Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Time to say goodbye

When Lina played the piano she was often asked to play Time to say goodbye at weddings. That felt a bit, eh, strange.
But now it’s time for me to say goodbye to her. This is going to be the longest we have ever been apart.

Anyway, I’m packing and it seems like I will make it. I think that the only thing that’s might keep me from catching the flight is if my friend Anders doesn’t stop sending me chat messages on Gmail…

I’m starting to get excited. I have looked forward to the trip for some time now, but it is not until now I feel like I’m really going. I will leave from here in about two hours and I will get to Kathmandu about 20 hours later.
Tirtha, a Nepalese friend of Björn Söderberg is coming to pick me up at the airport, that feels really good.

Different weather sites show quite different forecasts for the weather in Kathmandu, the temperature ranges from 19 C to 35 C and from clear skies to heave rain.
Well, by this time tomorrow I will know.

Monday, March 30, 2009


Today Lina and I meet with IQube, and company incubator that’s looking for entrepreneurs that are in the process of starting up a new business.
We were invited to them last Friday and we have been in Stockholm over the weekend, so we had to write our presentation rather hastily.

First we got an introduction to Iqube, what they do and what they can help us with. The concept seemed to fit us. Even though we might already have finished some of the things they discussed we could certainly need some help with marketing, legal issues, an office and maybe a few other things…

They seemed interested in what we had to say. They of course questioned how we think at some points, but then again I think everybody does. It is, after all, their job to find out if we are up to the task. I think they liked us, but they had 200 ideas from the start and they only have 30 places. On the other hand, when we came among the top 30 at Venture Cup there were over 300 others in the race.

I’m not looking forward to the trip tomorrow, I think it’s about 20-22 hours in total before I reach Nepal. Hopefully I will have some time to rest once I get there.
Well, I guess it's time for me to start thinking of packing...

Meeting with Iqube

Right now I’m working on the presentation of The Fair Tailor that we will give at Iqube later today. From what they write on their website they are more interested in the people behind the idea than the idea it self.
Since Lina, in my eyes, is a born entrepreneur I feel we have a pretty good chance.

If we get accepted in to Iqube we will get an office, a business coach, an education program and access to a network of 200 companies.
But first I need to finish the presentation. And I need to do it fast.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Meeting with Björn

Long before we had even thought about starting this company Lina read a book by Björn Söderberg and got inspired by his entrepreneurship in Nepal. In the book Björn told the story about how he came to Nepal after high school and how that lead to that he now has started several CSR companies there.

Last fall we went to a lecture he held and it got us both inspired. When we some time later realised that he might want to work with us in the future we decided that we wanted to start the company in Nepal.

So, today we had our first meeting with Björn. Since he lives in Nepal he has very a busy schedule when he is in Sweden. Luckily he had time to meet us today, on a Sunday. Since I’m going to Nepal the day after tomorrow I felt that it would be good to get some tips before going.
We sat down together for one and a half hour to discuss what we want to do, what he has done in Nepal, how we can put our plans in to action.

Björn gave me some good leads to follow up on when I go to Nepal. One of the persons I’m looking forward the most to meeting when I’m there is his old friend Tirtha, the person who runs Child Watabaran Center.

Now I need to prepare, we are meeting with Iqube tomorrow and we need to have a good presentation of both The Fair Tailor and us to show them.

Who are you?

Yesterday we discussed our business idea with Elin and Mikael (see yesterdays post) and I must say that they were really good at playing the devil’s advocate. They really put us to the test, they questioned our decisions and forced us to motivate why we had made the choices we had made. Once we had finished crying ;) we had valuable new input. We talked a lot about whom we will be as a company and who we are going to sell our products to. So if you are considering to buy our products; who are you?

Today we are meeting with Björn Söderberg, a Swedish entrepreneur who has started several CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) companies in Nepal.

By the way, did you remember to turn off your lights during Earth Hour yesterday?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

What is the thing about meeting with a bank?

This is too early to be sitting by the computer up on a Saturday, but since we have a train to catch and we thought it would be a good idea to take an early train… Well, here I am…

Yesterday we meet with Swedbank to discuss how we can finance our company.
The meeting got me thinking, why do I have such a respect for the bank? What made me write BANK in the last two posts? Maybe it’s because I haven’t had much to do with banks so far in my life.
Do they get less scary once you get used to them?

Today we are going to Stockholm; we are meeting some friends to discuss our business plan. Mikael is a consultant at BCG and Elin has been a trainee at Scania, so I’m sure they will have some good things to tell us.

Friday, March 27, 2009


Today we met with Swedbank Avenyn, hopefully they will be our bank throughout this project.
We met two advisors and discussed the project for about an hour, and it was a really good meeting. We have done our homework so we fell we can answer most questions we get, and they seemed interested in the project and asked good questions. Of course, since they are a bank they will need some sort of security...

Before the meeting with the bank I had a meeting with my manager at Etteplan, the company I’m leaving to start The Fair Tailor. I hadn’t presented the idea for him before, but he seemed to really like it. He promised to by a couple of shirts when we are up and running =)

I got an email from Iqube today, it is a company incubator and we are hoping to get them interested in our company. They are looking for 30 entrepreneurs in Gothenburg and they want to meet us next week, on Monday afternoon.
So the plan for the next couple of days is: Saturday - Travel to Stockholm. Sunday – Meeting with Björn Söderberg in Stockholm and travel back to Gothenburg. Monday – Meeting with Iqube. Tuesday – Decision from ALMI and travel to Nepal.

Meeting with the bank

This is going to be interesting; today is our first meeting with the BANK.
I don’t know exactly what to expect, banks don’t tend to give loans to great ideas unless I have something to use as security. We are going there to see how things are done. I am sure that we will have a need for a good bank to pull this thing through.

But before meeting with the bank I’m saying goodbye to a part of my old life. I have my last meeting with my old boss at Etteplan. I have worked there for four years now, that’s quite a long time for a first job after I finished the university.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

What is work and what is not?

Since I started working full time four years ago I have worked my hours 8am-5pm and that has pretty much been it. But now it’s different, it feels much harder to see what is work and what is not.

Last night I came home at 9pm after having had dinner with some friends. I sat down with my computer and read up on Nepal, I booked a hostel for my stay there and I wrote in the blog. All of a sudden it was 10:30 and I hadn’t noticed that I had been working.

I am loosing all boundaries between work and spare time, and I don’t mind. I really like what I’m doing right now, but I also realize that I need to take some moments to slow down. I felt tired today and when I thought about it I realized that since I came back from Central America on Monday last week I have been working every day, and in general quite a lot more that eight hours a day.

So today I’m taking some time of to clean up the apartment, do laundry, learn more about Nepal, write in the blog and, ehm. I guess I should post this now and then go clean up the kitchen…

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Some good leads

We had the meeting with Drivhuset this afternoon and we got some new good leads to follow up on. One thing we discussed was company from Gothenburg that has started up their own cotton fields in Sri Lanka, just to be able to make sure that everything is done with a fair trade focus. That’s impressive!
We will try to get in contact with them and see if they can give us any tips.

Skype is a very good invention!
I talked to Tirtha, the manager of the school we hope to work with in Nepal – Watabaran. He seems to be a really nice guy. He offered to come and pick me at the airport so we can talk. That seems promising. He comes highly recommended, so it would be great if we could work together with him.

I read today that Sweden imports goods from Nepal worth approximately 7MSek, about $850 000. If we get the result we hope to get we will increase that figure significantly =)

I had dinner with a couple of friends tonight and they are really exited about the project. It’s always good to get energized from talking to people who believe in the things you do.

Feeling a little bit more relaxed

After the last couple of day’s hard work on the business plan it feels good to be able to relax a little.
We still have a lot of things to do, sure, but we met the deadline and now things are a little bit more relaxed.
Money is a major issue right now, and it doesn’t seem like there are too many ways to go. We hope to be able to solve it with a mix of our savings, a bank loan, a loan from ALMI and something we don’t know about yet. And of course by winning Venture Cup. If we were to win both the regional and the national finals, that would cover our financial needs. So as long as we have the best business plan in the country we have nothing to worry about =)

We will have to investigate the possibility to try to get venture capital, but first we want to see what the bank and ALMI has to say.
If you know anyone who likes our idea and who has a money to invest, please let us know =)

Even though money is an issue, it doesn’t matter if we don’t think we can get the company up and running in Nepal. I hope my trip there next week will give us some answers.

Later today we have a meeting with Drivhuset. The meetings I have had with them before have been interesting, so I hope something good will come out of the meeting today as well.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

In the nick of time

When I was travelling in Asia many years ago I met a Canadian guy who was very surprised that I, a Swede, knew the expression “in the nick of time”. I’m not sure on where I learned it, but if describes our timing today perfectly.
The deadline to upload our business plan to Venture Cup was 1pm; we uploaded the final version at 1:00:00pm. I didn’t feel exactly like Tom Cruise in a Mission Impossible movie, but it wasn’t far from it ;)

Yesterday we worked until midnight and today we started around 7am.
Six hours and no breaks later we are finally finished, and exhausted.

All we have to do now is to implement the plan and start up the business…

This morning I got a call from the banker I tried to get a hold of yesterday. We set up a meeting for this Friday, hopefully Lina will be able to join us, even though it would mean that she would have to skip school.

Today I got my new business cards, and I must say that they look nice. The front is pretty standard, but the back of the card is what I like about it. It says:
Dress Responsibly

Monday, March 23, 2009

It’s all about the money

We have our meeting with ALMI and I feel that it went OK. We met with our contact there and discussed our business idea. He had some interesting things to say, and if we managed to convince him I think we might get more out of our contact with ALMI than just a loan.
It’s good to talk to someone about your ideas, because they have always a different opinion about something. They are of course not always right, but it is good to question your ideas from time to time.

Even if it is a challenge to get a loan from ALMI we fear that it will be even tougher to get a loan from a conventional bank.
We are feeling a bit low right now, but I hope things will feel better as soon as we have sent the business plan to Venture Cup…

An important meeting

Time does what time usually does when a deadline approaches, it runs out. The Venture Cup deadline is now just 27 hours away.
Last night Lina finished the budget, and I must say that it looks promising. Let’s just hope that the Venture Cup judges feel the same.

At 1pm today we have an important meeting, our first meeting with ALMI. We are hoping that the will like our idea and agree to give us a loan. I think we have a good business case, but then again I might be biased…

I am also trying the get a hold of a person at a bank that we have been recommended to contact by Drivhuset. Besides from ALMI we will also need to take out a conventional bank loan, and of course but in a lot of our lives savings =)
Drivhuset is an organisation that helps people who want to start up their own business and we have got a good contact there.

Now, it’s back to the business plan for me. I hope to be able to give a short summary on the ALMI meeting later today.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Our network keeps growing

We seem to have friends with very different, but also very exciting careers.
We have over the last couple of days realized that we have friends and acquaintances working with designing and manufacturing clothes, evaluating how businesses can increase their competitiveness, fair trade and many other things that are in some way connected to what we are doing.
Today Lina talked to a friend who could tell her the average price of fabric and the amount of fabric needed to make a shirt. Just like that.

I feel that we are moving forward with the business plan, Lina is almost finished with the budget and I have finished the risk analysis and am currently working on the layout.
Our biggest problem with the business plan right now is that we need to limit our selves; the limit is set to a maximum of 20 pages text and 12 pages appendix. At the moment we have 19,5 pages text and 7 pages in the appendix.
But I guess this is when the saying “kill your darlings” come in to play. I have spent a lot of time investigating our competitors and the marked in general, but I guess we can cut a little from that section. Or maybe move it to an appendix ;)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

We keep on working on our business plan

Today we have spent the entire day so far working on our business plan. We are moving forward, but the deadline is now only about 69h away… I just hope we will be able to finish everything on time.
Lina is doing a great job on the budget, that stuff is way beyond my core expertise, to say the least. But it is fun to try to figure out how much a sewing machine would cost in Nepal, or how much we will have to pay in rent for our factory in Kathmandu.

Last night we met some friends at a Nepalese restaurant downtown. We talked a little to the manager and he gave me the phone number to his brother and said that I should call him if I needed somewhere to stay when I go.

Today we managed to set up a meeting with our Swedish contact who lives in Nepal. He is in Sweden now and has agreed to meet us in Stockholm next weekend.
I think we can learn a lot from talking to him, he has done many of the things we hope to be able to do in Nepal.

I volunteered to go to the grocery store today, just to get away from the computer for a little while. When I come back I will have the great privilege to finish our risk analysis, so at least I have something to look forward to… =)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Still moving forward

This morning I had a meeting with TRR, an organisation that can help you if you are looking for a job or planning to start a new company.
My contact person there gave me a few good tips on things to look into.
We are trying to get selected to be a part of a pre-incubator that a company called Iqube is starting here in Gothenburg and my contact at TRR told me that I should send our business idea straight to a person at Iqube who works with TRR. By doing so we went straight through to the second round.
She also gave me a list of five abilities that are essential if you are going to start a business:
The ability to solve problems
The ability to endure problems
The ability to work together with others
The ability to put a lot of effort into what you are doing
The ability to believe that you and/or your idea can make it.

This afternoon we met with two persons from Öhrlings PriceWaterhouseCoopers and they gave us a lot of good input with respect to the budget.
It is always good to discuss your idea with someone who can see your strengths and weaknesses and that’s not afraid to question your choices and assumptions.
During the meeting I could also feel that we have done quite a good job so far. We have done our homework, even though we still have a long, long way to go.
But I am sure that we are on the right track, no doubt about it!

I guess I’m going to Nepal

Yesterday I talked to the Children Centre in Nepal that we hope to work together with and even though I didn’t get a confirmation that they will have time to seem me if I go there I went ahead and booked the tickets anyway. So I guess I’m going to Nepal…
It feels good and it feels an important step forward.

I leave Sweden on March 31 and return on April 14. The flight time will be approximately 20h each way, so that is one thing I’m not looking forward to.
But it will be very interesting to seen Nepal, and make an opinion about the possibility to succeed with our project.

There is a nice flow to our work now, both Lina and I are rested after our vacation and things seem to go our way at the moment. Yesterday I talked to a friend who knows a lot more about tailoring than we do and she promised that she would help us with some facts.

I have to run now; I have a meeting in 30 minutes. But I hope to write more later today.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A bright new day

Since I’m a little jetlagged from my trip to Central America I slept in a bit today, but once I got out of the shower the day came to a flying start.
I got a phone call from our Swedish contact in Nepal. He has lived in Nepal for several years and has important information about the country that will be very useful for us AND he has a company that design websites. We hope to reach an agreement with his company to design our site, but we are still talking to other companies as well, so nothing is decided yet.

Anyway, I discussed the project with him for a little while and then we booked a meeting in Stockholm for next weekend. Since my plan is to go to Nepal two days later the timing is great.
I have not yet booked any flight tickets, but I plan to do so today. Hopefully I will get a confirmation from our Nepalese contact that he is available, but if not I will book the tickets anyway.

Last night Lina and I were working late and I think we are at our best about 10pm. We came up with some good questions for our meeting with Öhrlings PriceWaterhouseCoopers on Friday and we decided on some things to follow up on.

We found out that 80% of the population in Nepal gets by on less than $2/day, so even if we will pay a very good salary with Nepalese standards, it is still very far from “western” salaries. But I do not feel that it’s a fair comparison to make. We want to make it possible for people in Nepal to make a living in Nepal, and we want to do so by giving them a real job. I feel that we can make a real difference by doing so.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Some breakthroughs

Today we have made some breakthroughs, I have managed to get in contact with ALMI and set up a meeting for next Monday and I have talked to a person at Öhrlings PriceWaterhouseCoopers and set up a meeting for this Friday. Luckily the meetings will be when Lina is not at IHM (business school).

ALMI is owned by the government and if you have a good enough business idea they can provide your company with seed money, a sort of venture capital light. Since we are not able to pay all starting costs for The Fair Tailor with our savings it is very important that we get some external financing and ALMI is an important piece of that puzzle.

We are competing in something called Venture Cup with our business idea. The main reason for our participation in Venture Cup is the feedback we get after they have read our business plan. They have people from various branches of business that looks at the contestants’ business plans and then give feedback. So far we have got very good feedback from them.
Besides from that you can also get private guidance from some of the companies that sponsor the competition. And this Friday we will get helm from a guy at Öhrlings PriceWaterhouseCoopers concerning import/export and our budget.

I am waiting to hear from a contact in Nepal, I have planned to go there by the end of the month but I have not yet booked any tickets. I need to make sure that I have things to do when I get there.
I am also waiting to hear from one of the companies that we hope will be able to design our web site, I have not been able to get a hold of my contact there today. But maybe I’ll have better luck tomorrow.

Tuesday 1p.m. is the deadline for the business plan to Venture Cup, that is the next big milestone. It’s going to take a lot of hard work over then next couple of days, but it will hopefully be fun.

Starting a LOHAS company

My name is Sebastian Stjern and together with my wife, Lina, I’m starting a LOHAS company. LOHAS is an acronym for Lifestyle Of Health And Sustainability and what we basically want to do is to save the world, one person at the time. As many agree we need to change certain things in the way we go about with our daily lives.
We want to give our customers a chance to make a difference with their actions as well as offer a product that is as good as or better than what you can get from other companies.

So it all boils down to the big question: What is it that we are going to do?

We are planning to start an online tailor shop which employs persons who are unlikely to be employed anywhere else, due to their past. We are planning to employ former prostitutes and street children who have little chance of making an honest living.
Our plan is not to give these persons aid in the traditional way, our goal is rather go give them a way of supporting themselves by getting a job.

This is what we want to do, and we want to do it in Nepal.

Why on earth have we decided on a small country in the Himalayans that, to be honest, most people couldn’t place on a map?
Well, we have several reasons.
1. We feel that we can make a difference in Nepal.
In Nepal the literacy rate is 29% among women and 49% over all. According to the CIA World Fact Book the GDP per capita in Nepal is $428 (rank 173 of 187 countries), in comparison The U.S. has $47,165 (100 times more), Sweden has $56,703 and the world leader in GDP, Liechtenstein has 145,734 (340 times more than Nepal).
2. We have managed to establish some important contacts in Nepal
3. Nepal has a long history of tailoring.
Today many Nepalese tailors are working abroad e.g. in Thailand, we want to keep this competence in the country, making it possible for persons to work in Nepal and not be forced to leave the country to make a living.

When we launch our site you will be able to order shirts made to your exact measurements, you will be able to choose among our ecological fabrics, what type of cuffs the shirt will have and much, much more.
Being 195cm (6’4 feet) tall I know first hand that it can be difficult to find a shirt that fits in many stores. So why not have one made that fits perfect to my measurements?

So is this just a blog to market a new site?
No, it’s not.
Of course, if the blog gets well liked more people will know about or company and thus, hopefully, we will succeed with our goals.
But that’s not all, we also want to:
1. Make you more aware about how your choices affect other people in the world.
2. Inform about the LOHAS concept.
3. Describe the day to day actions we take to launch the company.
4. Hopefully inspire someone else to start their own LOHAS company.

So if you find what I’m writing interesting, please continue reading this blog and tell your friends about it.
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