We recently spoke with lovely Jenny, co-founder of the incredible family owned and operated Solvej Swings. You have likely seen their beautiful products the world over; they are hard wearing, soft on the planet, aesthetically pleasing and rather importantly- fun, all the while nurturing a positive and healthy socially responsible company model. We are honoured to have Solvej Swings as brand partners and to share their 28 year journey of handcrafting swings from their rural workshop with this inspiring interview.
Solvej Swings are veterans in the industry, having launched back in 1993, can you tell us a little about how this came to be?
Thomas and I both had great memories of swings in our childhood and wanted to share that with our daughter. Plastic didn’t jive well with us as craftspeople and a household focused on sustainability but we couldn’t find any other option in the market, so we made our own. Family and friends then wanted them after seeing their kids so happy in the swing! We made a few, then we made some more... we loved living in the country and wanted both freedom and the chance to give back to the community so decided to make a business out of it! Here we are 28 years later, still at it, hopefully just getting better and better.
In your words, how would you best summarise your offering?
For customers we offer a high quality, safe product that they can feel good about environmentally, socially and aesthetically. Primarily swings offer joy and soothing, they also have many developmental benefits for young children and give parents some worry-free, hands-free time too.
For other businesses we want to be an example showing that ethical and sustainable business with local, rural production is possible. You don’t need to sacrifice morals and ethics or manufacture overseas to make a successful business viable.
Has the product changed or diversified over this period?
As our daughter got older and outgrew her swing we added to the product range, making swings for older children and adults too. The swings have always been well used around our home, we still have some in our garden from 27 years ago, that continue to be used today. Through that and feedback we have made constant improvements and as technology improved we found better and better ways of doing things. Wanting to provide the best product means always looking for improvement.
How has the brand grown?
It’s grown slowly and organically as we could keep pace. Now we sell all over the world in 150+ stores and direct through our website.
You have a strong emphasis on sustainability in materials used and manufacturing, can you explain this process more?
Sustainability should be part of the design process from day one. A product that can be used for many years and then passed on minimises landfill waste. We carefully chose the materials then designed production to minimise waste. All the wood elements fit within standard dimensions and after 28 years we only have a basket of canvas waste! As much as possible we try to re-purpose any offcuts we do produce, be it through craft with local kids or practically within the workshop and home. Then there are everyday smaller things like using upcycled materials at work, re-using scrap paper, making it easy for employees to bike or walk to work, Everything counts.
Why is this important to you?
We have only one world and it’s beautiful, we have a responsibility in whatever we do in our lives to at the very least, try to keep it that way, if not improve it for our children and everyone who comes after us.
Solvej Swings is a close-knit family run business that endeavours to give back to their community, can you tell us more about this?
One of my main motivations when starting the business was to keep it local and provide work and learning opportunities for the community I grew up in. All production is still in this rural village. Four day work weeks and flexi-time allows us and our employees to contribute positively to the community. Freedom and balance are important for mental-health and the well-being of families and therefore communities. We’ve also put a lot of time into local causes and events.
Can you speak to the emotional and physical benefits of such play for our little ones?
First and foremost swinging is fun! It’s also one of the wonderful things that serves the emotional needs of the child, if they’re upset or tired it’s soothing, if they’re happy it’s exciting. This is particularly helpful for anyone with processing and sensory sensitivities. It also has great physical developmental benefits, particularly for the vestibular system. It’s great for balance, eye-focus, full-body coordination and muscle development among other things.
What does a better world mean to you?
One where people care for each other and the planet and feel empowered to make positive change.
Why do you think it is important for both business’ and individuals to be consuming and producing more consciously and ethically?
Socially because we have the power to create the world we want to live in. To make that change you have to both embody AND support the ideals you want to see in the world. If you don’t like exploitative work places you have to support those who offer alternatives.
Environmentally because if you care about what the future for your children and the children of the world will be, there is no other option.
What do you see in the future for Solvej Swings?
We’d like to keep growing and getting better, share more joy and continue to meet and learn from inspiring business people and customers.
Our workshops are in old historical buildings we are slowly doing up, and we’re excited to keep working on those and see them restored. It’s lovely to see that others are now also valuing and fixing the historical buildings in the community rather than tearing them down.
How can we find your products?
You can buy them straight from us online or find a local design or toy store through our website www.solvejswings.com
I am so excited to share this fortnights beautiful journal with Charlotte from The Living Doula. Many of us have heard the term 'doula' but I've found many Mama's are still a little unsure of the immeasurable support they can offer us, from fertility, pregnancy, birth and into our post natal period, on this often challenging journey. Here, Charlotte shares her take on this important role and offers some very important lessons we should all be taking stock of, mother or not.
We are honoured to welcome Nature Baby to our journal this month. As kind as they are clever, Jacob and Georgia Faull, founders of world renowned baby-wear brand Nature Baby are in a league of their own, paving the way for ethical and organic business. A wee ways back I sat down with the dynamic duo for my book Wild Kinship; Conversations with Conscious Entrepreneurs and am excited to be sharing 5 questions for 5 minutes about this incredible brand and the work that they do.