Sigrun Syverud, CEO and co-founder of FJONG, shares how she started her own company and her thoughts on being a female founder in Norway!
Sigrun Syverud is CEO and co-founder of FJONG, a Norwegian platform where you can rent and rent out clothes, giving you a larger, greener and more exciting wardrobe at a lower budget. FJONG is a part of a sustainable movement, changing the way we think about clothes and how to keep your wardrobe stylish, while contributing to a greener future for our planet. Last year, FJONG broke records when arranging a crowd funding, receiving eight million Norwegian kroner, most of them invested by women. With us, Sigrun shares how it all started, challenges with being a female CEO in Norway, FJONGs future plans and her best advices for those who wants to start a business themselves!
Can you share a bit of who you are, besides the CEO of Fjong?
My name is Sigrun Syverud, I’m 31 year old and live with my boyfriend at St.Hanshaugen in Oslo, Norway. Besides working with FJONG, which luckily for me is a hobby, I’m truly passionated about injustice and discrimination. When FNs climate report from 2018 came out, showing that we need to cut our consumptions and emissions by 50 percent not to have completely disastrous consequences, I became even more aware of the injustice we are faced with today; us in the western world have had such high consumption that now people in other parts in the world is paying the horrible price for. I couldn’t work with something that no longer feels like it's part of the solution to the discrimination and the injustice in our world, and I think FJONG is a part of this solution.
Have you always been interested in fashion and how to be stylish in a sustainable way?
No, it’s not something I’ve always been interested about, rather something I’ve developed an understanding for over time. However, I’ve always been interested in the idea of starting my own business, with smart solutions, more than just clothing. It was when I started working I felt like clothes became a big issue in my everyday life, something I spent a lot of time, money and energy on. It was stressful needing to find stylish clothes to use, without paying a fortune every month. “There has to be a better solution to this”, I thought to myself. This was how it all started, and from that point on, I’ve learned more and more about the textile industry and how extremely polluting it is.
Can you share how you came up with the idea and how the process of starting FJONG came together?
It started when I worked in cooperate finance and my co-founder Marie Ameln worked in the consultant industry. As mentioned, I felt like I spent way to much time, money and energy on clothes. I could stand infront of my closet that was full of clothes, feeling like I had nothing to wear. As well, if a special occasion was coming up I “had” to buy a new dress, that often times only would be used once or twice. It was expensive and felt quite wasteful. Around this time people started buying these “food cases”, brining fresh groceries to your door every week, and I thought to myself how wonderful it would be have a concept like this, only with clothes!
Do you think you’re faced with any specific challenges being a female CEO in Norway?
In Noway, only 1 percent of tech-based companies are started by a woman. In Sweden last year, there was a research showing that only 0,7 percent of all start-up investments was given to entrepenure-teams started by a woman. Other researchers shows that often times, there are preconceptions towards females founders, making it harder for women to get financial start up support.
Often times, the biggest challenge when starting a company is getting investments early on, and usually it’s even harder for women starting a business. At the same time, there is no reason for these preconceptions because many researches shows that women recieves less investments, while at the same time manages to do more with the money. Luckily for us, FJONG has not experienced these preconceptions at a large scale. Last year, FJONG broke records when arranging a crowd funding, receiving eight million Norwegian kroner, most of them invested by women!
One thing I have noticed is that FJONG is often referred to as this kind of “clothing-company”, with only clothes in mind, when it’s actually a high tech-company, making smart, online solutions for consumers. I do think this would be different if I, as CEO of FJONG, was male. I think FJONG would be more acknowledged as a tech-company, rather than a clothing-company. At the same time, I often get questions like “have you always been interested in clothes?”, which is totally fine. However, if I were a guy starting FJONG, I don’t think people would ask me those kinds of questions, but rather “Have you always been interested in technology?”.
What are the perks of renting clothes, instead of owning them?
Firstly, it’s sustainable. Research from Ellen MacArthur Foundation shows that if you double the amount of times you wear a piece of clothing, the negative environmental footprint of the textile industry could be reduced by almost 50 percent. Using your jeans a few times more is not that hard! Secondly, you will save money. For example, if you buy a dress thinking you can use it a good amount of times, it usually ends up hanging in your closet. This makes the price tag per time you use the dress fairly high. Thirdly, FJONG is launching a subscription soon. This will give you a “clothing"-box” arriving at your door every month, giving your wardrobe a boost, in a sustainable way.
If someone wants to rent clothes or rent out their own clothes at Fjong, what do they do?
If you want to do so, you can mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Then you’ll receive an answer saying if your pieces can be rented out. If you want to rent clothes, you can check out our store in Drammensveien 72, Oslo, or our online store.
What are the future plans for FJONG?
As mentioned earlier, we’re very excited about the subscription we’ll be launching soon, giving you a new, greener wardrobe for the same price every month. You’ll receive some new clothes at your door every month, while sending back the old ones you had last month. At the same time, we want to be more available in several parts of Norway, since mostly people from Oslo take benefit from FJONG these days. Already next year we’re planning an expansion to Sweden, replicating what we’ve done here in Oslo.
What advices would you give those who wants to start a business themselves?
The most important thing I would say, is to share the idea you have with someone! A good thing about this is that you get a lot of feedback and ideas. Also, when they’re excited about your idea, you will be even more inspired to continue. At the same time, if people know you’re thinking about starting a business, you get more of a social pressure - people will ask you how it’s going, making it harder to back out when it gets tough. I think that’s healthy. You’ll also have someone cheering on you in the process, making the risk a bit less scary.
Another advice is finding people who shares the same interests as you. Start-up or founding a business is kind of like a marriage; it might be a smart idea to “date” the person you’re thinking about launching a business with, to check if you work well together before “marrying” your co-founder. However, it’s an advantage that you and your co-founder(s) are a bit different and have different strengths and perspectives. It’s positive being able to have healthy, smart discussions when in the process.
Lastly, just go for it! Try it out. What is the worst thing that can happen? In Norway you won’t end up living in the streets, like “often” times in America - we have an amazing safety net in our country. In addition, there are so many great networks for founders in Norway, giving you a place to learn, grow, be supported and cheered on. Be prepared for a lot of hard work, but don’t carry everything on you shoulders, share your idea and the process with people around you!