We spoke with Lotta Lundaas, originally from Sweden and now based in New York City. Lotta is the CEO of Norse Interiors, and she shared with The Power Thread her insights about her inspiration for Norse, what fuels her entrepreneurial drive, and how she defines power and confidence.
How did you end up moving from Sweden to New York City?
When I was 30, I was offered a job in New York City, and I jumped on it straight away. Moving to NYC has always been on my bucket list, and it is where I now call home. I’ve lived in many other countries, including Germany, Italy, and the UK, and it was good to experience living in other places. The change of moving to NYC would’ve been harder if I hadn’t lived anywhere else. I think it’s important to live abroad because you get a bigger perspective than just the country you grew up in, and you are able to see things differently.
What did you originally do for work when you moved to New York?
My job was to expand an online marketing agency from the Nordic region to the US. I studied international business in college, and I started my career in broadcasting. Stemming from that role, I worked at a news publisher and was hired to build their online business. In that role, I felt like an entrepreneur within an already established business, and I’ve always been intrigued by the start-up world.
Can you talk a little about how your pursuits in the start-up industry evolved into the creation of your company, Norse Interiors?
After my time at the news publisher, I ended up working at a telecom startup doing marketing and business development. The company grew as I joined and eventually we moved into a new office, where I had offered to go to IKEA and help with the interior design of the new space. It started out great, but I felt a lack of personalization from the products IKEA offered, and it was hard to make the office feel on-brand, and so the idea for customizing IKEA furniture kind of came to me right at that time.
Tell us more about your inspiration for Norse Interiors, and how its continued to grow over the past year and a half since you founded the brand.
I started Norse Interiors a year and a half ago, and the motivation behind creating this company was fueled by my desire to change the luxury furniture industry. If you wanted something custom done, it would be very expensive and tedious. I wanted to make custom furniture available for regular people. IKEA has a tremendous amount of good furniture as a base, so I make parts to customize their furniture, such as doors, tops, side panels, legs, and knobs, to transform a few of their most beloved storage units. Currently, I make sideboards, TV stands, dressers, and nightstands. The way it works is that customers buy the cabinet frame from IKEA and then they buy, for example, doors from us. In the best of worlds, the customers already have the piece at home and, instead of throwing it out, they buy upgrading components from us to give it a makeover and keep the furniture for a longer period. Our products are custom, sustainable, and environmentally friendly, as they are made in the US. They also are modelled after Scandinavian design, which I feel is timeless, and I want customers to have pieces they feel are timeless as well.
What have been the most rewarding and challenging aspects to starting your own company?
One of the most rewarding parts of being the CEO of Norse is that I am able to put all of my various skills and experience to use. Prior to Norse, I worked at several different companies in various verticals and roles, so my background is broad. Acquiring and applying all of that knowledge has been great, and, although I know far from everything, I do know a little about a lot of things, and I always seek help when I need it. Additionally, being able to build something from scratch, and having the luxury of forming it into the brand and products that I want, makes me feel accomplished and proud of what I’ve built.
However, there have also been many challenges. There are lots of ups and downs, and, like all entrepreneurs, I had to put in tons of hours and energy into creating Norse. Despite coming from an entrepreneurial family, I think I still underestimated how hard it was going to be to develop my own business. One of the things I love is being able to make decisions by myself, but going solo has also been a great weakness. It would’ve been helpful to have someone else to bounce ideas off of, and often times I felt isolated building Norse up by myself
What efforts have you taken to try to grow Norse, and what advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?
I put a lot of effort, on a weekly basis, into talking to people who have more experience and knowledge than I have, asking for their advice, and discussing what they’ve learned in the process. My family, particularly my dad and my husband, who are former entrepreneurs, have also been great resources. I try to surround myself with people who can provide good advice or just play devil’s advocate.
I think the best advice I can give to a young professional is that you should never be too proud to reach out and ask for advice. If you’re not doing that, your company is not growing as fast as it could be, and you’re not learning as much as you could be. I also think that you need to really believe in the product that you’re putting out there, and you need to do the due diligence and see what is out in the market. Is there a problem that no one has solved, or is there a solution that you can do better? If you don’t believe in your product, you won’t power through the tough days, weeks, sometimes months. It’s inevitable to encounter ups and downs, but if you don’t believe in what you’re doing, you will give up. Most start-ups fail, and there’s nothing shameful about that, but don’t let that scare you away. If you have the opportunity to start something on your own, it’s an experience that you won’t be able to get anywhere else, so go for it.
What does it mean for you to feel powerful and confident?
To me, feeling powerful is having the skills and knowledge within the field you are in and having the confidence to act upon it. It is also important that you are in a surrounding that allows you to feel and be powerful. Your environment shouldn’t limit you.
Is there a product you use often that makes you feel empowered?
I love my Chanel No.5 perfume. I never put it on if I’m just working from home, but if I’m going to meetings or elsewhere, I put it on before heading out the door. If you wear too much, it’s overpowering, but that particular scent makes me feel confident and strong.