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Meet the founders: Marie & Anja

28 September 2017
Founders of the YUME sustainable design universe, Marie Engberg and Anja holm.

What began as two women’s dream – yume, pronounces you-meh, is Japanese for dream – began to morph into reality in early 2017. YUME founders Anja Holm and Marie Engberg both had established careers in the corporate world, but felt the pull of a vision-driven business that would bridge their passions – while doing good for the world. A sustainable design concept was born: part shop, with a vibrant portfolio of home products and accessories, part online magazine, brimming with inspiration to help others make sustainable life dreams a reality, too.

Here, YUME’s founders answer some pressing life questions.

How did you two meet?

Anja: We were studying at Copenhagen Business School, where we both did our Masters in Marketing Communications Management. Then we did our thesis together and became friends. After graduating, Marie went into communications, working for Scandinavian lifestyle and design brands, and I became an in-house business strategy consultant, working for large Danish firms.

How did you come up wit the YUME concept?

Marie: I’d been contemplating a way to fuse my love for design with a way to do something good for some time. I spent half a year writing notes in a book, trying to figure it out. I got to 58 ideas, all centered around design and sustainability.

Voronoi II pendant - a sustainable lighting design from Tala and one of the YUME founders' first finds.

The Voronoi II pendant – a sustainable lighting design from Tala.

Anja: We were walking around the Copenhagen lakes one day, Marie told me about her sustainable design hub idea, and I immediately knew that was the one. We were in a similar place in our lives, both ambitious, both with two young children, both looking for something that would allow us to work for ourselves and give something back to the world.

Marie: YUME was born out of our dreams – and also some very tangible gaps in the market. My husband, kids and I had moved into an old townhouse by the lakes, and were looking for things to decorate our home. But we couldn’t find something that looked good and did good. There wasn’t a single place to browse through and find beautiful stuff we’d feel good having in our home, both from environmental and aesthetic standpoints. I was looking for a lamp, and after 33 hours of research (I started keeping track!), I finally came across Tala’s beautiful LED pendants, which we now carry in our shop.

How do you source products from around the world and find collaborators?

Anja: It’s a combination of desktop research, speaking to people in the industry, visiting fairs, and looking for parternships, like with Unido. They opened up a world that we couldn’t have delved into otherwise.

Marie: Our ultimate goal is to source from around the world. Unido created a bridge for us – to the Middle East, for instance. We’d also like to expand our network into Asia and Africa. We’re always looking for collaborators, and really welcome any ideas on our TipLine.

Tamegroute ceramic jar by Tamegroute Poterie. Unique, sustainable design.

Tamegroute ceramic jar by Tamegroute Poterie.

What was the first product in the YUME portfolio?

Marie: That was the green Tamegroute ceramics from Morocco. The unique green color comes from the region’s clay, which is mixed with naturally occurring copper. So you can only get this look there. My husband and I travelled to Morocco in March and met Mourad, a shipping and logistics expert who’s been absolutely invaluable to our team since. He wanted to do something for local regions in Morocco, and found a way to help the women who produce the ceramics. Now, he brings the ceramics directly from the Tamegroute region in southern Morocco, by the Sahara Desert, to Marrakech, and ships them to us.

What’s your favorite design piece in your home right now and why?

Marie: Hands down the Greg Eason poster from Paper Collective. And the magnetic sticks that frame it, which are made from FSC-certified wood. They’re just so cool. You can use them forever, and put up a new piece of art in the same frame whenever the mood strikes.

The YUME launch press kit featured a sustainable cardboard/organic cotton archive box by La Petite Papeterie Francaise.

The YUME launch press kit featured a sustainable cardboard/organic cotton archive box by La Petite Papeterie Francaise.

What alternative/green materials or objects are you most excited about?

Anja: The cardboard box from La Petite Papeterie Française. They made this beautiful box out of organic cotton and recycled cardboard fibers leftoever from cardboard industry. We just used it for our press kits. It’s in our Office Supplies section and can be used in a thousand different ways.

Marie: And Tala’s LED lightbulb, which is actually really nice to look at.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Marie: Before I left my previous job, my boss – who has single-handedly built the fastest-growing communications blog in Denmark – told me: “Always give lots of gifts, and people will give them back to you.” We’ve really taken this to heart in building YUME. We want to create a global sustainable design community, and that means working together not only with designers and manufacturers, but also with our competitors. We want to know what boutique shops in Boston, Tokyo, and Rio are doing to promote sustainable design. We want to have conversations about what customers are looking for and get better at offering easy, green solutions. We should be looking at what each other is doing and learning from it to collectively achieve greater good.

Who are some of your favourite designers working today?

Anja: Matias Møllenbach is definitely one to watch. He graduated from St Martins School of Design in London, and has designed a gorgeous, mouth-blown lamp we now carry, as well as lead-free drinking glasses.

With two small children each and a new business to grow, what do you do to try to live a balanced life?

Marie and Anja both laugh. But then consider.

Marie: I try to use my newfound freedom to prioritize a bit differently and be spontaneous. I’ll drop the kids off at kindergarten late and have a few hours with them in the mornings and go to our favorite cake chop, Lagkagehuset, here in Copenhagen. Or just take a random day off. It’s been a while since that’s happened, but that’s the dream.

Anja: We live close to Kastellet [a star-shaped fortress in Copenhagen], so we often go and have picnics there. It’s a beautiful place with gorgeous views of the harbor, and it lets you just completely disconnect and feel you’re living in another time.

Where do you hope to be one year from now?

Marie: Steadily building a sustainable universe with followers from all over the world.

Anja: And building a community to help make sustainable design more attainable.

 

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