Britta and Kent – Entrepreneurs and genuine place developers through creative innovation

by Lars-Goran Larsson on November 6, 2013

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imageImagine, a tiny village with some 500 inhabitants’ way up north in Sweden, just some 40 miles south of the Polar Circle. During winter it gets dark around 3 o’clock and the light does not get back until nine next morning. In the summer it’s the other way around – it never gets really dark! Where the Sami village is next door and you may find Reindeers at your door step (or ladder!). The tranquil river slowly passes by in the valley below. The trees forming the massive forest are tall, strong and makes the surroundings appear bewitching.

This is where Britta and Kent, two local entrepreneurs with different focus’ and backgrounds “collided” there ideas and visions and thereby created a completely new and astonishing business concept. The Tree hotel.

The Tree hotel is located in Harads, near the Lule river, about 100 kilometers from Luleå airport in northernmost Sweden. To reach the hotel one needs to fly to this airport by regular airline or private jet, and then use the car service, rent a car, book a helicopter or take the snowmobile safari to the location. The hotel offers a unique experience: tree rooms with contemporary design in the middle of unspoiled nature. The most striking part of the location is its magnificent surroundings. From the Tree hotel’s rooms you get a fantastic view of the mostly uninhabited Lule River valley, miles of forest and the powerful river.

The idea behind the hotel is to offer high-standard accommodation in a harmonious place where daily stress melts away, where guests can relax and renew their energy while surrounded by unspoiled nature. It was built in cooperation with some of Scandinavia’s leading architects, with rooms suspended 4-6 meters above ground with a spectacular views of the Lule River. A very important part of the concept is ecological values and minimal environmental impact. The rooms are built in the natural forest, with material and construction techniques that makes as little environmental impact as possible.

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Britta, with her deep love for the Harads’ village, wanted to work with development of the place. Around year 2000 she came across the old nursing home, established already 1930 but having been abandoned and unused since 1965. She started Britta’s lodging house (Brittas pensionat) with the profile of preserving the warm old fashioned style in furniture and atmosphere and promoting local food traditions.

Cube roomKent, a pathfinder, nowadays arranging fishing and wild life adventures to exotic places of the world – such as fishing in Kamchatka – had a childhood dream which he fulfilled when being at home. He built and lived in tree houses, however at quite some distance from Brittas lodge. Now, the innovation process took off. They said; “why not combine all the fantastic qualities of Brittas lodge with Kent’s childhood dream of living in the trees and start a Tree Hotel”? This was the foundation of this genuinely place based business.

The intention of this article is not to promote the Tree hotel by itself. Though I have been there and can strongly recommend a stay, or why not a conference in the amazing Dragonfly tree house?

My intention is rather to give an example of how open minded, innovative, local entrepreneurs can contribute to development of the local society by simply colliding each others ideas and strengths and from that create completely new products and businesses.

In the case of Tree hotel it is interesting to note that a vast majority of their visitors are from abroad – actually from all around the world. They don’t even advertise to promote themselves. The internationally recognised architects that has designed the tree rooms just by their names and reputation creates the international awareness in the markets they are embracing.

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This proves that Britta and Kent has a deep knowledge about their target markets. Who they are, where they come from and which expectations and preferences their customer have. The Tree hotel team has succeeded to combine old Swedish culture, magnificent natural experiences, ecologic thinking, adventure and business in a way that stimulates and thrills mans curiosity and imagination. By the Tree hotel project they make a significant contribution to development of the Swedish international visiting industry in a broader context.

Nest roomFor the local community this relatively small business has meant new jobs for seven direct year around employees, a substantial increase in business volume for local builders, construction companies, service providers etc. etc.

The Tree hotel initiative by Britta and Kent proves the significance of SME entrepreneurs, by an innovative thinking, courage, determination and “go-for-it” attitude, can make a huge difference also for small places with limited assets and resources – at a first glance.

Even the smallest village can create attractions on the world market by developing assets that are genuinely unique and builds on the existing environment, location and history.

About Lars-Goran Larsson :

Lars-Göran Larsson, Senior Advisor in Bearing, resides in Sweden and consults internationally. He has spent most of his career in executive positions in the private corporate sector and in the cross-roads of public-private partnerships.

The last ten years he has specialised in assignments that involves design and implementation of holistically coherent national, regional and local innovation based growth systems. At present, implementation of Europe´s innovation strategy Horizion 2020 is high on his agenda.

His work includes assignments for national and regional governments and Innovation Hubs in Europe, Middle East and Africa with establishment of innovation systems for incubators & accelerators and science parks & clusters integrated with extensive SME development programs and funding. The methodology applied is anchored in the Quad Helix model, which constitutes an extension and refinement of the traditional Triple Helix model. It coordinates context management in collaboration between the public and private sectors, academia and civil society.

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