Johannes Lundby is no longer retired, and it is not hard to understand why. It was difficult for him to slow down after almost 25 years as a business owner in Malaysia.
He left Denmark in 1979, where he worked for Glaxo Lægemidler A/S as their Advertising and PR Manager. After a sabbatical year around the world he took up a job through Industrifonden, helping a group of Danish companies to do marketing research in South East Asia with base in Kuala Lumpur. It was a one year contract but when he was called back to Denmark, he simply decided that life in Kuala Lumpur was far too good to leave behind… thus, he decided to stay. By the early 1980’s, he had his own little advertising agency, a quite successful one for a while:
“I quickly found out that it’s not what you know, but who you know. My good connections got us good jobs and we made profits from the early days,” Johannes Lundby explains.
The Badge Business Begins
However, it was some creative thinking and some alternative business methods that really got the business to boom.
“As there were upcoming elections, I thought that it was time to introduce badges to Malaysia. With the advertising business going a bit stale at that point, I bought the cheapest Aeroflot ticket to Denmark I could find and “smuggled” two badge machines back into Malaysia,” he admits with a daring smile on his face.
Despite the elections and the creative campaign badges, they didn’t sell a single badge! However, Johannes Lundby is not a man who easily gives up. He designed other badges and sold them at football matches using the cigarette girls as his sales force. By the next election, Danbadge Sdn. Bhd. made 50,000 badges per day in 3 shifts.
Badges soon started becoming more popular and even a bit trendy amongst the youth and business was thriving with export to especially Singapore.
Pins were Next
Fashion, however, is an ever-changing phenomenon. Knowing that the badge-trend might soon wear off, Johannes Lundby decided to invest in pin-making facilities due to a request from a potential customer.
“We didn’t have any experience back then and had to learn everything from scratch. The pins we started making in the late 1980’s were terrible, but we still managed to sell some,” Mr. Lundby remembers.
“”He then moved his pin business into a new company called Danbadge Manufacturing Sdn. Bhd. in 1991. Since then, the pin business has been running quite smoothly. Quality improved and at one time Danbadge Manufacturing Sdn. Bhd. was even appointed official Walt Disney manufacturer for Denmark for certain pin products.
The company made its marketing strategy more export oriented, and today 80 per cent of the production is exported to markets such as Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, UK, Denmark, and Malaysia. Obviously, the production methods are now much more sophisticated than in the early days.
“I think one of our selling points is that we as a rather small company with 20 employees can be very customer oriented. We accept very small orders, but are most comfortable with orders ranging from a few hundred to ten thousand pieces. Our biggest order so far was an order to Singapore for 1 million badges,” he says.
Retirement can be Boring!
It was only a couple of years ago that the business was running so smoothly with good, solid employees that Johannes Lundby decided it was time to retire. But he quickly began to have second thoughts after a short taste of the retirement life.
“It was boring,” he firmly states.
“I didn’t really know how to spend my time. You can’t travel all the time, and you can only drink so much coffee with friends! Anyway, on one of my frequent trips to Indonesia, I discovered that a lot of textile and leather manufacturers in Bandung were moving on to newer and cheaper pastures. That would mean a lot of empty facilities… and I decided to check it out. I thought that a new business would make me happy,” he laughs as he explains how he came about his newest business venture.
Today, Johannes Lundby now also runs a small leather manufacturing business with 7 employees in Bandung, Indonesia. They are primarily producing semi-manufactured leather items used in Danbadge produced items. In addition, they produce items by demand from various businesses, primarily keyrings, belts, wallets, and diaries. He claims that he is much happier now spending 2 weeks in Bandung and 2 weeks in Kuala Lumpur each month, than when he was retired.