Entrepreneurs with both soul and sole

In a new feature kicked off last week, The Local will look into one successful entrepreneur's life - the story behind their successes, major challenges and how being an entrepreneur changed their life forever. This week, Sparsh Sharma talks to 'socio-preneur' Stiven Kerestegian Ganarillas and his wife Francisca about their salmon skin shoes.

Entrepreneurs with both soul and sole
Stiven Kerestegian Ganarillas, his wife Francisca and their daughter Alegra live in Billund, where Stiven has a day job with Lego. Photo: Submitted
Stiven Kerestegian Ganarillas and his wife, Francisca, are not just entrepreneurs worrying about breaking even or making a quick buck. They are making entrepreneurship social. Through their sustainable venture – Chilote House Shoes – they not only help convert bio-waste into something both ecologically-chic and profitable, they also support 50 families in Patagonia, Chile, who were robbed off their livelihood by corporate giants processing salmon in their waters. 
The Local sat down with Stiven, 40, and Francisca, 34, Chilean nationals living in Billund (Stiven works at Lego), who have won seven international design and innovation awards for their product. 
How did you come up with this idea?
Big Norwegian fisheries have salmon nurseries in the waters of Patagonia in southern Chile where traditional fishing communities have sustained themselves for centuries. Chileans soon copied this business model, and salmon are now cannabalising local fish, damaging the water sources and disrupting the ecosystem. A community that is solely dependent on fishing has lost its livelihood and residents have had to take up work at salmon processing plants. 
Women who used to knit in addition to looking after their children also had to take up work in the salmon industry in order to make enough money for the family. The children were left alone at home while the parents worked. The entire social fabric was affected. 
We put design thinking in use to mitigate the social and environmental impact of commercial fisheries.
Chilote House Shoes
What were the initial challenges? How did you overcome them?
We spent seven years with these people. We really wanted to help these women and help them stay at home so they could look after the children. With the savings I had from my previous job at Microsoft, we could sustain ourselves for a few years in Chile. Thanks to research grants, we looked into whether we could recycle the byproducts of the salmon industry or up-cycle them. 
We collaborated with a local resident who cured salmon skin to make leather. However, we had difficulty coming up with a commercial model for selling the salmon skin. My funds were drying up and I was forced to move to New York to work at Kodak. There, because the winters are so cold, we had to make slippers to keep our feet warm. That's when it struck me that we could make house shoes from salmon skin and wool. That's how we commercialized the material. 
How has the journey been so far? 
We made small batches of a whole lot of products from salmon skin and presented at a trade show. The shoes were received very well and so in 2010 we focused exclusively on shoes and Chilote Shoes was born. This simple, noble, extremely comfortable and highly sustainable indoor shoe redefines the concept of inclusive design and conscious consumption. It is the result of the synergy created by three valuable assets: design guided craftsmanship, noble renewable materials from the Patagonia, and a disruptive collaboration and manufacturing process. 
Eighty percent of the skin used in the salmon industry is still being thrown away. Compared to other animal skins, there is zero percent wastage in making leather out of salmon skin.
We have been building our business by attending trade shows and Chilote House Shoes has won several innovation awards. We have reached our break-even point this year by being present in only 60 eco-boutique stores in the UK, Germany, US, Canada, Japan and Australia. Denmark is also on the list of next destinations for expansion. We also sells and ship internationally from our website, Our customers are almost all repeat buyers and after their first pair usually order more shoes, which is the best feedback a product can receive. If we find an investment partner, we can do much more and increase our distributor network creating a cycle of win, win, win for all stakeholders involved. There is a huge, untapped market out there.
Chilote House Shoes
How has becoming an entrepreneur changed you, personally?
I have started viewing things more broadly and in a global perspective. I also think more long-term than ever before. What helps me sleep better at nights is the fact that not only are we preventing a byproduct from being wasted, but we can also help a local community achieve a better life. We currently support 50 families but we can increase that number to 500 or even 5,000 depending on the investment. However, the bottom line is that we will not walk away from this project as we are responsible for the lives of those 50 families.
Any other personal reflections and/ or message to budding entrepreneurs?
The probability of success is very low. One needs to find the 'right' time to jump in, especially if you have a family. Persistence matters the most. Starbucks had only one store for 17 years. If you get lost along the way, always remember why you started in the first place. As an entrepreneur, you will have to wear many hats. Don't be naive – it's going to be hard. Don't keep things secret, I suggest you should share the ideas with as many people as possible. Most importantly, keep a day job, if possible, to pay your bills especially at the beginning, as I still do. 
Awards won by Chilote House Shoes:
Premio Chile Diseño 2009, Chile
International Design Excelence Award: IDEA Winner 2011, USA
IDSA Responsability Award Winner 2011, USA
Coree 77 Design Award: Design for Social Impact 2011, USA
Eco Choice Award NYIGF: Most Innovative Use of Material 2011, USA
A’ Design Award: Golden A for Social Design 2012, Italia
Selección III Bienal Iberoamericana de Diseño 2012, España

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Ten ways to improve your chances of finding a job in Denmark

Job searching in Denmark can be a daunting and lengthy process with many hurdles to overcome. The Local spoke to Kay Xander Mellish, author of 'How to Work in Denmark', for her tips on submitting a successful CV and application.

Ten ways to improve your chances of finding a job in Denmark

CVs in Denmark often have certain aspects of layout, presentation and content in common. By writing a CV that sticks to some of these recognisable customs, you may improve your chances of catching the eye of a potential employer.

1. Length

“Keep it to one excellent page, or two if you’re more senior. I’d say if you’re aged 30 and under, one page will be enough. Only add the jobs that are relevant. Employers don’t want to hear about that restaurant server or babysitting job if it’s not relevant to the role,” Mellish said.

2. Format

At the top of your CV, a paragraph describing your experience, skills, education and character is a common way to lead into a CV. This text can be adapted depending on the job you’re applying for and how you want to present your skills.

“Add three adjectives about yourself that you can support with an example, rather than ten adjectives with no story. For example, say you are innovative for this reason. People don’t like hot air in Denmark,” Mellish said.

Aside from the profile text, chronological lists of qualifications, relevant employment history and other relevant experience should be kept brief enough to fit the one to two pages.

3. Show your personal side and a photo

It is expected that applicants include a section about their hobbies, even family situation on their CV in Denmark, as well as a photo, to give a sense of who they are as a person.

“Danish employers are interested in you as a human, more so than employers in other countries so include information about yourself, including your age and your hobbies.

“Choose a good quality photo that is not too serious but shows you looking friendly and approachable,” Mellish said.

4. Story telling

“Think in terms of story telling”, Mellish advised. “Pure letters and numbers don’t mean a lot to employers in Denmark, they need to know what projects you’ve done, what role you played and what kind of person you are through your CV.

“So rather than writing ‘I have these grades’, it’s better to say ‘I worked on this project, it took this long, I achieved this'”, Mellish said.

5. Hit the ground running

Mellish called this “plug and play”, where you show you will slot right into the company and get going with the role.

“When employers are reading your CV, they want to know what you can do on day one of the job. Sell your ability to solve someone’s problem. You need to give the impression you can add value straight away.

“In Denmark the average length of time in a job is two and a half years, because you can take your pension when you move, so employers don’t want someone they need to spend time training,” Mellish told The Local.

READ ALSO: Five tips for writing an effective Danish CV

6. Teamwork

“Group work is very important in Denmark, more than individual achievements. So talk about your teamwork and how you worked with a group to produce a good business result. It shouldn’t be ‘me, me, me’ – that’s a turn off,” Mellish said.

7. LinkedIn

“People in Denmark love LinkedIn so you need a fabulous LinkedIn profile with a good picture. Before anyone calls you for an interview they’ll have looked at your LinkedIn profile.

“In your profile, include the storytelling, explaining the projects you’ve worked on. If your job involves a uniform, I recommend wearing it in your LinkedIn photo so people get that impression of you right away. Your background photo should also be work-related, not rainbows or puppies. Use it to tell the story of who you are,” Mellish advised.

8. Unsolicited application

This is when you approach a company or department you would like to work for, without a job being advertised. The Danish term for it is uopfordret ansøgning. 

“Many people make contact on LinkedIn and ask to meet for a coffee, where they chat and rather than pitch for a job, they ask if the person knows anyone looking for someone like them. Danish employers welcome this and many people are hired this way,” Mellish said.

Another way to network is to join a union, Mellish advised. They often have career events but can also help read your contract when you get a job offer, or help with any problems in the workplace. 

9. Ring the recruiter

The phone number of the hiring manager will often be in the job advert. Mellish advised finding a quiet place to ring them from and spending ten to fifteen minutes asking some good business questions.

“This also helps you work out if you might want to work for this person,” Mellish said.

“Send your CV within 24 hours of the phone call and mention you spoke to them in your application,” she added.

10. Patience

“On average it can take six months to find a job in Denmark. If it’s under this, you’re lucky. If it takes a year, it’s not you, it just takes a long time because employers are looking for someone to fit into their team.

“I wrote 100 letters, I got ten responses, three interviews and one job which I had for eight years,” Mellish told The Local.

“Danish employers are not always good at getting back to you. If you don’t hear anything, just keep applying for other jobs. If you sent an application on June 1st, you could send a follow-up email on June 15th, then you’ll have to leave it and move on,” she advised. 

Kay Xander Mellish’s book ‘How to Work in Denmark’ offers both job-searching advice and tips on how to succeed in the Danish workplace.