Killing your darlings and leaping when the time is right –The case and journey of Stilleben

By Helena Trampe

“Republikken Talks” explores how entrepreneurs and businesses can overcome, modify and comply with the restrictions a pandemic releases. “Republikken Talks” asked Stilleben to share how they got through Covid-19 and how they aspire to keep shop in a post-pandemic world.

Stilleben’s journey begins with two newly minted graduates from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Ditte Reckweg and Jelena Schou Nordentoft; who were on a futile mission to find a place where they could sell their crafts and designs.

Photo: Oskar Cornelius

In 2002, interior design stores was not a widely spread concept. So full of gumption and entrepreneurial spirit, the artistic duo decided to open a store where they could sell their own handmade designs, specifically textiles and ceramics, at an affordable price. In 2006, Ditte and Jelena, among the first movers, set up their own web shop. By 2017, the twosome had partnered a ceramic factory on Bornholm, were designing for notorious Danish design brands, had opened a second concept store, and were initiating the construction of a new kitchen company. The overloaded founders realized they had spread themselves wide and slightly too thin, with a little too many passion projects.

Ditte and Jelena, being artists, not jugglers, knew it was time to kill some of their darlings if Stilleben was to flourish. A few darlings, though cherished, were therefore buried and a leaner more stable business model emerged.

Luckily, this gut instinct of narrowing Stilleben’s future path came a few months before Corona hit. Making these kills and hard choices the key factors to Stilleben’s survival. When the pandemic was spreading fear and worldwide lockdowns. Stilleben was stable, with only one store, a newly outsourced web shop, no partnership in the factory on Bornholm and a kitchen concept company that was taking off. Giving them the possibility to focus on keeping agile and taking a deeper dive on becoming even more transparent and sustainable.

Photo: Oskar Cornelius

The shock of learning that the world is so small, and so materially and logistically intertwined, birthed a new agile and attractive direction for the Stilleben entrepreneurs. Recognizing that complete sustainability is nearly an impossible dream for profitable businesses. However, apprehending that being completely transparent is possible, and gives the customer the option of an informed choice. Gives Stilleben’s prospective path, drawing boards and plans a complex and enticing core.

Stilleben may refer to the artistic depiction of still life, but as a company, Stillben is forever in motion. Having founders that always trust in their own business instinct and faithfully leap at the right time.



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