Andreas Petersson: A Go-Getter Leader on a Mission to Create a Better World through Responsible Consumer Goods

Andreas Petersson

Andreas Petersson, Co-Founder, Nimble Group Ltd

True success doesn’t happen overnight. Especially when it comes to the business world, it takes unwavering commitment, hard work, persistence, and courage to get there. Sure, we’ve come across many wild fantastical stories of instant fame. But what appears to be a sudden rise to prominence is often the result of years of trial and error and endless effort. In this edition of the APAC Entrepreneur Magazine, we are proud to share with our readers the inspiring story of one such impeccable entrepreneur, Andreas Petersson, whose journey to success has been a thrilling tale of triumph, tenacity, and persistence.

Andreas was just 11 when he started showing the signs of a businessman. At this age, he started knocking on doors and selling newspapers after school. And, when he figured out that he could earn more by selling more to each customer, he expanded his products to gardening products and books, tripling his earning potential. Andreas learned quite early in life that if he wants something, he has to work for it.  So, when he decided to explore the world at the age of 18, he took up employment to accomplish this goal. But as an employee, he felt like a round peg in a square hole, always finding himself questioning and challenging his role until eventually, he got an opportunity to work with IKEA. He was the youngest store manager at IKEA. As no one else wanted it, he was given the worst-performing store to manage in Melbourne, Australia. While it was no easy feat to achieve, Andreas took the challenge as an opportunity to test new ideas, learn by doing, and improve results by initiating change. As a result, slowly, but surely the store started showing improved results. And after five years, it was the most profitable store in the country. Thus, Andreas forged his career as an entrepreneur within a large organization, taking on projects in all corners of the world where internal change was needed. 

The Emergence of Nimble

While Andreas was climbing the ladder of success at IKEA, his passion for starting something of his own grew even stronger with time. So, together with an IKEA colleague, Mellon Zhang, he started Nimble Group Ltd, a complete vertical service provider, from product design to manufacturing, packaging, and distribution. Nimble had a humble beginning in a small office without heating or cooling and with second-hand furniture. “The cash flow was tough since a project in our industry is generally paid out six months after you start, and in many cases, materials and tooling need to be paid up front. We had to be selective with the projects we took on, and we had to turn down business that was either too big for us or where we couldn’t manage the payment terms. Time and persistence got us through it, not to mention five years without a salary while we build up the company’s capital,” elucidates Andreas. Navigating all the odds along its journey, today Nimble stands tall as the only “global” sourcing provider for consumer goods.

Speeding Up Product Development for Larger Retailers

Coming from large MNC backgrounds, both Andreas and his business partner were frustrated by the bureaucracy and lack of urgency associated with large organizations. They could also see this being a root cause for larger retailers losing relevance to consumers, causing them to drop the brands. Alongside the commercial drawbacks, they also observed that large companies were too slow at adapting to new materials and opportunities in making their products and production more sustainable. Thus, Nimble was created as a service company so larger retailers can outsource their product development and production, bringing speed and development back into their USP. “We choose the name Nimble as this was the best way to describe our business. IKEA became our first customer,” asserts Andreas.

As a customer-centric organization, Nimble’s mission is to be a closely integrated partner with its customers. Thus, it tailors its offer to meet the specific needs of each customer through three key sales channels— manufacturing, development, and trading and sourcing. Currently, the company has two own factories and several third-party factories where it is vertically integrated into parts of manufacturing. During development and trading, Nimble gets the brief from customers and then designs, develops, and supplies the assortment to them through its own or third-party factories, placing a market-relevant margin on each shipment. Finally comes sourcing when it integrates deeply with larger retailers and acts as an internal part of each of their organizations, leading their sourcing and supply chains as a service. “This is a long-term exclusive partnership where we are essentially their sourcing and supply chain organization. This enables retailers to truly create a strong and cohesive private label offer across all categories by working very closely with manufacturing partners spread across the world,” opines Andreas.

Giving Team Members the Freedom and Ability to Make a Difference

As a leader, Andreas believes in nurturing entrepreneurial spirit within the team by making them feel safe to make mistakes and generate financial losses in the spirit of developing new markets and solutions. “For an organization like nimble, where small teams take full responsibility to develop products more commonly associated with large teams, we need an entrepreneurial spirit within the team to make a project possible. It is something that we nurture internally by giving individual freedom to the team, rewarding results but also celebrating mistakes that come with the territory,” affirms Andreas.

He recalls one such instance when Nimble went nearly bankrupt through such a mistake in 2014. In the early years of Nimble, Andreas and his team had a brief to develop a cooling mattress pad for IKEA, to be sold in Japan. So, they collaborated with chemical scientists and innovators to establish a compound that would generate a temperature reduction by using safe chemicals. They produced the chemical sheets in one factory and stitched the textiles in another and utilized IKEA’s ecological cotton supplier for the outer fabric. As it seemed to work, they produced goods to the value of half a million dollars and shipped them out only to find out that the ecological cotton became a breeding ground for mold while the containers had been sitting under sweltering summer heat for a few weeks. So, as they opened the containers at the receiving end, all they could see was a colossal block of blue-green mold. “It became a costly exercise for us to recover, but we learned the importance of questioning our customers when they approach us with a directive. Also, more importantly, by going outside of our regular comfort zone, we built valuable contacts within the chemical compounds science, which we are using today to become a leader in biodegradable and sustainable plastics,” adds Andreas. Drawing key learning from such experiences and his remarkable entrepreneurial journey, Andreas advises emerging entrepreneurs to follow their own beliefs and then have the grit and patience to take the long road to build a successful business.

Moving Towards a Future of Continual Growth

While Nimble has made incredible strides over the years, Andreas clearly envisions an even brighter future ahead for the company. Forging ahead, Nimble is set to geographically expand its reach and future-proof its supply chain by being able to produce any product in multiple countries. “Recent pandemics and geopolitical trade challenges have highlighted that the world needs a more stable supply chain – something we aim to provide. Our focus for the coming years is to build up our new offices in Istanbul and New Delhi whilst expanding into new territories, potentially Africa and South America,” shares Andreas on a concluding note.