To crack the code
– To be a good entrepreneur you have to know yourself well and connect well with others, Eunice Hammond-Mørklid states.
Text and photo: Irene R. Mjelde
– IN NORWAY they have their own business structure and rules, and it is important to foreign entrepreneurs to learn about these patterns before starting their own firm. For me to find Etablerersenteret and their Business Factory was essential in this matter, states the founder of House of Hammonds, Eunice Hammond-Mørklid.
Back in 2016 Etablerersenteret started their first course for multicultural entrepreneurs, financed by Integrering og mangfoldsdirektoratet (IMDi). They called it Business Factory, and since then the course has been running once a year with room for 20 participants every time. June Kristiansen is one of the counselors at Etablerersenteret and she is very proud of what they have achieved with their program.
– Over the years we have had over 100 participants with more than 40 different nationalities, she informs.
– The course is divided into six modules, spread over the same amount of full course days, and the language spoken is English.
The first day of the course the participants get to learn about the formalities that must be in place to start a business, such as registration, rights, name, tax and VAT.
– Further on the course teaches about economy, business modeling and marketing, network and cultural understanding. Participants also get training in using digital tools, and guidance when it comes to develop their business idea.
Etablerersenteret has created an alumni network, where participants of the year get to meet founders from the former year courses.
– We also arrange meetings called Link Up @ The Library – a network meeting open for all participants from different courses at Etablerersenteret, including ethnic Norwegian founders.
COMPANY: Eunice Hammond-Mørklid is the founder behind House of Hammmond-s.
EUNICE HAMMOND-MØRKLID attended Business Factory in 2018.
– I will say, it can be difficult for foreigners to know where and how to start if they want to start their own business. I felt very lucky to be able to attend Business Factory, Hammond-Mørklid says.
– The course gave me the first point of contact and an insight into the market. I learned how things work here in Norway. I got to ask questions, and I got information about where it was possible to apply for fundings. The chance of meeting other entrepreneurs with a similar background was also very helpful, and more so you can always get back in touch with people at the center for advice as you manage the twist and turns in your business.
Hammond-Mørklid moved from Ghana to Norway 19 years ago. She started a family here and worked for many years in an oil company. But recently, after downsizing in the firm in due to Covid-19, she focused on starting her own business. She named it House of Hammond-s, and started working in her own kitchen where the entrepreneur now produces soaps of the best quality.
– The main ingredients; shea butter, olive oil and coconut oil are mixed with various other natural oils, as well as butter, and a saponifying agent. To give the soaps their wonderful scents and aromatherapy properties, only the finest natural, essential oils are used, Hammond-Mørklid explains.
The result is handmade, natural and environmentally friendly soaps, without synthetic additives, artificial fragrances, or harmful preservatives.
– The environment and the customer are the core of our business model, which includes production, design, distribution and sales via our website. House of Hammond-s creates products for the modern world. Our goal is to contribute to a sustainable lifestyle – encourage every home to use natural soap every day.
– Which challenges do foreign entrepreneurs have?
– For one you have to work ten times more, Hammond-Mørklid replies laughing.
– Being a woman, and more so an African woman too, triples it. But then I also will say the benefits can be amazing which makes the journey worthwhile.
FOUNDER: House of Hammond-s creates quality products that are thoughtful, easy to use and yet sustainable; designed to complement your everyday life and Crafted by hand in Bergen
HER WORK background is in technical industry where 90 percent of the workers are men.
– I am use to standing out in the crowd, as well as seeing people struggling a bit when I show up. These appearance are new and different in many contexts, and it takes time for colleagues and partners to get use to me. By being there, watching, listening, observing, I learn.
– You are very industrious!
Hammond-Mørklid laughs. She claims that she is not particularly extrovert.
– I am just a learner. But when you show interest and willingness to learn, your work partners will open up and teach you, and as you learn the more easier it gets to network and communicate.
She has learnt a lot of people skills and how to better communicate in business in Norway from her colleagues, networks and friends, she says.
– Understanding that there is a difference between people helps in removing misunderstandings and cultural barriers. The same applies in private life and in the local community where we live. By being present people get to know you better. But it takes time. When you show up the third time somebody hopefully starts asking you questions, and then you can start thinking “I can actually contribute to something here”.
– WHAT IS the biggest difference in the Norwegian way of communicating compared to the way you where use to?
– In Ghana the communication involves formalities and a lot of storytelling. It takes time to get to the point. Norwegians have a much more direct to the point communication.
– How can one be integrated in the best possible way in the business environment in Norway?
– Find out how things work in the new environment in which you are. Learn the history and the culture. Then you have to go with an open mind, and you have to learn the language. Language forms how we think. Words are powerful.
The official language in Ghana is English. Over the years Hammond-Mørklid has learned the Norwegian language pretty well, but when she wants to explain something with precise technical details it can be difficult to find the words in Norwegian.
– You will always relate to the place you were born and spent your childhood. Your first language will always be a part of your roots. When you have the passion of something, when you are totally yourself, or when you dream, your first language will always shine through, Hammond-Mørklid underlines.
– It’s like I am having different roles in language. If I am speaking Norwegian I am putting on my Norwegian hat, and the English one I use if that is the one that fits in the present surroundings. You have to know how it works. As an expats or a foreigner you come with diversity in skills, experience and culture. I am still constantly learning from the Norwegian culture, and bringing with me the best, like effectiveness and communication skills.
Patience is one of the skills she has used a lot during these last years.
– A lot of foreigners are working for organizations here in Norway. I don’t know many expats from Africa working as entrepreneurs in soap making. For me it has been a total new area, but it is very interesting, and seeing it from the positive side, I get to be the first. I will say being an entrepreneur has taught me a lot these past few years.
HOME OFFICE: During these home school days, Eunice Hammond-Mørklid often shares a desk with her daughter Christina.
– DO YOU miss Ghana?
– What do you miss the most?
– Family I think, especially now with Covid-19 lockdowns and restriction. But I have created my own family here too so that gets you busy and content.
– What do you like the most about Norway?
– That our lives is so connected to the nature. The good environment gives you a better health. You can always go for a walk and you do not need any permission to do it.
It was a master's scholarship that in 2002 brought the creative lady to Bergen, more specifically to Kunstakademiet – the Academy of Fine Arts. However, the two planned years she was to live in the rainy city were indefinite, as she married and eventually started a family. As of today, she has no less than three different masters behind her. And in addition to House of Hammond-s, she also has another entrepreneurial venture going on, a technology and innovation course for youth.
– I like to learn. Life is actually about learning and acquiring the right knowledge. It helps us to get to know ourselves.
– What is the difference between starting a company in Norway compared to Ghana?
– In Ghana, or in most countries in Africa, it can be easier to start very small, and you get to learn the business skills as you go. It is also acceptable to negotiate prices, and small companies get charged less. What makes it so difficult doing business here is that whether your company is small or big you’ll get the same charges. It is a one line structure for all businesses whether big or small.
THE POSITIVE thing Hammond-Mørklid mentions is that here in Norway you can get help and guidance from establishments like Etablerersenteret.
– The start-up center is the place where an entrepreneur has the opportunity to receive free advice in most business cases related to starting their own company. For expats and non-ethnic Norwegians it is a great place to start to get to know the Norwegian business system and structures, the founder mentions.
– The courses are in English and easy to understand, and the course leaders are easy to talk to and always open to discuss your ideas. This start-up center should have a lot of credit for my entrepreneurial spirit thriving so well in Bergen.
Hammond-Mørklid points out that the help to find simple and flexible access to the right systems and structures in the Norwegian system has been of great help.
– Being a fresh entrepreneur you really need all the help you can get because the Norwegian business structures are so many, and networking is based on the concept of being part of groups of interest. It is your responsibility to get to network with several groups and start-up hubs. If one of them does not work you go to the next. You have to find your right group, and when you find it join it. Etablerersenteret was the right one for me. It offered the right amount of advice to start with, and gave me less worries, less stress.
THERE ARE several other business network programs and funding opportunities out there for you to join and Etablerersenteret can introduced you to them. Hammond-Mørklid was lucky to receive the financial support she applied for from the county municipality's start-up fund.
– I also got accepted at Bergen Opportunity, which is a mentoring program for immigrants, created by Bergen Næringsråd. And recently I got accepted in Gründer Academy Norway program for start-ups across the country, which is about helping start-up businesses scale-up, Hammond-Mørklid informs.
She thinks that her relationship with her mentors has made her a better entrepreneur.
– "Honest feedback is a gift" they say. The honest and practical advices I have received really helped me get better faster. Etablerersenteret and the other business network programs have all supported me. They are a really strong community of people who’ve played a significant role in my life as an entrepreneur.
Hammond-Mørklid is very happy to have had the opportunity to find the right network groups to join.
– I have met so many wonderful people along the way who have guided, given advice and supported me throughout the process. Such positive support makes hard work much easier to perform. You have to understand that to be here you have to network, study, be patient, and you have to know what hat to put on. You will always find a group that will accept you. At the end, wherever you are, regarding your business it all comes back to hard work.
House of Hammond-s website: http://www.houseofhammond-s.com