Bedding firm looks to do business in 50 countries from Malta in five years
Sense of Nature, the St Julian’s-based owner of the Nordic Comfort bedding brand, is looking to do business in 50 countries in five years. Before that, by 2015, Danish co-founders Daniel Galle and Anna Hjoellund hope to have built enough sales volume to justify the planning of a manufacturing unit – possibly even in Malta – so that they can monitor quality control more closely.
A business-to-business company, Sense of Nature currently supplies silk fibre-filled duvets and pillows to agents and distributors in six countries – the UK, Turkey, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and China – and uses e-commerce platforms to supply customers across the world.
In the next six months, Mr Galle and Ms Hjoellund are hoping to add six to 12 new countries to their client base list from across Europe and South America and are aiming to reach as far as South Africa, Australia and Russia. Over the next few months, their 11-member team will grow “significantly”.
Nordic Comfort products are manufactured in China, the top producer of silk fibres for more than 5,000 years. Stock is stored in a warehouse in Germany, mainly to supply retailers in the region. Sales to other parts of the world are channelled through e-commerce. Only samples are shipped to Malta.
Search engine optimisation helps the multi-national team at the St Julian’s office generate leads online so that customers are able to find the company easily, rather than the company having to search for customers all over the internet.
Previously in the jewellery business providing eastern European designers with a distribution platform to the rest of the continent while based in Denmark, Mr Galle and Ms Hjoellund changed tack after identifying a more stable business model.
“We have been entrepreneurs most of our lives. Fashion is an unpredictable industry and it is difficult to forecast trends so we looked to do something else,” Mr Galle told The Times Business. “Everyone needs duvets and pillows. The market already exists and it is massive. We started out in late December 2007 and by the beginning of January 2008 we began our market analysis and ended up with a huge document that led us to believe that there were opportunities in duvets and pillows if we could provide something different to win market share.”
Mr Galle – an asthma and allergy sufferer – and Ms Hjoellund based their business and marketing plans on underlining the significant health improvements consumers would see after using bedding filled with silk fibres. It was a concept the mattress industry had grasped many years before. The entrepreneurs decided to give consumers the same qualified choice over their bedding.
Although there were other companies involved in providing silk fibre bedding in Denmark and elsewhere, Mr Galle and Ms Hjoellund found they often involved small operations, usually tiny businesses people ran on the side. If small operators could get a foothold in the market, business opportunities on a global scale had to exist.
“We wanted to make available a new natural fibre for duvets and pillows that we could prove would have a positive effect on people’s sleep,” they added. “In most markets worldwide, retailers still stock down feathers as the natural choice and synthetic fibres as the artificial choice. There is nothing in between.”
Mr Galle and Ms Hjoellund arrived in Malta in their car, Danish plates and all, on December 13, 2008. They decided the island would be their business address after struggling to recruit international candidates in Denmark. Bedding, they pointed out, usually belonged in a domestic or regional industry. For Sense of Nature to go truly international, it was imperative the team included native speakers.
Despite having a solid product and a good business model, initial orders made while the company was in its infancy in Denmark were lost because of language barriers. Native German, French and Italian speakers were almost impossible to recruit in Denmark and it is almost as difficult to convince people to relocate to the country. Malta became the obvious choice for a permanent location.
Sense of Nature has since established another subsidiary involved in researching the properties and characteristics of silk fibres, and in selling the raw material to other manufacturers.
“We still do not have the team shaped as we would like because the market is moving faster than us,” Mr Galle said. “When the team is complete, we aim to reach other duvet and pillow manufacturers and mattress manufacturers. In the meantime, we are enjoying running the business from Malta. It is a good place to be.”