Writer Jody Turner interviews Sanna Grannas, founder of Runa, reminding you daily to make an impact. Runa’s shirt pin recently received the Precious Talent award. A prize awarded by the Nordic watch and jewelry industry to rising stars. Sanna Grannas shares why being in a small town should not stop you from starting a company.
BY JODY TURNER
Hello Sanna, great to be in Sweden with you. I hear from Great Space, where you share a co-working desk, that you are founder of a new startup called Runa. Can you explain what Runa means and why you chose that name?
Runa is a Nordic name for girls. It means secret and wisdom. It is also the name for a set of letters used thousands of years ago by people of the north who told their stories on stones so that their message was left throughout time, they made their mark on time.
Does this name explain your mission statement as well?
While I am influenced by the ancients, I create products that tell the stories of today. As a brand we want to make a mark and help our customers or end users make their mark. Our mission then is to make a mark.
Our first product is a metal pin or ‘Shirt Mark,’ carved with a wisdom symbol called ENG. Eng is an action mark, the Runa definition is of one going from passive to active, the ‘ing’ of any verb.
We want people to feel and have the courage to take action in what they do and are passionate about. This is the purpose of ENG and all future products we will create as Runa.
We want people to make their mark and wear it as a shirt mark, or cuff mark, or ear mark… wear it to remember what you are here to do and working toward.
The Shirt Mark has created a brand new category in the jewelry world, and I had to work through (and still am) the issues and great opportunities this created.
Our product recently received the Precious Talent award as a rising star of the Nordic watch and jewelry industry. This gave me confidence, opportunity, and deeper connections into the marketplace.
Tell us more about the design DNA that led you to Runa?
I am from the High Coast of Mid Sweden, which is a World Heritage Site. It is a stunning, unique and protected landscape of quick rising cliffs above the ocean. Throughout time stone messages are captured within the cliffs, these are the inspiration for my symbol of ENG which is in support of courage for change. (For more information on the cliffs, visit http://www.friluftsbyn.se/).
From the rocks and the raw landscape of my home, I take away the inspiration for my product. This powerful land supplies my design DNA in that it expresses a LOUD SIMPLICITY, something of my home that I capture in my designs.
To me, the Swedes are very successful, in that they live within a society that works well for the multitudes. As an individual in this socially democratic society, it may be hard to step forward with a breakaway idea. Is this why you created the ENG power pin, to support people in their endeavors?
I was previously in finance where everyone dressed in power suits. When we greeted we exchanged names, age, and work title, it was all about what we do versus who we are. For me it all went gray. What would happen if people started working through their passions? How much more capacity would we get from each person if they were doing what they were aligned with?
In began thinking about the rules placed upon us as women, about being a good girl or having what is called the good girl syndrome. Personally, I knew what to do in school to get a good grade… but out in life we don’t have these frames. To be good or great out in the world is harder to grasp. I began addressing this and it led to my startup business.
Tell me about what being local means to you in the context of your brand?
In Sweden, being from a small town, we have something called Jantelagen, the idea of not standing out too much. The big city is filled with those from the smaller cities and towns who have moved there to find opportunity. I believe you can do it where you live without having to move. My work is about this. My brand believes that even being from a small town will not hold you back, you can rise above with your passions and your hard work.
To me, the difference between doing something with determination because you can or because you want to, became clearer. I designed a symbol to support doing what your passion is so you can accomplish in what is more aligned with you. It’s a life statement.
This is why I work in Sundsvall, Sweden with my brand, with local companies and local craft. I want people to have confidence that they can succeed where they are. I want the brand to be an inspiration to choose this path.
What has been a surprising learning takeaway for you in this work?
In a new product, idea or service, there is no right or wrong way, you have to do it your way, it is the right way as there are no protocols to follow. And of course, this is one of the reasons why you do it! But of course we look for examples to guides, and I have examples that inspire me but nothing you can follow too closely. You have to cut and paste what inspires you and build to suit.
I wanted to bring the sincere craftsmanship of home into people’s lives, choosing not to mass produce in Asia. I may have made more money in the beginning but this is not the path I wanted to take. I want to represent where I am from, combining the natural heritage and the business industry we are known for, within this product.
Can you give a few words describing your journey so far?
The control freak in me would say terrifying! It has been a roller coaster, while really inspiring, it has also been scary. I want to do things right, and yet the next steps are always unknown in this new way of being and doing. I have to make them as I go along.
I am having to learn that with steps that succeed and work, I must take the time to celebrate. But because I set the next goals right away, it is harder to pause and enjoy!
You mentioned that this is a first in a series of designs. Any future thoughts for Runa?
We are now working on other pieces of jewelry, or marks, that we will release in the near future . My goal is to share more and more, continue helping others to grow, seeing where it will lead.