Based in Sundsvall in Västernorrland county, No Gadget Design is an innovative, multi-skilled design consultancy. We recently spoke to Anna Fossane, one of the company’s co-founders, about developing a design company in Mid-Sweden.
An industrial designer by training, Anna builds form and function into her designs. She held an initial desire to be a sculptor, but because of her natural inclination towards both form and function she decided to pursue an education in industrial design. Anna is co-creator of Matroshka Furniture where in 15 square meters you have a living, dining and bedroom space, along with a work station, all in a compact, stylish design. Matroshka, the Russian wooden dolls that fit inside each other, provided inspiration for the product. The furniture aims to make the best use of compact spaces, such as in small apartments. Matroshka was Anna’s first entrepreneurial venture, started while still studying at Mid-Sweden University.
Mid-Sweden has advantages for creative enterprises. Anna talks about the importance of Åkroken business incubator to support start-ups in the region. It runs courses for example on selling, media and finance; it helps connect entrepreneurs with mentors or others building businesses locally; it also provides office space. The local media might even take an interest in your business, as happened for Anna with Matroshka Furniture. This can help to build a company’s profile. Retaining a connection to Mid-Sweden University has also been beneficial for No Gadget Design. The company can use its equipment from time to time when prototyping products. Anna also teaches on its Industrial Design course. This connection means that Anna can bring her experience as an entrepreneur to the students and also help shape the course programme.
For Anna, trust is central to building customer relationships. When trust is valued and built those who might have been a once off customer become repeat customers. Anna explains: “Our reputation spread by word of mouth…It is about trust…That is the best thing I think, customers that come back to you and trust you”. While online communication tools do help maintain customer relationships, in Anna’s experience, at first, face to face interaction is vital. Once trust is built, communication can be carried out more remotely. This has resulted in the company focusing on the Swedish market.
For No Gadget Design, building relationships also goes beyond the customer. It is also important to connect with the design community in the region. Anna is active in Svensk Form, the national non-profit organisation promoting Swedish design. She currently acts as vice-chairperson of Västernorrland’s Regional Association. The group organises local events such as Pecha Kucha nights where local designers make fast paced presentations in the original Pecha Kucha style.
Anna sees a positive future for design in the region. Because the design process can apply to so many areas, there’s plenty room for innovation and work with different sectors. Anna explains: “A design service can be anything…it doesn’t have to be a thing in the end. You always go through the same process. So you can work with a lot of people. If I was to work in the film industry I probably could use my process there too”.
Anna’s story has also highlighted the importance of places such as Åkroken business incubator and organisations such as Svensk Form. They help the new and established business community to connect and learn from each other in peripheral regions. Anna’s story highlights how important it is to learn by doing and from each other. Anna comments: “When I see young people starting their company I can’t say do it like that, and act like I know everything. They have to go their own way”.
This interview is part of series we’re carrying out for a creative momentum project to help build our understanding of creative entrepreneurship in peripheral regions. This is to inform the policy recommendations and research emerging from the project.