I caught up with Ole Fjelberg, founder of OnePiece UK – OnePiece is the ultimate comfort, leisure and lifestyle wear.
In the full interview below, Ole talks me through his journey so far running the company, studying at Queens Mary University and how he has managed to get the UK excited about OnePiece and some of the difficulties he faced starting the business.
Hi Ole, how are you doing?
I’m going great
Can you give us some background information about yourself?
I was born and raised in my fathers delicatessen shop in Oslo, Norway. Moved to UK to study at Queen Mary in 2008 and started OnePiece in the UK in my second year, which I still run. I love to ski, tennis, see the growth at my own company and help friends with their ideas.
So Ole, how did you get into entrepreneurship, what was your first business?
As the son of a great shop-keeper I always wanted to do something for myself. First business was KleinService, an innovative cleaning service, cleaning up after pre-parties in Oslo. Due to the innovative concept we got amazing press in the largest newspapers-, TV- and radio stations.
After that, what else did you get involved in after that?
Did some military service in the Norwegian Royal Navy and went studying. In uni I founded the Queen Mary Trading & Investment Society, and then the OnePiece came up and took all my time.
Tell me about your experience studying at Queens Mary University?
Queen Mary was great, but I was more hooked up in things around uni than the actual course. I played on the tennis team and met a lot of great people. At the end of the first year I founded the Queen Mary Trading & Investment Society, which was a great experience. We got great backing from the department and great feedback from speakers, students and sponsors. At the end of second year I had to give up my position as President for the OnePiece venture, which was a good decision. The society still lives and grows.
I guess with the whole issue about the value of going to university being questioned, what’s your thoughts on the whole issue?
After three years in uni I did wonder: ‘what did I actually learn?’. As I did a major in economics I didn’t really learn any specific job, however knowing how the world works around you is very valuable, and I definitely knew that better after three years in Queen Mary. However the most valuable thing I believe you get out of university is the people you meet. You get to meet like-minded people from all over the world, and make friendships lasting a lifetime you would never have made otherwise.
Tell us about One Piece? How the idea come about?
In 2007, three friends of mine lying hung-over on a Sunday afternoon, discussing how they could make themselves more comfortable than they were there and then. The waistband on their sweatpants really bothered them, so they decided to try sewing together a hooded sweatshirt and a pair of sweatpants, connecting the two with a giant zipper to create the first OnePiece.
What is One Piece?
OnePiece is the ultimate comfort, leisure and lifestyle wear. Made by the highest quality cotton with a brushed inside it’s developed to be ridiculously comfortable at the same time as we offer colours and designs to suit every taste. So you can stay comfortable and look great;)
Tell me about how you got involved in the company?
The OnePiece literally exploded in Scandinavia, fuelled my social media, PR and blogs and became massively popular. I was watching this from my student flat in the UK and thought we needed to show this to the brits, and we certainly did.
So does that mean you have shares in the business?
Yes, I own a share of the UK company OnePiece Jump in Ltd, where the Norwegian mother company is also shareholder.
How difficult has it been introducing the brand in the UK? What would you say was the hardest part?
It was certainly a totally different market than Norway. As the Scandinavian countries has a very unison market, the UK is very fractioned and it’s like you need to take one part at the time. There’s also so many things happening in a city like London that you have to scream very loud in order for anyone to hear you. We got a lot of very good press and celebrity endorsements which have helped us a lot on the way. The hardest part was when our previous shipping supplier UKMail totally failed on us previous to Christmas sales 2010, and we needed to stay up around the clock to solve all the mess they’ve made. We quickly got DHL on the team, and that helped us a lot.
What would you say has been some of the most valuable things you’ve learnt so far as an entrepreneur?
Everything that can go wrong will go wrong and a little bit more, but even though something goes wrong - take it by the horns and solve it as fast as possible and get on with the good parts.
What would you say has been some of the toughest part of running a startup?
Learning and doing everything is very stimulating but can also be very frustrating. Maybe the toughest part is getting into the whole HMRC tax system. It’s the thing you have to do, but since it’s not affecting your sales it’s easy to wait too long with.
What has been your most memorable moment so far?
When the Daily Mail article ‘OnePiece - The new fashion wave’ became the most commented article on the Daily Mail Online – more than the US governor elections and the war in Iraq.
What advices would you give to any aspiring entrepreneur out there looking to enter the fashion industry?
- Find the right suppliers and make sure the sample is 100% right before ordering.
- Don’t compromise quality for quantity
- Make sure you’re 100% square with HMRC, if you can’t take it get an accountant.
- Don’t be afraid of changes as you go
- Listen well to tips from people from the industry, although it doesn’t mean you have to follow them all.
What can we be expecting from you guys in 2012?
Lot’s of exciting stuff! We’ll introduce a whole new clothing line with anything comfortable like sweatpants, hoodies, t-shirts and so on. We’ll also come with loads of new designs, washed colours, maybe even different fabrics…