Entrepreneurs tell us how technology and tenacity are keys to success. These four lessons show how the right device, platform or program can help.
Suppose Design Office
Japanese architects Makoto Tanijiri and Ai Yoshida are juggling too many projects to keep count. But the duo who run Suppose Design Office have a stock answer if someone asks: “Probably 100, big and small,” says Yoshida.
To stay on top of everything, Tanijiri and Yoshida rely on technology. They share schedules on smartphones, give presentations using iPads and design in CAD on large-screen computers. But a lot of the conceptual thinking isn’t done in front of a screen. “I always carry my notebook for jotting down and working through ideas,” says Tanijiri.
When he started the firm in Hiroshima in 2000, Tanijiri had so little to do that he worked part-time at a restaurant to make ends meet. But within a few years the firm was attracting attention with a portfolio of playful, striking designs for homes and shops on irregular plots that most people would never consider building on.
Now he and Yoshida, who joined in 2001 and became a full partner in 2014, have 36 employees and split their time between two offices: the Hiroshima headquarters and a new Tokyo office that shares space with a café and design library, and is open to the public. They have also started a real-estate office specialising in remote properties and are planning to open a small hotel and restaurant in Hiroshima in 2019.
Analogue and digital can coexist and play different roles. Printed matter still plays a vital role in the firm, from documents and blueprints to books and magazines for inspiration.
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Vickermann & Stoya
“We have specialised in traditional craftsmanship; we still take all measurements by hand,” says Matthias Vickermann, who founded the brand in 2004 with cobbler Martin Stoya. “But technology plays a large role. All documents and footprints are scanned, archived and saved daily.”
Tucked away in the German spa town of Baden-Baden, bespoke shoemaker Vickermann & Stoya has swiftly established itself as one of Germany’s go-to addresses for decent kicks. In fact the atelier-cum-shop is one of the city’s only manufacturers to have survived. “Vickermann & Stoya is the last shop of its kind in Baden-Baden, and even in Germany there are very few competitors,”says Stoya.
Storing customer information online saves time and helps offer a personalised service. “He’s the craftsman, I take care of the numbers and customers,” says Vickermann.
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As well as helping propel the firm into emerging global markets such as South Korea and Russia, computer programs helped shape Alexander Helle and T-Michael’s designs. The duo have made a splash far beyond their native Norway with Bergen-based clothing brand Norwegian Rain. “The fabrics are more technical,” says T-Michael. “And some prints couldn’t have been done a few years ago because we didn’t have the technology,” he says of the ability to scan, change and edit designs digitally, which has helped push the brand forward. The duo is in the midst of an expansion with another shop in Japan; they also have a flagship store in Oslo opening this summer. Japan represents over 50 of more than 120 stockists.
Creative director and manager Helle bonded with tailor and designer Michael Tetteh Nartey, AKA T-Michael, over their love of Japan. They also shared a desire to create trench coats that could withstand the punishing Norwegian weather, in which they met in Bergen a decade ago. Despite their isolation, the brand’s renown was buoyed by social media. Hallmarks of their durable designs include subtle draping, horn buttons and cashmere detailing. The brand is known for its heat-sealed seams, designed to keep the rain out: a problem as big abroad as it is on the wild Norwegian coast.
From technical printing to keeping track of textile orders, the right technology saves time and helps bring local expertise and products to a global market.
“Our online system identifies the best indoor and outdoor plants using variables such as room size and light,” says Freddie Blackett, a former consultant who launched London-based online garden centre Patch last year with friend Ed Barrow (both pictured, Barrow on left), having been disappointed by the generic advice of most garden centres. “Our website’s algorithm codifies information and generates suggestions relevant to you,” says Blackett. Patch processes about 250 orders per week from its verdant warehouse next to its Battersea office.
Patch still prints its plant labels and descriptions, plus delivery dockets, to be sure that its hi-tech orders reach the right customers and their plants get the right care.
Being online allows a team of two to compete like a much bigger business. Analytics allow them to process, sort and dispatch orders faster.