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29.06.2020Behind the scenes #7

Hi.
Every once in a while I, founder and CEO of Northern Playground, send out letters giving you an honest peak behind the scenes of the company. We believe that openness is an essential part of being a responsible contributor to society. This is the seventh letter. Read my previous letters here.

I wrote the last behind the scenes letter just a few days after corona really hit us here in Norway. It’s been a few months now, and neither we or the world will ever be the same.

I reacted like most other entrepreneurs the evening Norway locked down: Is it really a virus that's going to ruin my life’s work? It was impossible not to be scared. Luckily, I have never let my fears guide me, and luckily this company is full of people who are always ready to fight. But it was (and is) still scary.

We expected things to get bad and stay that way for a long time – and planned for it. Retailers cancelled orders and revenue dropped the first week. We had to partially lay ourselves off. Sending employees off into the unknown was a really bad feeling – I hope I don’t have to do it again. We weren’t eligible for any of the government’s support packages either. There was only one thing for us to do: Tune down all expenses and bet everything on a few efforts to raise our income.

We decided to take some essential measures: Get closer to our customers and focus more on content. To be specific:

1. Forget all sales work towards retailers and businesses. The only income we focused on was our webshop and our own store.

2. Open our own store – during corona!

3. Start a community with some of our best customers (who get to be on the inside of the company – want and see!).

4. Get even better at telling the world about what we do different. More pictures, more stories and more honesty.

5. Have guts of steel. In other words: don’t sell all products at a discount just because “everyone” else is doing it.

This strategy comes with a cost: less time for other things – like sales. We haven’t spent a single second reaching out to other businesses and retailers the past few months.

The result? We have had our best months ever. This year’s goal of breaking even (not losing money) has become even more realistic these past months.

These good results tell us more than that we have good products that people want. It tells us that people care about pricing. They care about quality. They care about the company behind the product. And maybe corona has been a catalyst for values like these. That’s definitely what it seems like when we talk with you guys. More people now understand the importance of local production. More people now understand that the world is vulnerable and that we no longer can put the pedal to the metal like idiots. We need to slow down – we need to buy less (and better) clothes, for example.

I didn’t start Northern Playground so that I could have a comfortable life with a good job and a good salary. I am ambitious by nature, and I want NP to be big. Really big. Ideally, we get so big that we become a real alternative to «fast fashion», and create a world where people have three pairs of pants instead of 30 (I’m dead serious). To do that we need to grow. We want to move ahead while we have momentum and the rest of the world is in imbalance.

That’s why we are raising capital. This time, we have mainly focused on finding a few, larger investors. At the same time we are tempted to do what we have done before – crowdfunding. It has worked well for us and there is something very inspiring in being owned by customers and fans. But we don't have a deadline and will be constantly assessing the situation throughout the summer. If you are interested or know someone who might be, give us a holler. We are 100% transparent about our process and thoughts. Check out this link for more info (Norwegian only):
https://www.northernplayground.no/nb/emisjon2020

Lastly: As you may understand things are going very well for us now. I feel like it’s well deserved (if I may say so myself 😊) after many years in the trenches. And with good days and some peace of mind comes creativity. Just wait and see – we have some very, very, very exciting projects in the works.
Let’s hope for a good summer and that the long-term corona ghost doesn’t bite us in the ass. I will be spending four weeks up North this summer. It doesn’t get better than that!

Have a great summer!
Jo

It's been a great spring for both skiing and Northern Playground. I've been enjoying both (from midnight skiing in Stryn last weekend).

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