Inside BI-Startup: Happy Norwegian

This week Inside will present the story of two extravagant and engaging entrepreneurs whose idea is simply to make everybody’s life much easier, at least for Norwegians.

From the left; Espen Hinsch and Brage Eriksen. Photo: Aleksander Storsveen

This start-up takes the name of Happy Norwegian. The name itself is already self-explanatory, but it is quite genial how well this name suits the product.

The start-up has been established during the fall of 2015 by Espen Hinsch (23) and Brage Eriksen (24). Today, they are colleges and good friends.

The Product
Today Happy Norwegian sells Mr. Gripy. In few words, Mr.Gripy is a stool of very modest dimensions that facilitates ski-preparation process. The product is entirely produced in Norway. The “secret ingredient” of Mr.Gripy is its high-friction rubber that immobilizes the skies when laid on top. Thank to this firm hold, the boring routine pre-journey is faster and smoother.

Photo: Aleksander Storsveen

#tbt all those times you tried to put wax on your ski, but the ski wouldn’t stop slipping around.

MrGripy is portable and makes Norwegians’life more pleasant.

A step back
Espen had his vision clear since the beginning: something that would not require boring expensive investments nor long term projects, rather something that would make money instantaneously. As Espen tells, it was heavy brain storming at the beginning between Brage and him. They would come out with all kind of different ideas that were just not good enough, until the day Espen mentioned a story from his childhood:

Espen, at 10 years old, was driven by this very common infantile desire to purchase a remote-controlled car. So, he set up a ski preparation service for the whole neighbourhood for 75kr a piece. We could say that this story is the starting point of HappyNorwegian today.

1st Business
Espen and Brage’s first idea was to provide the same service (2.0 version of what Espen courageously did at 10 years old) except travel longer distances and cover a wide range of houses. They started going around with a van equipped with tools for ski-preparation in Oslo. The weather blessed them with some good sunny winter days in which they made money: one day they made 3000kr in 9 hours. Shortly, they figured that the business would not survive for long as sales would very depend on people’s mood which in turn was very easily affected by the weather:

– One Saturday it rained all day and all the snow melted. Even though we kept telling people that preparing skies would be beneficial for multiple days in the future and not only for the current day, on that day people would not pay for the service. They thought it was unnecessary, said Espen.

On that day sales were very bad, yet they learned much and understood what it should have actually been done.

Photo: Aleksander Storsveen

2nd Business

– Families have multiple skies of different lengths. What people needed was something that didn’t take much space and that could help prepare their skies at their home, said Espen.

The two students then came out with a box (picture available on HappyNorwegian website) which corresponds to the very first version of MrGripy today. From the box to MrGripy months went by. They started attending different events to try to get funding and spread the word. Espen reveals that they did not get nominated to any price at any event at the beginning and, sadly, people did not even understand what the product was all about. Now try to imagine how discouraging must be when you are trying to get your product out there, but your product does not even make sense to others.

– It is when you are denied that you just want to give up. So, the summer after the spring semester was for us the hardest period. It seemed to be a very risky project, but we still believed in it. we felt like we could conquer Norway with our product. We pursued then, said Espen.

At the end of the summer Espen and Brage managed to get government funding, work closely with Innovation Norway and get insights from professionals, including BI lecturer Tor Haugnes.

Today
HappyNorwegian has sold units of MrGripy to stores, companies and individuals. They are source of inspiration to other small start-ups belonging to BI start-up. They have also been part of a tv show called God Morgen Norge on one of the main Norwegian TV channels, namely TV2.

They have had both ups and downs, but mostly ups. Towards the end, to the question how important it is to have such an experience and just try if it might work, he answered:

– You could read about football all your life, but to become good at football you need to train on the pitch and touch the ball.

Future
Espen and Brage would like to expand the company by inventing a new product. MrGripy is expected to have seasonal sales (winter), so the next product might be relevant for the summer. So stay tuned.

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