Swedish Style in Chinese Homes

I was confused, happy and sad. I didn’t know if I was going to enjoy living in Beijing. Everything was so different from the life I had back in Sweden,” Eva Molina Birock recalls.
 Biorck is today the co-owner of Chang&Biorck, business partner in Mosto and Modo restaurants and mother of her five months old daughter, Edda. A true career woman and entrepreneur in the city.
 “Beijing is such an international city and rich on different cultures. It has an energy that doesn’t appear in many places. That’s one of the reasons why I decided to stay and build my life here,” she says.
 Her first impression of the middle kingdom came when she read the book “butterfly girl”. Biorck used to fantasize of the landscapes, brightly colored gazebo houses and dazzling sunsets. It was the picture of a romantic city that was exciting and different.
 After graduating from East Asian studies program in Stockholm. She moved to Beijing in 1996 and her romantic dream was not the reality.
 “Beijing was not the inspiration behind who ever wrote that book,” she says with a smile.
 ”I had never imagined it so big, with millions of people riding their bikes on the streets. The city was so grey,” she says.
 During her time at SAS, she got the opportunity to travel a lot, mostly to Thailand where the company had it’s regional office. Her interest in Asian decor grew and after 7, 5 years at SAS she decided to resign and start her own business with one of her oldest friend, India Chang from Denmark.
 “I noticed how fast things were changing in China. It was such an inspirational environment and I knew many others that had their own companies. My interest in starting something on my own had grown bigger and I felt it was now or never,” she says.
 Together with her business partner Chang they visited different interior stores both in Sweden and Denmark, and fabric manufacturers in China.
 “We both liked the Scandinavian simplicity and form. But this can sometimes turn out to be a bit boring. So we decided to have a twist and add Asian elements and vibrant colors to our products,” she says.
 The brand was created, Chang&Biorck, and the design, made by a creative trio of well respected designers in Sweden. Gunilla Lagerhem Ullberg, who creates the fabrics, and patterns in most of the designs. Marie Louise Hellgren who gives Chang&Biorcks ceramic products its forms and design and Sara Ödman, who is a young and dynamic designer and the creative mind behind Chang&Biorck Kids collection.
 In 2003 they signed up for the Stockholm Design Fair and won the prize for best textile. A media boom followed and today Chang&Biorck is an up market home furnishing company on its rise with its first retail store in Beijing and exports to Europe
 “It fitted the Swedish market. Clean lines with an Asian touch,” she says.
 The brand have gained notoriety in the city and is also getting more popular among Chinese clients, with a growing middle class that can afford their products. Many of Chang & Biorck’s home furnishing are crafted in environmental friendly materials. They use for example organic cotton to make children’s clothes and low-impact dye in their product prints. In a country with a one child policy, were children get extremely groomed, children’s interior furnishing and clothes have become big business.
 According to Biorck, the biggest challenge as a smaller company compared to giants like H&M and Ikea is to produce smaller quantities making sure they deliver to high standards.
 “It can be an incredible challenge to produce orders in a small amount. If you don’t get what you asked for, they will try to convince you to still have it,” she says.
 Biorck thanks her experience of dealing with Chinese custumers for SAS and with Chang&Biorck as well as Mosto and Modo, getting closer to understand the Chinese business culture. For her it means to be patience. Whilst Scandinavian’s like efficiency, the whole business process becomes streamlined and effective. In China you take customers for dinners multiple times before you actually talk about business. For her Guanxi, that means relationships in Chinese has never been more important since she opened the restaurants Mosto and Modo.
 *With the restaurants, it was the first time I really understood the value of Guanxi and what it means to do business here. You cant learn it until you experience it yourself,” she says.
 She definitely believes that China is the place to be if you are an entrepreneur with something unique on the market.
 ”I remember when I was studying at university and I had a scrapbook were I collected news from China that I found, which was not very often. Today, you are flooded with it,” she says.

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