Pronounced HUE-geh, this Danish word does not translate to English, although you can get close with the word “cosy” but not quite close enough to get the full meaning.
There are dozens of definitions out there especially since Hygge became a global craze and all sorts of experts and commentators appeared with their own twist on what Hygge is. The most common definition for this unique word is something along the lines of: “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being”.
In short, enjoying life’s simple pleasures such as friends, family, and nature while recognising something special in the moment.
I had never heard the word before 2016 and I suspect that’s true for most non-Nordic people. Yet that year Collins English Dictionary names Hygge the runner up for word of the year (after Brexit) and a plethora of books hit the shelves exclaiming the simple pleasures we were all missing.
Where did this excitement with an unpronounceable, difficult to articulate concept come from? Well, Denmark obviously. But why now? And how has it become so widespread and popular so quickly? Back in 1957 Hygge was mentioned by Robert Shaplin in a ‘Letter from Copenhagen’ for The New Yorker so the idea has crossed borders before and in Denmark Hygge it seems to be a cornerstone of society. And the appeal of Scandinavian cosiness is nothing new but this time, with the internet and social media, the initial spark of interest in Hygge went viral and spread like a wild fire (wild fires are very un-Hygge).
Hygge is back-to-basics-enjoy-life-and-get-the-most-out-of-this-moment and its popularity is proof that respite to the hustle and bustle of modern life is sorely needed (and that yoga, meditation, Pilates, and chocolate is not enough). The insincere relationships, wasteful consumerism and relentless drive to be better is a fact of many lives in the 21st century and the ideals contained within Hygge hit a collective nerve with people who realise a lack of authenticity and are yearning to connect with the more fundamental fulfilment that life offers. If it means something more to any of our readers, we'd love to know.
A whole array of Hygge products have hit the market, capitalising on its unexpected popularity. At the end of 2016 whenever I walked into a book shop I wouldn’t make it past the first few steps without seeing titles such as The Little Book of Hygge, Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness, The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Living Well or non-Hygge books that convey Hygge images such as Cabin Porn. There is a real desire to enjoy the simple things in life and apparently, we are so distant from this that we need books and blog posts (sorry) to do it.
Winter is the most Hygge season. Arguably, the reason Hygge and similar concepts (such as the Swedish Koselig) have made it into the Scandinavian lexicon is because the climate demands that people spend a lot of time indoors in the dark and cold months. Enjoying your home, in all its simple splendour, and relishing the loved-ones around you becomes a natural way to see you through those grim winter days. Some Hygge classics include: candles galore, comfy woollens, shearling slippers, a rustic wood fire, pastries and a warm cup of coffee to wrap cold hands around, cashmere socks, sheepskin rugs and calming music.
A lot of it is atmosphere and you can and should Hygge with loved ones, but you can just as easily Hygge alone in a chunky knit blanket (we recommend Saint Wools for that). It is worth remembering that Hygge does not require the dozens of objects that exemplify it and to give some focus to the mental and philosophical underpinnings of the concept.
Take the time to appreciate the practical things, be gracious for what you have, nurture your health and sprit with time outside every day and don’t log into your inbox or worries but rather share a laugh with your friends and family for a more Hyggelig life!
Enjoy your moments of Hygge.
In 2016 we started Saint Wools because of our love for quality hand-made products, our fascination with unspun merino wool, a strong desire to make customers happy with our woolly creations and perhaps most importantly, and the realisation that now is the best time to start.
Today we want to share our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned about starting a new business with you. So if you are thinking of starting your own enterprise or already sell a product or service, we hope you find these useful.
1. It isn’t easy (and you only get what you put in)
If you think about it, why would starting a business be easy? You are creating a new product or service and must answer a myriad of strategic and operational questions. Who is your target market? Who are your competitors? Where do you fit into the market, what are your substitute and complimentary products or services? What is your sales strategy? How will customers find you? Do you make your own website or hire someone? How much inventory do you need? Is the product good enough? There are so many things to figure out that and it is so daunting that most people never end up taking the leap into entrepreneurship.
And then after you’ve answered these questions (or think you have), you need to manage the company. Order and control inventory effectively, make the product, handle customer queries, update social media, develop new products, and list goes on. And at the end of the day you need to be profitable and understand how every decision is impacting your bottom line.
Our advice, is plan upfront but don’t be too rigid. You need to be flexible enough to adjust to customer demand and new trends. Keep your inventory lean as this improves working capital, reduces risk and lets you change your offering if you need to. At first it is better to pay a little more for smaller quantities of raw materials than to buy too much and find out that your product is not going to sell. Always keep an eye on a couple of key metrics (what gets measured gets managed) and set targets for your business to achieve.
Top tip: don’t let your to-do list overwhelm you, be patient and realistic, but make sure there is some progress every day (however modest it may be). There are no 9-5s as an entrepreneur so be prepared to make sacrifices.
2. Customer service is crucial
Seek contact with your customers. Be courteous and professional and be willing to go the extra mile, at least when you’re just starting out. The benefits of this approach are quickly apparent. Firstly, you will receive positive reviews which can attract more customers, and avoid bad reviews which can harm sales significantly. Secondly, happy customers are much more likely to refer you to their friends and family, and much more likely to come back for repeat purchases.
Sometimes you will have a nightmare customer. Perhaps they demand a refund and do not want to ship the product back to you. Maybe they’ve claimed a defect with the product but share a picture that doesn’t show anything wrong with it. Whatever it is, stand firm by your terms and conditions but do accept returns and do be reasonable, even if it costs you a little bit.
Top tip: never lose your temper and act unprofessionally with anyone, least of all your customers. Remember you are your brand and the way you behave impacts directly on your business.
3. Business is emotional (when it’s yours)
Yes, business is emotional. Things will happen that will mentally and physically exhaust you. There will be days that feel like hell and meetings that make you want to cry. You may start to panic and your mind will come up with all sorts of confidence-destroying theories about why you're not good enough.
Don’t listen, remain analytical and turn that emotional spew into a structured hypothesis statement to test. Then figure out what the problem is and deal with it. Have a look at destructively versus constructively dealing with disheartening business issues below:
So business is tough (duh!), and so must you be. The people you compete against aren’t perfect, even if they seem that way. I guarantee there are days when they consider throwing in the towel. Power through that sinking feeling and stay hungry to learn and improve!
Top tip: practise emotional intelligence in business. Choose the right way to frame your issues and then tackle them systematically.
4. Content, content, content
Content is crucial. Think about it, if you don’t have good product pictures then what do you have? If you don’t have a compelling ROI or well-articulated benefits to your service, who’s going to even consider hiring you?
For us at Saint Wools product pictures are essential. Our first batch was good (or so we thought), a month later our second batch was much better, but today when we look back at those we cringe. I’m sure in a year or two when we look back at the pictures we use today we'll laugh about how amateur we were. The moral of this story, is keep on developing content, keep taking those pictures and videos, revamp your product descriptions, experiment on social media, write blog posts, etc. You will learn so much along the way and get better and better until no one can differentiate your photos from a professional photographer’s or your writing from a full-time blogger’s.
Right now we recognise that video content and written content are areas where we can develop and are working on it. At the same time, we know we must keep refreshing our product photos, content for social media, website and basically everything. So, it’s a never-ending story and we accept that. After all our social media, our website, Etsy shop, product listings – these are all the customer sees and this has to be as good as it can be.
Top tip: just keep going... keep writing, keep snapping photos, upgrade your equipment and collaborate with a professional when you can.
5. Focus on one thing at a time
There is a simple formula - do one thing well (damn well!) and then start the next thing, and once that’s very good start the next.
If you build a website start with a basic one (e.g. the 2-4 pages you absolutely need) but make it awesome. The blog, customer reviews, gallery and all the other nice-to-haves can come when you are ready.
When it comes to your product or service offering, do not try to be everything to everyone. You should know your target customer, offer one product that is very good and once that’s established offer an up-sell or complementary product.
The same principle applies to your sales strategy. Do not try to go direct-to-customer and at the same time try to sell to retail on day one. Tackle one sales route first and once you’re an established player in that sphere you can consider taking on the next. You will not have the energy and resources to take on both unless you are starting with a few experienced employees and are a well-funded start-up.
Top tip: do not bite more than you can chew, master one domain at a time and remember that slow and steady wins the day.
Ramzi writes about home décor, design and much more. He wants to share interesting things from around the world.
Lana is the creative energy behind Saint Wools. She writes about her love of wool and passion for making the best chunky knit pieces.