Wednesday, January 19

When Aleksandra bought a house, she suddenly discovered something she could live on

After living in a rented apartment for a long time, Aleksandra Kulczycka (38) and her cohabitant bought their own home in Trondheim in 2014. When they moved out of the furnished apartment they rented, they discovered that they lacked virtually all of the furniture to fill their new home.

– We were broke, so we borrowed a car and trailer and bought furniture at Fretex. Lots of ugly furniture that I thought I could paint and re-design, says Kulczycka.

The 38-year-old, who moved to Norway from Poland in 2009, then filled the house with furniture she had given new life to after others had given it away. But when each room was decorated and ready, the 38-year-old realized that it had become a cherished hobby to give the other what looked like old scrap a “make over”.

– I was hooked, and posted some before and after photos on Facebook. Eventually my friends said I had to create my own website to show off the furniture, and so I did.

Thus, the page “Aleksandra’s Furniture” was created.

Read Innovation Norway’s tips for those of you who dream of creating your own workplace further down in the article.

PINE: According to Aleksandra Kulczycka, pine dressers are furniture that can become something in almost any style. This is a before and after picture of a dresser she has fixed up. Photo: Private

Received inquiries from others

At the same time as she worked as a dance teacher in Trondheim, Kulczycka started in 2015 selling the furniture she had fixed and redesigned.

CREATIVE: Aleksandra says she has always loved making things, but it was only a few years ago that she started making money from it.  Photo: Private

CREATIVE: Aleksandra says she has always loved making things, but it was only a few years ago that she started making money from it. Photo: Private

– I made maybe one thing a week, just as a hobby. And then I sold it. But in 2016, I quit my job and started working with “Aleksandra’s Furniture” full time, she says.

Thus, the dance studio was replaced with a small room filled with textiles, paint and other things that the 38-year-old uses to make the furniture unique. Later, Kulczycka has moved to a larger house where she has her own workshop.

The things she fixes she has usually found under “Given away” on This means that she often has to drive around and collect furniture. Here she says that the cohabitant contributes greatly, both with driving and carrying assistance.

When TV 2 earlier this year asked the experts what they think are the most important climate measures for the next four years, one of the answers was the transition to a more circular economy. This means that consumers must buy fewer new things, have them as long as possible and that the materials must eventually be reused.

Kulczycka himself enjoys seeing other people’s rubbish get the opportunity to live on with someone who actually wants them and appreciates them.

– I like to look at the furniture I collect as hopeless cases that I try to give new life. I do not like to change nice things, so therefore I fix things that are not worth anything in the first place, she says.

Among other things, she points out pine chests of drawers as furniture that can become “almost anything”. Otherwise, she usually tries to stick to the style of the furniture in the first place.

Here are some examples of things

Here are some examples of things “Aleksandra’s Furniture” has fixed. All photos: Private

Here are some examples of things

Here are some examples of things “Aleksandra’s Furniture” has fixed. All photos: Private

Here are some examples of things

Here are some examples of things “Aleksandra’s Furniture” has fixed. All photos: Private

Here are some examples of things

Here are some examples of things “Aleksandra’s Furniture” has fixed. All photos: Private

5-15 hours per piece of furniture

After more and more people opened their eyes to her work, the 38-year-old also began to receive customer orders from people with furniture they wanted to fix and redesign.

– Now it’s about 50/50. Some months I only work with customer orders, while other months I work less with it.

– You can make a living by only fixing up and selling furniture at Finn?

GOOD HELPER: Aleksandra gets a lot of help with carrying and driving her cohabitant Steinar Haram.  Photo: Private

GOOD HELPER: Aleksandra gets a lot of help with carrying and driving her cohabitant Steinar Haram. Photo: Private

– Yes. It’s not a lot of money, but just right for me. I work as much as I want, and do not need as much money, but I control in a way myself how much I want to earn. What I earn varies from month to month.

How much she earns per piece of furniture depends on the size and several other factors, but Kulczycka says that most of what she sells at Finn costs between 3,500 and 5,000 kroner.

– The thing that takes the most time is for the paint to dry. But without counting that time, I spend somewhere between five and 15 hours on a piece of furniture.

– Is it easy to sell the furniture?

– Sometimes they disappear in a few hours, other times it can take months. But everything sells in the end.

In the course of a year, she fixes up between 200 and 250 objects. In total, she has given new life to over 1000 objects.

– I fixed several in the beginning, I have probably become a little later. But I now work more with larger furniture than I did before, and they take more time. In the beginning, I worked mostly with little things.

FAVORITE: The transformation of this kitchen is Kulczycka's favorite project.  Photo: Private

FAVORITE: The transformation of this kitchen is Kulczycka’s favorite project. Photo: Private

Checked if it made “economic sense”

When asked which “make over” she is most happy with, Kulczycka points out the kitchen of the cohabitant’s grandmother.

– Both me and my cohabitant worked on it, and she was just so happy. It made a very big difference, and it was very nice to work with her. So I think it’s my favorite project.

The 38-year-old describes everyday work as a self-employed person as a relaxed way of life.

Tips for you who dream of starting your own

Here are Innovation Norway’s four tips for you who dream of creating your own workplace:

  • Test and validate your idea. If you dream of starting a restaurant, talk to others who run the restaurant. They can provide you with important information about suppliers, market conditions, and other matters that are worth being aware of. Also check with others, such as your bank how the industry as such is doing.
  • Be actively learning. Learn about entrepreneurship, marketing, communication and relationship building. There are many things you can outsource to others, but marketing, communication, and building relationships with customers is a great benefit to have insight into yourself. We see that many start-up companies are struggling because they are most concerned with the product, and underestimate the importance of sales.
  • Start up while you still have another job. If you have the security of still being in another job, you can treat the start-up more like a learning journey. Even if the start-up does not succeed, you have still built up important skills that you can enjoy in your further career.
  • Do not be afraid of change. Good companies change over time. You have to be prepared to change in step with the customers. Your business should change continuously if it is to succeed over time.

– It is fantastic. I worked a lot with people as a dance teacher, and that was nice. But it also took a lot of energy, but now I do not have to put on nice clothes or put on make-up. I just walk around in my sweatpants with paint on, and I think that’s very nice.

Kulczycka says that she has started for herself several times, and that each time she has kept her old job while she starts up.

– This is how I was able to make sure that it made financial sense before I went into it fully. It has worked for me.

– Has become easier to start for oneself

Every day, Innovation Norway helps Norwegian companies come to life. Director of commercialization and growth, Anette Mellby, says that there are far more people starting for themselves today, compared to ten years ago.

– The explanation is, among other things, that it has both become more common and easier to start for oneself. This does not mean that starting a company that succeeds over time is easy. According to figures from Statistics Norway, only 27 per cent of start-up companies survive after five years. And that they survive does not necessarily mean that they succeed, Mellby says to TV 2.

– If you dream of living off your hobby, what opportunities do you have to look for to assess whether it is possible?

– It is important to assess and test whether the problem you are trying to solve is important enough that people are willing to pay for it. At the same time, it is smart to examine how other players in the market solve the problem.

– You should also decide how critical it is that the problem is solved. Is it “nice to have” or “must have”? Finally, it’s about motivation. How motivated are you as a founder to solve the problem? Starting a company is a demanding race that requires perseverance through many phases.

There is an opportunity in applying to Innovation Norway for a “Market Clarification Grant” for those who are in doubt about whether their idea is good enough.

– The grant will be used to test whether there is a willing market for your solution. However, a set of requirements is set to qualify for the scheme. One of them is that the solution for which support is sought must represent something significantly new in the market, another is that the project must have significant potential for value creation and growth. You can therefore not apply for support to set up a hair salon or the like.

Here are Innovation Norway’s points with things to think about before you start for yourself:

  1. Do thorough research. Gain insight into the market, as well as an overview of players operating in the market today – and in the future.
  2. Define the target audience. Know who you are targeting. A clearly defined target group makes it easier to acquire new and retain existing customers.
  3. Set clear goals, think big and rig the company early for the level of ambition you are aiming for
  4. Think about what you do as a business. Keep track of income and expenses. Keep your own finances and the company’s finances separate.
  5. Get an overview of the financing. Make a plan on how you want to finance the start-up cost, whether it is done with your own funds, with support from friends and family, or with a loan from a bank or similar.
  6. Make a business plan. Ask yourself questions such as “what characterizes the company?”, “What characterizes the products?”, “Who is the customer?”, “What characterizes the market?” etc. The more you work on the business plan, the more confident you will be in putting it into action.
  7. Understand the risk. Starting a business always involves a certain amount of risk, be honest with yourself and your business partners about this risk. This can also help you work proactively to reduce the risk.
  8. Learn from others. Get mentors who have been successful and who you can learn from.

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