Founder’s story: Mathilda Wibom Westerberg

Get to know founder of popular bedding brand JUNIPER, Mathilda Wibom Westerberg, and find out why she never felt prepared to become an entrepreneur. Creating bedding from the finest cotton on earth with that luxury feel, Mathilda's brand JUNIPER focuses on bringing a hotel experience to her customers' own homes with a much reduced price tag. In this week's founder's story, read about how Mathilda decided to listen to her gut feeling and go for it, as well as her three top tips for anyone that wants to be an entrepreneur (spoiler: they're good!).

Juniper bedding: Interview by Stinaa.J Juniper bedding: Interview by Stinaa.J

So Mathilda, what is your story?
My story is quite simple to tell you the truth. I have always dreamed about starting my own business, thinking about when the right time would come and in what way I could do it. Last year I finally decided to just start and take things as they come. This was when my business JUNIPER was born.

Tell us a little about yourself, what are you up to at the moment?
I just moved to the Upper West Side in Manhattan, together with my husband Jacob and our daughter Juni. I am the kind of person who you think is kidding when she tells you how much time she wants to spend with her family, which is why moving from Sweden is a huge step for me. In my family, we have all kinds of traditions which means that we would normally meet at least once every week. So that is without a doubt going to be a challenge when we’re now living in New York.

Also, running is an important element in my life. If anyone wants to talk about the latest trends and developments for running shoes – give me a call!

Would you say that you are a born entrepreneur?
In some ways yes, because I’ve never given up on the dream of creating my own brand. There have been a lot of different ideas along the way, but when I started JUNIPER I felt that I had finally landed in something that felt completely right. JUNIPER is absolutely a brand that I see myself building for a long time.

On a more personal level, I never felt that I was ready or fully prepared to become an entrepreneur. There is constantly a new challenge waiting around the corner, which is why sometimes I feel that it would be nice to have a “smoother ride” when it comes to my work. However, I believe I have the strength and motivation to keep going and to keep on building JUNIPER. So, I don’t really let the bumps in the road discourage me.

Mathilda Wibom Westerberg

What was the factor that made it go from an idea to a company?
It was when I finally realized that there is no perfect time to pursue my dream to start a company, nor will I ever be fully learned. JUNIPER was definitely not my first business idea, but it was the first time I dared to fully listen to my gut feeling and just do it! This time it just felt right.

When I started doing research about the bedding industry (cotton qualities, business models, you name it) I felt that there was a hole in the market that JUNIPER would fill in a truly unique way.

Was it an easy decision to start your company?
I definitely wouldn’t say that it was easy, but it was a relatively thought-through family decision. I knew I would be out of a salary for a long time (I actually still am) and I knew that my working hours would increase. We also knew we needed to take care of our baby Juni, so in the end it came down to deciding if it was worth scaling back on some things, and I guess we thought it was haha!

What were your greatest fears?
On a business level, it was pretty scary to figure out how we would start a company with only 200 000 SEK in cash. To some this might sound like a lot, but it is close to nothing when you start involving sub-suppliers, buying products, building a website, etc.

What is the best part of your job?
I love being able to stand behind our brand 100% in every aspect. I’m confident saying that I know every little detail in every step of the process at JUNIPER and that feels incredible. Also, I love the variety of tasks that I engage in every single day because no day goes by without me learning something new, having a new challenge or meeting new people. It’s fascinating to exchange knowledge with other entrepreneurs, sharing ideas or thinking of ways to work together.

A small but important part of my morning routine is to read and upload the latest customer reviews on our site. Sometimes I even reach out personally and thank them for the review! It’s a small and operational task, but it’s one of the most rewarding parts of my job at the same time.

What is your 5 year goal for JUNIPER?
Five years is a long time… Just looking back on JUNIPER’s first year, I see how far we’ve already come during this short period of time. However, naturally we have ambition and ideas for the future of our brand. At that point in time I think we will be launched in all of Europe, probably the USA and perhaps somewhere else as well. We will hopefully have grown the team into an even bigger group of people too. Since I’m not a specialist at anything regarding running your own business yet, I take all the help I can get when it comes to business finance, marketing, logistics, customer service, and so on. Having even more talented people around me who can teach me more is something I am really looking forward to as we grow.

I of course also hope that in 5 years’ time we have become a well-known home goods brand known for helping people realize their dreams, both big and small.

What are your best tips for others thinking about starting their own business?

  1. Always go the extra mile for your customers, whether it means designing a better customer experience or letting them call you whenever it suits them. It is so important to put the customer first, always. You will inevitably make mistakes in the early stages of your startup, but how you handle those mistakes makes a big difference for the customer experience.
  2. It is important to learn to accept short-term setbacks. Almost all roads are crooked. Any person you think is a true success story has a long journey behind them, because starting a business is never without challenges. Not letting the short-term setbacks get to you is an important skill and something I am working actively with. Sales being down for a few days straight is an example of something that can really get to me, but worrying adds so little value to the work I produce. If this happens, I instead try to pick myself up and consider what those few days will really mean in three years’ time, and often the answer is “probably nothing”.
  3. Dare to involve others – For me, it has been about involving friends and their expertise within marketing or finance, for example. Also, daring to contact people who inspire me even if I don’t really know them, to ask if they are willing to get a coffee or lunch so I can pick their brain. You can’t be an expert in everything. Actually, most of the time you are only an expert in one narrow field so it would be unwise not to ask others for advice within their field. Often you get brilliant answers (sometimes you don’t) but asking costs nothing. And don’t forget, you should be equally generous with your own time as you hope others will be for you. If someone asks you for advice or support, try to help as best you can because you’ll see that someday karma will repay you those hours in some amazing way.

JuniperThis interview series is created to empower and emphasize female entrepreneurs and to tell their stories in their own words. If you want to see more of Mathilda, follow her brand instagram or her personal instagram, where she shares both brand inspiration as well as workouts and her adorable daughter Juni! Check out JUNIPER’s website to purchase luxury bed linens for your home. If you have any questions or thoughts you would like to share, don’t hesitate to contact us at info@stinaaj.com.

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