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Photo: Ulrika Eriksson and colleague Nadia Mandic / Bag and wallet from the own brand Ulrika
Tell us about Bozzini, how did it all start?
I ended up in the bag industry by chance, like so much else. I inherited my big sister’s summer job at Gahms Väskor on Kungsgatan in Gothenburg. After high school, I was lucky when the store manager was going on maternity leave and the position became vacant. When the temporary position ended, I was offered a job by a supplier, Bozzini, a bag wholesaler owned by Bo Eriksson. He was a teacher but had a few years earlier received tips from an acquaintance who was a bag wholesaler in Germany who said that “ladies were crazy about handbags” and that he could sell many in Sweden.
When the business was to be expanded, I would travel to stores but also act as “taste advice” for shopping trips to Italy and China. We were a small wholesaler and bought a lot of already produced collections from the factories. It was not easy to get happy. I came from the store level with consumers’ practical wishes about pockets, compartments, requirements for longer and adjustable shoulder straps, and other functional wishes. I realize today that I was quite awkward. But the persistent win. I was stubborn and got through adjustments that were adapted to the Swedish woman’s wishes. Greater quantity requirements were required, but if the details and bags were well thought out, that showed directly on the sale. Bosse, who was the owner and founder of the company, saw opportunities to grow and I was commissioned to prepare the next shopping trip with my ideas and models. What a dream!! I was 21 years old and got to design bags that you could later see someone carrying in town. That was big.
In 2005 I left Bozzini and started Ulrika E Design AB where I created my own brand “Ulrika”. I ran this alone until the autumn of 2010 when my husband and I bought Bozzini and merged the companies. We are now running them together.
What type of products do you sell and what market do you turn to?
We are specialists in bags, wallets, and accessories. We turn to bag, shoe, and fashion stores where we sell our own brands Ulrika and Bozzini. The retailers are mainly located in the Nordic countries.
Another business area is that we produce everything from individual products to entire collections, which are then sold under the customer’s own brand, the so-called “private label”. Here we can make complete solutions where we help with both design, manufacturing, and distribution. Our strength is that we are ambitious, flexible, cost-conscious, have good quality, work with skilled factories and we never give up until the customer feels that the product feels like theirs. We also have a photo studio where we do product photography. Here it has been shown that our fantastic saleswoman Nadia is not only good at customer relations but also has the talent to take great pictures and make her own catalogs.
What is the best thing about running your own business?
Running a business is not always as glamorous as it may sound. It does not suit everyone. For me, it’s a lifestyle and I love my job. To be an entrepreneur, creative, and drive things forward. Be able to influence and make a difference. To create a workplace where you thrive with each other and above all – have fun. I could not imagine anything other than running my own business. To be able to change and make a difference and follow your dream.
I want to help lift change and create joy and choices for you who will carry my bags. In 2005, I decided to start my own business. I wanted to develop the assortment that then existed. Create choices and style variations for both everyday and festive occasions. I also wanted to attract a younger audience and create a breadth with my starting point in color, shape, fashion, and quality. I want to design bags that follow today’s trends and develop techniques and materials, so the bag becomes unique through its practical details and functions. New shapes, preferably in color and with metal details that enhance the feeling of a genuine craft.
Photo: Some of the self-designed bags
What do you think is the most important thing to stand out in the market today?
Always prioritize the customer first! Listen to what they need from you. If our customers are well, we are well. If they disappear, we will disappear. To be responsive, keep track of trends and the market that is changing rapidly today. Focus on our ability, not so much on the competition. When we are done with something, we always ask ourselves the question: can we do this better? Our advantage is that we are a small company that is easy to adjust quickly and adapt to the market and the customer’s needs.
The issue of sustainability is very important in your industry today, how do you work with it?
In many ways. First, you must find people with factories in production countries who are interested in developing good things, not just doing things. Which has good values about the environment and working conditions. An attitude that you want to make a difference. We are aware that we have not always been the cheapest on the market, because we have always chosen materials before price. It has been important for us, so it is only positive that the issue of sustainability comes more into focus. A few years ago, there was a very limited selection of recycled materials. Thanks to demand, the supply is much larger today. We work more and more with recycled materials and make products that have GRS certification, where we can follow the materials from their origin. For us, quality is incredibly important and something we do not want to compromise on.
If you were to look into the future, how do you think the development looks forward in the industry?
We are optimistic about the future with a good mix of customers in various parts of the retail trade and an increased number of customers in “private label”. I think you must deepen the collaboration with your customers, not just meet “once a year” but really work closer to the customer to be able to get good input for future collections. Our ambition is to grow and the next step on that path is to hire a design assistant, who can relieve me to free up more time for the development of new collections.
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