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As an entrepreneur, you should be enterprising, creative, good at solving problems and have a strong will to implement. You should be trustworthy, good at communicating and work in a structured way. These were characteristics that defined the entrepreneur who started the Hardanger brand, Odd Leikvoll.
There were not many jobs to choose from when Odd choose to move for the love of his life, Kirsten, who lived in the small village of Kinsarvik in Hardanger.
Creative as he was, he therefore bought tools from his old workplace, a silverware factory in Bergen. In a small barn borrowed from his father-in-law, he created a workshop of 15 square meters, where he started making candlesticks and souvenir spoons in silver stain. In Bergen he had only been one employee, and he therefore had to learn new design and production methods.
Odd initially had a plan to import cutlery, and then sell the cutlery to restaurants. Before he could start this plan, his fascination with production and various production methods grew. This became his great passion.
His fascination with production and production methods made him choose to focus on larger production, rather than being a small importer. He didn’t have the patience to build something small, only to see how it would go. Odd was a very impatient man and often quick in his decisions. In his older days he often wondered how he dared to invest so much in building up the Hardanger brand.
When we talk to Odd’s children, there are a few words that recur: willpower, optimistic, stubborn, and inclusive. He never gave up despite many tough years, tough competition, and little experience. Odd traveled a lot and was happy to take his son Rune on a trip. Today, the Hardanger brand is run by the second generation, the son Rune Leikvoll and the daughter Nina Leikvoll. Rune is the Chief Executive Officer and Nina Leikvoll is the personnel manager.
On his travels, Odd found a lot of inspiration from countries such as Germany. Germany had come further than Norway when it came to production and automation. He liked to be out early and innovative with production, but also when it came to selling the products. The gift boxes that gave the Hardanger brand its enormous growth came, amongst other things, after an inspiring work trip.
When Odd returned home from work trips, he had a lot to share. He happily told the family about his experiences, what he had seen and done. The family at home loved to hear about his trips and got an impression of the experiences he had received. As previously mentioned, Odd was not very patient and the work was started immediately.
Odd was a busy man and spent a lot of his time at work, but dinner was important to Odd. Every day he came home for dinner, where he sat around the table with his three children and his wife Kirsten. Around the dinner table they shared their day, where Odd also talked happily about his workday. Kirsten says that she sometimes had to ask Odd to talk about something else. If she was lucky, she got maybe five to ten minutes without the mention of cutlery, before it was time for more cutlery chat.
Kirsten talks warmly and well about her deceased husband. He was a down to earth and nice person. She also says that when she thinks back on the start-up, she cannot fully understand that they dared to gamble. The most difficult thing about everything in the beginning was to get the finances in place to start the building for the factory. Kirsten can still remember all the times they went through the material list to see if there were any costs that could be cheaper.
Odd had many conversations with the bank manager, which was not easy to do without guarantors. Odd was adamant in his decision, guarantor he would not have. The reason was that he would not put others in a difficult situation.
Kirsten says that Odd’s childhood formed him as the business man he was. Odd grew up with his eight siblings and was used to not having much. It was also expected that the siblings would fulfill their obligations themselves. The family life of Kirsten and Odd was put on hold. All the focus was set on building the business. Today, Kirsten is proud of what they achieved and how big the adventure became, and still is.