Björn Jakobson, the Swedish-born entrepreneur and founder of BabyBjörn discusses family, business and proud moments
What first inspired you to set up BabyBjörn?
My brother had five children and I babysat a lot for his family so I knew anything that could make life easier for families would be welcome. My aunt also had a group of children from Finland living at her house during World War II, so I had grown fond of babies and small children at an early age. When I came to realise that a product like the baby bouncer would keep babies happy and therefore give mum a little time to get everyday things done, I was inspired to create BabyBjörn. I was just 27 when I founded the company in 1961, and together with some designers, the baby bouncer was the first product we brought to the market.
What was your background before you set up the business?
I studied for an academic degree in Political Science. And from a business point of view I worked for Swedish Shell and in a meat cutting business, so starting BabyBjörn was definitely a great departure from what I was used to doing every day.
Were your own children an inspiration for the brand?
We have four children who are all grown up now – Joakim, 54; Siri, 53; Lisa, 50, and Josefin, 44. We also have 10 grandchildren who range in age from three to 23 years. All 14 of them have certainly been inspirations for the brand over the years as our products have evolved. Our daughter Lisa was so messy when eating that we needed to develop a bib! So we did this when she was a year old, in 1968. Josefin was the only child I could carry in my own baby carrier and that was such a precious time.
Describe a typical day for you.
I have retired from my position as chairman of the board for BabyBjörn but I do a lot of consulting work for the brand still to this day. I read a lot of news and take long walks to think things through. My wife Lillemor and I have an art centre in Stockholm’s archipelago called Artipelag, that needs a lot of my attention but is also a great passion of mine. Then I am also the CEO and chairman for the group’s parent company, Lillemor Design, so as you can imagine it all keeps me very active!
What’s your advice for anyone wanting to start a business?
Keep a close eye on your cash flow, and believe in your ideas and have the courage to realise them. As a businessman it was always my goal to be independent of external money and investment. It’s also important to take care of your health when your brand has been around for as long as mine has!
What has been your proudest moment for the business?
We have huge numbers of celebrities who love our products, and the brand is constantly evolving to remain at the cutting edge of the market, but for me it’s about the simple things. To see fathers around the world walking about with their little babies on their chest in our baby carrier, enjoying that wonderful feeling of closeness, that is very special indeed.
What are your plans for 2018?
To stay healthy and to do my best socially, business-wise and family-wise.