VISITING ANN-SOPHIE ULKA
FOUNDER AND CREATIVE DIRECTOR OF FEBREK
Trine: THANK YOU FOR WANTING TO SHARE YOUR STORY AND BE A PART OF THIS PROJECT ANN-SOPHIE… I CAN IMAGINE YOU ARE BUSY WITH THREE KIDS, A STORE, WEB-SHOP AND YOUR OWN PRODUCTION… THAT MUST BE ENOUGH TO KEEP BUSY.
Ann-Sophie: Yes, there is lots going on and I am never bored… Every now and then it’s a little much to keep track of and I feel a bit like an octopus. But I actually think my husband and I are good at sharing the tasks between us and then my mother also helps out a lot, which is a huge advantage. We lived in Copenhagen before we had kids, but it’s great luck that we chose to move to Odense before we had our first child. It’s close to my parents and a network of friends.
Trine: WHERE YOU ALSO SELF-EMPLOYED BEFORE YOU HAD KIDS?
Ann-Sophie: No, I chose to do it all at once… Maybe a bit crazy, but maybe not that foreign to me as I have grown up in a family where both my parents and both my brothers are all self-employed.
Trine: IT MAKES GREAT SENSE… SO IT IS NOT A UNKNOWN LIFESTYLE TO YOU?
Ann-Sophie: Exactly, - and it is just that… A lifestyle, - with all its upsides and downsides. Before I started independently, I was employed - and it was in a lot of ways fine… But I was not happy. I felt something was missing and I wasn’t satisfied. I have had way too many ideas and almost a feeling of being suffocated, because I didn’t feel I was using myself and my talents in the right way and that I was’t accomplishing anything.
Trine: I COMPLETELY UNDERSTAND YOU… SOMETIMES I REALLY WISH THOUGH THAT ONE DIDN’T HAVE THAT CREATOR-DNA... BECAUSE IT IS ALSO SUPER DEMANDING. ESPECIALLY WHEN IT IS BEING COMBINED WITH FAMILY-LIFE AND KIDS.
Ann-Sophie: Right, but this is where my mother was an incredible sparring-partner and she was super understanding of my dreams about starting something on my own and backed the idea completely, probably because she lived like that herself too. My husband on the other hand was worried, and didn’t think it was a good idea. He thought my thoughts were quite unstructured and that I lacked a proper business-plan. But when I think back on it, I can see how I was unstoppable… And when my favourite store-space in Odense, which I had always dreamed of, suddenly became available then it was just kinda “meant to be”. I had spent 10.000 DKK of our shared savings to buy different things for the store… And I was super nervous about the thought of it all failing, especially because my husband wasn’t as in-love with the idea as I was. But on the very first day we opened, people were queuing outside and I remember we had a turn-over of 10.000 DKK and luckily it just kept going like that. My philosophy was then to slowly but surely buy a small amount and sell that first, and then gradually start investing in new stock.
Trine: YOUR DREAM BECAME REALITY AND WAS A SUCCESS FROM DAY ONE… THAT IS COOL AND AFTER THAT YOUR HUSBAND PROBABLY STARTED BELIEVING IN THE IDEA?
Ann-Sophie: He did, and he was of course very happy for me, and to see me so excited.
Trine: IT IS SUCH A NICE STORY, AND A GREAT INSPIRATION FOR OTHERS, BUT WHAT HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED OF REACTIONS FROM OTHERS TO YOU BEING A FEMALE ENTREPRENEUR?
Ann-Sophie: It has been mixed… Some think it is cool and others can be a bit sceptical and comment on whether I can manage it all. Generally speaking are women not as risk-averse and more reluctant to make the leap to self-employed. It is also visible in the numbers from Danish Business Authorities, - there is a tendency that more men take the jump to become self-employed, and for the women who become self-employed it is often for a shorter period of time than their male counterparts.
Trine: WHY DO YOU THINK IT IS LIKE THAT?
Ann-Sophie: Because you as a woman often feel a bigger responsibility for the kids, the family-unit, the home etc. than the man does. And that you, as a woman, quicker become judged by the world around you if you don’t live up to those standards and correct ideals.
Trine: DO YOU THINK MEN AND WOMEN ARE BEING JUDGED EQUALLY?
Ann-Sophie: No, - I unfortunately think that women actually are harder on other women… They often judge women harder than they judge men.
Trine: MAYBE THEY MIRROR THEIR OWN INSECURITY ABOUT DOING SOMETHING SIMILAR, AND THEIR OWN LACK OF COURAGE TO DEFY THOSE EXPECTATIONS THAT ARE BEING PUT ON US WOMEN?
Ann-Sophie: Yes, it definitely happens more often that men give you a pat on the back and say “well done” or “awesome”. Where women are more reluctant.
Trine: I CAN ALSO FEEL THAT I HAVE JUDGED MYSELF REALLY HARSHLY AND BEEN UNCERTAIN ABOUT; HAVE I NOW BEEN A GOOD ENOUGH MOTHER… THAT I DO NOT THINK THAT THE ENTREPRENEURIAL FATHERS FEEL/DO JUST AS MUCH.
Ann-Sophie: Exactly… And things are also very much up in the air and you have to be able to juggle all the balls at the same time… And I actually think us women are better at just that.
Trine: AND YOU CAN NOT SWITCH YOUR CREATIVITY ON AND OFF… THINGS SPILL OVER AND YOU WORK-LIFE AND LEISURE TIME IS NOT DEFINED IN BLACK AND WHITE.
Ann-Sophie: And you are accessible to everyone all the time, but in return I also love the freedom I have, - even though I might never know if I am in the red.
Trine: IN TERMS OF BEING A GOOD MOTHER… DO YOU NOT ALSO THINK THERE IS A RESPONSIBILITY TO BEING A GOOD ROLE-MODEL AND INSPIRING YOUR KIDS? MY SON RECENTLY SAID THAT I AM ONE OF THE COOLEST WOMEN HE KNOWS... THAT MADE ME SO HAPPY AND PROUD.
Ann-Sophie: Absolutely, I totally agree… It is super important, and I have grown up with self-employed parents myself. My mother had a store and I spent countless hours in her backroom, but I just thought that was fun and I thought it was really cool. In that way, I feel I have gotten this life spoon-fed to me, and I have been in that environment all my life. I have always thought it was fun and cozy.
Trine: I DEFINITELY THINK THAT YOU AS A PARENT, REGARDLESS OF BEING A MOTHER OR FATHER, HAVE AN IMPORTANT ROLE TO ALSO BE AN INSPIRATION FOR YOUR KIDS.
Ann-Sophie: Precisely, - and I can imagine that had I stayed in my old job, then I probably would have had more time to bake all sorts of things… But would I have been happy?
It is important to take responsibility for your dreams and try to live them. Even if it all sometimes becomes a bit too much, then I know I wouldn’t be able to thrive on the hamster-wheel without feeling that sense of extra challenge every now and then… It is the price I pay to live out my passion.
Trine: THANK YOU FOR YOU TIME AND FOR THE TALK ANN-SOPHIE… IT HAS BEEN A TRUE PLEASURE AND INSPIRATION TO MEET YOU AND SHARE A BIT OF OUR THOUGHTS.