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How a beer idea turned into 750'000 planted trees – NIKIN turns 4 years old

Posted on October 20 2020

In October NIKIN celebrates its 4th anniversary. But how did it all begin? A review of four eventful years around the NIKIN tree.

Nicholas & Robin

It all started 4 years ago. On October 20, 2016, the two friends Nicholas and Robin, who have known each other since sandbox times and get along well, meet for a beer in Lenzburg. There is a reason for this meeting, they have been wanting to get something going together, to start a joint project for a long time.

The inventive spirit was probably born in the cradle

Nicholas started his own small project while still studying economics in 2013. Under the name "NIKIT" he designed and sold black gymbags decorated with his own logo. The bags were very popular among his friends and relatives and so the few hundred bags were sold out in no time. His success did not go unnoticed, and it was not long before a world-famous snowboard brand from Iceland asked him to stop producing under the name "NIKIT" for trademark protection reasons. So he was forced to abandon his booming project for the time being.

For Robin, actually a learned automotive mechatronics technician, lacked the creativity in his profession that already bubbled out of him as a child and so he decided to take a new path in his life in 2015. He caught up on his professional matura, completed the preliminary design course with excellence and began to study industrial design. Never before had he enjoyed going to school so much – now he could finally give free rein to his creativity. The language stay in Canada opened his horizon even further. The breathtaking nature and the gigantic forests of Canada inspired him and, as it later turns out, also the idea that was slumbering within him.

Nicholas & Robin

At that time Nicholas and Robin shared the sledge, today their joint company.

A name and logo are needed

So that's where they came together, the "NIKIT" label, which had been put on ice, and the inventive spirit bursting with ideas. Outside, the autumn weather was raging, winter was approaching and that's when the idea was born that would make waves. The two of them were thinking:

"How about having our own fashion label and winter beanies for all our friends?

But it shouldn't just be an ordinary beanie, the market was already completely saturated anyway. The two former scouts and skaters continued their thinking.

"Why not plant a tree for every beanie sold?"

But how would that work? The two googled and found the perfect solution: OneTreePlanted, a non-profit organisation from the USA that plants trees worldwide. A request for cooperation followed.

"What are we going to call the beanie?"

"Well, it's a beanie and we'll plant a tree for it... how about "Treeanie"?"

"And what does our logo look like?"

Robin scribbled a narrow fir tree with a long trunk on a napkin – just like he saw thousands of them in Canada.

"But what's the name of the whole thing?"

"Why don't we just replace the letter 'T' with an 'N' – NIKIN – the combination of Nicholas and Robin."

That's roughly how this first meeting of the new business partners in the pub went, and then it really started.

The preparations are running hot

With a budget of just 5'000 Swiss francs saved for this purpose and without any real fashion know-how, the two lads started their own business. Creating design drafts and selecting materials (first of all, finding out how to do that), finding producers, setting up a website with an online shop, creating social media channels, taking product photos and setting up logistics. These were the first tasks that the two of them dealt with until late at night in addition to their full-time studies. On 11 December 2016 the time had finally come: the website went live!

Foto Shooting

The first photo shoot in the improvised studio in Robin's garage.

The rush is growing

With the first NIKIN release, the Treeanie appeared in three colours and a new version of gymbags. The Treeanies were initially named after the places where a tree was planted together with OneTreePlanted (Africa, Asia, Canada). At the start, the two of them had only 20 pieces (!) of each colour in stock. So it started with 60 Treeanies. With great pride Nicholas and Robin packed the first orders that evening (almost exclusively from family and friends). Robin's child room in his parents' house served as the logistics centre. What a first day, all friends were now equipped with a Treeanie – and the news got around. In the following days the demand increased further and after a very short time all Treeanies were sold out.

A cry for help that was heard

The supply of raw beanies without logo (then still from China) arrived about two weeks later. But the labels that turned the raw beanies into Treeanies were still missing. Since neither Nicholas nor Robin knew how to operate a sewing machine, Robin's mother came into play. During long night shifts she sewed one label after the other onto the beanies. This went on for weeks, the demand increased steadily and so Robin's mother sewed several thousand Treeanies in the early weeks, which have since been sent all over Switzerland. Since then, a personal tree-certificate has been sent along with the order, which assures that a tree is really planted.

Treeanie

Robin's mum diligently sewed the labels onto the raw beanies.

The logistical and communicative effort became greater and so Robin's brothers, Lester and Jeffrey, could be brought on board for support. In a small rented room in the neighbouring village – where farmers' wives used to sell their vegetables – the new NIKIN headquarters was set up shortly afterwards. Jonas and Regula were the first external employees to be trained there. Later Nicholas' wife Carla also got on the train and has been keeping track of NIKIN's finances ever since. Orders were getting more and more frequent every day, so we occupied the local post office several times a day with hundreds of packages, which were now being sent to places we had never heard of before. We were probably the best customers there, as this post office had to close shortly after we moved away. More and more people from all over Switzerland wanted to wear a Treeanie and so it remains one of the most beautiful feelings to have seen for the first time someone stranger on the street with our Treeanie on their head.

NIKIN Bestellungen

Like this we went to the post office several times a day.

It goes steeply uphill

Over the months and years, not only has the product range been expanded with various new products such as hoodies, shirts, socks and much more, but the goal of fair and sustainable production, which was aimed at from the very beginning, has been largely achieved. Today we produce almost exclusively in Europe, using certified sustainable materials.

With the rebranding in summer 2018 the old NIKIN logo disappeared and made way for our flagship – the NIKIN fir. The move to the larger premises of Wisa-Gloria in Lenzburg, made further growth possible. Many new motivated employees could be engaged. Today NIKIN employs around 40 people who are committed to the idea of cool and sustainable fashion. We remain innovative, keep up with the times and continue to give full power.

NIKIN Team 2019

The NIKIN Team 2019

Several visits to OneTreePlanted, where we also helped to plant trees, further strengthened our cooperation. There are now almost 750'000 planted trees worldwide – and it continues! Our online community has also grown tremendously – there are now over 100'000 people on Instagram alone who follow and support us and our vision every day.

NIKIN & OneTreePlanted

NIKIN visiting OneTreePlanted 2019

So that's it, the story of the making of NIKIN – told very briefly. In the meantime, the once "little side project" has become a full-time job that has completely turned the lives of the two founders upside down. Nicholas and Robin used to build huts in the forest together, now they run their own business and let their own forests grow all over the world. We toast to four great years with NIKIN!

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