Here’s How to Attract a Whole Country With Your Small-Town Store

What would be your ideal location for opening an online store that specializes in interior design with luxury brands and popular designs? Would you set up your shop in a busy city center, or in a small town with a population of 16,000 people? Well, Norwegian family business Ildfluen took the small-town approach, and it’s working out pretty well for them.

In the town of Drøbak in Norway there’s a hidden gem that draws people away from the big city life in Oslo to shop for interior design. With unique brands and specialist knowledge in lighting and interiors, Ildfluen can offer that little extra to their customers. And it’s not only people around Drøbak they serve; they get orders from Kirkenes in the north, Stavanger in the south, and everywhere in between.

The entrepreneurs behind Ildfluen are the Beldring sisters Jeanette and Madeleine, who started the store together with their father Jørn Beldring in 2016. Jørn runs a local electricity company and at the time he needed a showroom for lighting. Madeleine was already working for her dad’s company doing accounting, while Jeanette was an interior designer.

And that’s how the perfect match was made and the three of them started a family business.

Ildfluen is Norwegian for ‘firefly’, and you might expect there is a great background story to that name. But it turns out it was just the result of a good brainstorming session.

“At first, my father just had the name ‘Drøbak Belysning’, but after going on an inspirational tour to look at other luxury interior stores, we quickly realised that we had to change the name. We had a brainstorming session and fell for ‘Ildfluen’; it’s a nice word and it associates with light, of course.”

Ildfluen started as a store specializing in designer lighting, but today it is a concept store with almost 100 suppliers. As well as lighting, they sell furniture, home decor, books, flowers, gifts, food, art and jewellery, with clothing soon to be added. Despite being a young store, Ildfluen has managed to attract many well-known brands: Louis Poulsen, MOOOI, Seletti, and GUBI to name a few.

How do you get those luxury brands into a newly opened local store?

“At first, I think we were just lucky. It all started at a fair in Milano where we met with an agent who believed in us. For some reason, she just felt that she wanted to give us a shot, maybe because we were slightly younger than many others in this industry. And once we signed a deal with the first luxury brand, it was easier to get others on board. Today it is the brands who contact us and not the other way around.”

Even though they have a lot of the hottest interior brands out there, they don’t only focus on luxury. Ildfluen has items from 10 euros and up, offering something for everyone.

Drøbak is a small town of 16,000 people about half an hour outside of Oslo, and for the Beldrings it has been very important to bring an element of city shopping to the countryside.

“We saw that locals wanted more modern designs in our small town, and to get people to visit our store more than once a decade, we had to bring some trends to Drøbak, Jeanette laughs. Thanks to our wide range of products, we have people coming from cities an hour away, even from Oslo.”

Although based in a small town, Ildfluen ship products all over Norway. They attract people from all over the country with their wide and unique range of products. One product that brings shoppers to Ildfluen is a vase called ‘Love-In-Bloom’ from the brand Seletti, a brand that not many retailers have in their offering. The vase is surely unique, as it is shaped like a heart. Anatomically heart-shaped, that is.

Being a young entrepreneur – an advantage or not?

In the interiors industry, where business owners are usually a bit older, according to Jeanette, a business run by two young women really stands out. Jeanette believes this has contributed to their success in attracting great brands to their store.

“We have the advantage of being young and knowing all the latest trends. I think that’s why brands have believed in us and why people shop from our store.”

Is your age ever a disadvantage?

“Some customers might come in, see two young women standing behind the counter, and assume we don’t know what we’re talking about.”

But these women really do know their stuff. With a father that’s an electrician, they know all about how lighting works and can educate their customers.

“People come in and say they want a ceiling lamp. Well, there are thousands of different lamps which can do that job. So we ask them about the color on the wall and their style, but we also explain about kelvin degrees and watts. These are really important factors when buying lamps, so it’s the least we can do to tell our customers about the technical details.”

Customer service is a big part of Ildfluen’s business philosophy. They want to give everyone that “little extra” which the big chain stores sometimes lack.

“When leaving our store, customers often say that they’re surprised they have learned something new. And that is always our goal, that they will know more when they leave than when they first entered.”

When asked what it’s like to work so closely with family members, Jeanette laughs.

“It’s just what you would expect, there are ups and downs! At other workplaces, there’s more talking behind backs and you might not go directly to your boss with complaints. But for us it’s straight to the point, we speak our minds right away. Discussions can get heated, but on the other hand, we solve problems quickly. It works for us!”

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Going online with Klarna

Two years after launching Ildfluen they decided to take the store online. They had zero expectations but were happily surprised when they pressed the button to go live.

“We were really surprised by how many people completed a purchase the first day and week. We haven’t had the time to put any effort into growing our online business yet, so it’s funny that people are keen on buying from a store they’ve never heard about.”

Jeanette has a clear picture of what contributed to the great start.

“My feeling is that it’s mostly thanks to having Klarna in our checkout. Shoppers see a well-known brand and feel safe shopping from us. I, personally, rarely shop from stores that don’t have Klarna as a payment method.”

Ildfluen had Klarna on board from the start. Their webshop uses Mystore, one of the many platforms that Klarna integrates with, which made the process simple. They can easily see when payments come in and keep track of shipping.

“We never had any other options in mind, Klarna is such a safe brand. It has been seamless all the way, we have never had any issues.”

Going forward, Ildfluen’s biggest focus is to expand the online business. They are planning to put more effort into developing social platforms and creating more content around their products.

If you could give one piece of advice to other young entrepreneurs that are eager to start their own business, what would it be?

“I think the most important thing is to have a goal aside from just earning money, you have to have passion. If you are passionate about what you’re doing, it shines through and people want to support you and take part in your success. If you find joy in what you do, then it will feel just as much like a hobby as your daily work.”

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