Det blev flettet ind i filmen, som nu endelig var færdig. Det en ubeskrivelig lækker følelse at se filmen første gang. Og anden gang… Og ja, de næste mange mange gange. Jeg syntes virkelig vi havde fået lavet en flot film, som ramte nerven i Design by Witt.

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Kort tid efter kunne jeg endelig offentligøre vores lille promotion film. Det var overvældende at se, hvor godt der er blevet taget imod den. Så tusinde tak til alle der har været med til at se, “like” og dele den på de sociale medier. Det er på alle måder værdsat.

Du kan se filmen her Design by Witt – Tokens of Happiness

Læs med her på bloggen, når jeg næste gang fortæller om den travle og uforudsigelige hverdag som iværksætter. Fik du ikke læst sidste blogindlæg, kan du læse det her #Beyourbrand

Kæmpe tak til Peter Vintergaard og  Vintergaard Media for hjælp med hele produktionen.
Tusinde tak til Vejrhøj for det flotte ur og til Jewelry by AD for de smukke smykker til Laura.

En særlig tak til alle dem der har hjulpet både foran og bag kameraet – Laura Madalena Tore Fløjborg, Ditte S. Stievano Kristiansen, Dorte Levring og Gustav Westling.