2:48 - Being part of the FREITAG journey
12:27 - Meeting your romantic partner and co-founder
17:42 - Clean and ethical beauty
40:02 - Choosing to be bootstrapped
45:29 - Internationalizing the soap emporium
Hanna and Johan Åkerström are the co-founders of Soeder, a natural and ethical personal care product manufacturer based in Zurich, Switzerland. Hanna is a trained architect, and Johan studied International Working Science at the University of Gothenburg. They both originally hail from Sweden.
They created Soeder back in 2013, when the clean beauty trend hadn’t really happened yet. The “soap” available on the market was 99% synthetic detergents, and there was a big lack of transparency regarding raw materials. So Hanna and Johan decided to start making “real soap” in a small garage, and sold their first batch of liquid Soeder soap at a Zurich Christmas market. People reacted positively, and so the pair began scaling the business bit by bit. In hindsight, Johan and Hanna think that if they’d had a huge demand right at the beginning, this would've killed them, because with no outside investment they would not have been able to keep up. They don’t regret being bootstrapped, however, as it allowed them to make all the mistakes they needed to make at the beginning. Besides, slow, organic growth has proven just as effective.
Nowadays they sell soap bars as well, alongside shampoo, conditioner, sanitizers, etc. They use glass packaging which they encourage customers to refill – this practice might seem standard in 2022, but back when Soeder began, Hanna and Johan had to take the time to educate the market on why both these things were important and safe. This transparency has paid off: Soeder currently has a very large share of recurring customers who trust the brand and do word of mouth marketing for them.
Hanna and Johan continue to feel confident that the only way for a bootstrapped company to compete with the big fish is to take the time to do things differently, and focus on quality and the customer relationship.
"Building a company with your romantic partner brings you much closer together."
"If you make a good product, the person who buys it will sell the next one for you."