I caught up with Maria Richardsson, founder of Nordic Design Collective. We talked about Swedish e-commerce, Etsy and the growing global interest in Scandinavian design.
Tell us a bit about yourself and about your background
Well, my name is Maria, I’m from Stockholm and have been self-employed and/or an entrepreneur for more than 10 years now. Previously to that, I worked for Microsoft and the MSN team as it was starting out in Sweden back in 2000, among other things. I have a diverse background as a graphical designer, working with marketing, content and just a little bit of front end coding.
How did you come up with the idea of Nordic Design Collective? When did you start?
It actually started with Signerat.se, back in 2008. As a graphical designer I had a bunch of ideas of products I wanted to sell, but couldn’t find a good marketplace.
To produce and sell through stores was too big a risk, because with my background in the web industry, I knew that the problem wasn’t to set up a webshop, it was to help people find it.
Together with a partner we decided to create our own marketplace with handmade and designer products. After a while, we noticed that there were some problems mixing handmade with designer items, both from the designer community and from the customers. So in March 2012 I launched Nordic Design Collective, a market place with focus on new and upcoming designers and their products.
How does Nordic Design collective differ from for example, Etsy?
There is one major difference, and that is that we curate the content on the site, whereas Etsy is open for everyone. By curating the content, we set a quality standard, so that our customers know that they always find high quality on our site. Another difference is that we take responsibility for the entire customer experience, with one checkout no matter how many designers you buy from and one customer service point. This is very appreciated by both customers and the designers we work with.
How many countries are you currently doing business in?
That depends on how you define it. We have our office in Stockholm, where I and my partner Jenny is working. We recently launched our site for international shipping so we welcome customers from all around the world. So far we’ve been processing orders from three continents, which confirms my belief in the worldwide interest for Nordic design.
Swedish design is making international headlines everyday, how would you explain that?
There has always been a great interest in Swedish and Scandinavian design (especially in the interior and furniture industry), and I think more and more people are learning about it as it gets easier to find information and inspiration over the web. For instance, there is a bunch of interior design blogs from all over the world focusing on the “Nordic style” and that helps to spread the word.
Scandinavian design is well known for being functional, as well as beautiful, how did this happen?
That is a very good question. I think our culture of doing a lot ourselves has a big impact on the design style. Historically, there has been a focus on creating what you need for yourself, instead of hiring professionals, and this covers all sort of areas like building, redecorating, gardening, crafting, engineering etc. Combine that with the Jante-law, where you’re not to make a big fuss about yourself, and that might be a part of the explanation.
What is the next step for Nordic Design Collective?
World domination, haha! However, on a serious note, we recently launched our international site, so our focus right now is to continue to spread the word globally about the fantastic designers we work with. We are also going to expand to offer products from Nordic designers (at the moment they are all Swedish).