Hanna Lidfors and Sara Björnfot on being the brand-new kids on the global village block
Updated: Mar 12
Co-Owners of Bonza Co.
2x Bottled Fruit Juice
Before 50Grounds interview no. four I promised myself not to mention Scandinavian flatpack design during our meeting. I could call this post a ‘hot coffee date with two cool Swedes’; but maybe not.
Seriously, it was a hot day and admittingly, I very much admire the two women who started out only two months ago to bring their creative services to the world. Both are currently in Australia for business mixed with beach and sightseeing.
Hanna and Sara are Bonza Co, a newly formed design company. I call their business strategy ‘global village business development’. Unlike most traditional small agencies, Sara and Hanna started with geographically dispersed clients in Australia, Sweden and Austria.
‘Clients may have a base in Australia but also business interests in Europe or vice versa, and we can help them with our international design experience.'
'We work with steel companies, mining software houses as well as startups and lifestyle brands.'
‘Both of us had international contacts already, so we thought, we’ll do this on our own,’ Sara explains. She had previously lived and worked in Australia before she decided to move back and team up with Hanna in Sweden last year.
‘We worked together for almost three years at a local Swedish design company. We both wanted more creative freedom to work with international clients. Meeting diverse people from different cultures is inspiring. Our previous employer was focused on the local Swedish market and they weren’t keen to extend their reach,’ Hanna says.
‘We complement each other’s skills in digital, brand and marketing. And we keep on learning always new things. You know what it’s like - you always have to learn new software, understand new trends. With Sara as a business partner it is so much easier to share that love for the craft with someone,’ says Hanna.
‘I finished Uni in Australia ten years ago,’ Sara continues. ‘My design style was very different from local Australian students and I got confused about why that was until my lecturer explained that my Scandinavian background really does make a difference on how I see and do design. Minimalist design styles got more accepted in Australia at the time, so now it’s considered a good thing that we have Scandinavian design thinking and we bring this to the table in other countries.’
‘For now, we both are project managing and designing. We are designers who discover the problem firsthand - there is no account manager or in-between person to pick up a brief and translate it for us. '
‘We get inspired by interacting with clients on-site. Whether we work on designing an app, a brand identity or a startup brand we are not interested in impressing clients with preconceived knowledge about the best way forward,’ Hanna explains.
‘Businesses with existing in-house marketing professionals will find we listen to their goals. Often mature businesses are uncertain whether it is worth disrupting their status quo unless there is a major issue,’ says Sara.
‘That’s why we are so keen to build trust in our client relationships face-to-face. Research is all about matching the goals to their market position and where they want to be.’
Both nod and I take a stab at their choice of company name. ‘A name like Bonza is ocker Australian- how did that come about?’ I recall a press release in which they both stand in a snowy landscape clad in ski jumpers and beanies with a big bold Bonza Co. logo blazoned underneath the announcement. Strangely, visually it worked like the other ingredients of their inspired international market debut.
‘To us, Bonza is the best of two worlds; it means ‘top-notch’; it’s easy to remember. And because we don’t just want this to stand for a graphic design company, we want it to become a lifestyle brand.’
I perk up – a lifestyle brand for products? Of course, I resist the urge to compare them to IKEA Food.
‘This year, we’ll launch an eCommerce site with Bonza branded clothing. We don’t want to create cheap merchandise but high-quality apparel first, and once we’ll grow an audience on social media platforms we can extend into other products. We don’t want to make the mistake by not working on our actual business brand like we see other agencies do.’
‘As designers, you often end up neglecting your own brand potential.’
‘We tell our clients to invest in their brands, so why wouldn’t we do the same for us? Often agencies humble-brag about their award-winning work but we want to share more about the brand personified, more about the values and who we are 100 per cent of the time.’
‘Our challenge right now is to make sure people know about Bonza. But beyond that, the Bonza brand will be about the integrated lifestyle and combined skills to solve client problems. That will hopefully attract other collaborators who share our design views.’
It seems to me Sara and Hanna are onto something with their business model. For years traditional web and ad agencies struggle with demonstrating value and staying relevant globally in a fast-changing market that has now the power to make communication technology directly work for them, not only through agencies. I can see how a collaborative network approach could keep it fresh and relevant for Bonza’s clients.
Since it’s the year’s start and a brand beginning for Bonza, I can’t help tempting the two owners into making a prediction for the year.
‘Within a year we hope to have the eCommerce shop up and running and continue to do good work with our existing clients, emphasises Hanna.
‘We hope to unlock more clients for our design practice by this time next year and reach out to at least three more countries,’ adds Sara.
‘We want to continue being inspired by designers in other places, to keep exploring influences, problem-solving methods and new collaborations for Bonza.’
The Common Ground:
Define what ‘the love of your craft’ is and share it with like-minded people to keep being inspiring and inspired
Look at opportunities with a critical eye, but embrace the change on offer
Change the circumstance of your work if it does not bring you joy where you are
Go boldly, but go together- problem-solving, inspiration, and innovation require collaboration from many sources
A new generation design house with a different business model could be an answer to the global challenge to remain relevant
Stay grounded and listen before offering your expertise
Express your own brand to learn who you are in business and how you come across.