When most people think of Scandinavian design, they think of furniture, not kids clothing, bedding, tableware, home decor and wedding hair accessories but that’s what’s on offer at Nordlife.com.au – a Nordic lifestyle store based in Australia. Not just a shop, Nordlife also entertains and educates visitors to the website about all things Scandinavian – sharing stores about Nordic traditions, DIY projects, recipes and new lifestyle trends from Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland, as well as Estonia.
Elina and Jane’s story began more than a decade ago in their native Estonia, which is where they met and became good friends. After immigrating separately, Elina and Jane found each other again while living in Launceston Tasmania. In addition to renewing their friendship, the two ex-pats decided to utilise the knowledge they already had about the Nordic lifestyle and start a business.
We knew a lot of great Scandinavian small businesses that we knew an average Australian wouldn’t really have access to as they don’t really market to Australia,” Elina told Australian Women Online. “So we decided to bring some of our favourite brands to Australia and start selling them here.”
Utilising their contacts in Scandinavia, the two ex-pats have imported a wide range of products from the region including children’s clothes and bedding. While most of the current product range is designed for young children, Elina and Jane have plans to expand their customer base, beginning with Nordic Wedding Hair Accessories.
While Elina and Jane are living tens of thousands of miles away from Scandinavia, they are able to source everything they sell from the their new home in Australia.
“It’s not too hard but we have had some trial and error moments where we order something that looks great on photos but is not really up to our standards and we have to return it,” said Elina. “Scandinavian, Finnish, Estonian business owners are pretty nice and friendly and they will often meet you half way – in the end it’s a mutually beneficial relationship.”
While most of the work can be done over the internet, establishing business relationships with suppliers is best done in person.
“In a few weeks time we will both be in Europe for holidays and we will visit some potential brands and designers we might want to represent in the future. We have also made some great friends through the business and we will surely go visit some of them as well – some of the designers and business owners we work with are just absolutely amazing and we’ve hit it off right away.”
“It can all be done online (registration, ABN, assets, bank accounts etc), there are great resources online, there is plenty of different networking groups, sites, meetings for support and ideas – It’s so easy.”
While it’s relatively easy to start an online business in Australia, it takes a lot of hard work to make it a successful, profitable business and after one year of operating, Elina and Jane are still holding down jobs in addition to putting in 20-30 hours of work a week to build Nordlife into a thriving small business.
“We would love to put more [into Nordlife] but there just isn’t enough time as we both still have our regular jobs as well,” said Elina. “The business is still very young and there is so much work to be done. Even if we both put in 50 hours a week it still wouldn’t be enough. Building a new business is a lot of work!”