I think Kvik is perfect and Ralph is also the living proof that it's possible. We don't need anything more. I just think it's more like a mindset.

— Mai Nissen
Kvik Hamburg Altstadt

Today, we’re taking a short break from our series on Danish design to present another kind of story. We’re a franchise concept and we’ve got more than 185 stores in 12 countries selling Danish design kitchens.

We’ve got big growth ambitions. That means we’re always recruiting new franchisees - both for new locations and to take over existing stores. In that connection, we’ve talked to a few of our franchise partners, to hear their stories. We’ll be presenting these stories occasionally in The Sociable Kitchen® feed. 

We spoke with Ralph and Mai Nissen, who opened our first store in Germany  in July 2021— Kvik Hamburg Altstadt. They are a Danish couple who has been living in Germany for many years, but they just happened to grow up not far from where Kvik was founded in Denmark. 

They had been working with retail, but didn’t have a background in the kitchen industry and so we asked them how they learned about the opportunity…

And just one note - we recorded this in their store in the heart of Hamburg, so you may hear some trains going by and some sounds from a large barge that was digging in the canal just outside the window where we recorded, please excuse us for that. 

*Please note that the text on this page is a transcript of the podcast episode.

It came together very quickly

Mai: You were looking on LinkedIn.

Julie: LinkedIn? Ok. 

Ralph: Again, you know, sometimes there was also quite a coincidence actually, if you're not looking for a kitchen, then you're not, then you're actually not looking for and it's the same as today with the customers. You know, they if they're not looking for a kitchen, then you you don't you you shouldn't waste any marketing on those. But that was a pure coincidence that that we saw this on LinkedIn and they were searching for franchise partners for the German market.

We're not even aware that they didn't have any. So we started looking into this and it was still when we were in the old business where we were closing down and everything. But we we are always looking forward and not not back so that was also for us, very important to press some buttons there and get moving.

Mai: And we had the right feeling. Both of us.

Ralph: And then I wrote directly to the CEO of Kvik and asked. I told little bit about our story and where we come from, what we've been doing and what we would like to be doing and then a week later we sat in Vildbjerg, close to Herning in Denmark meeting up with the guys there and then some months later, we were opening up the first store in Germany. So it was very, very quickly.

Julie: Wow, that was very fast. I don’t think I realised it was that fast.

Ralph: Super fast actually, because we met in the middle of January in 2021. But we had a super good feeling and also that we had the they they also wanted us and then we signed in April, then in July more or less six months later, we opened up the store.

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Opening up a new market

Ralph: So we overtook everything because also we were just focused on this. Of course we didn't have any jobs at that time. So, of course, we also we had some good possibilities and then the discussion opportunities with Kvik. So yeah, so the profile was good in terms of opening up a new market, not selling kitchens because we've never done that before.

But if you understand the concept and you're good in selling a concept and not necessarily a product then, but because that what that is what we have been doing many, many years. So that was for sure our advantage.

Julie: So what was so appealing about the concept?

Ralph: Of course it was Danish design, but it's also, you know, the simplicity. It's he way it's set up, it's simple and it's also Danish. It's actually quite hard to get a cool looking kitchen in Germany unless you want to pay a lot of money for it. Otherwise it's all the more or less all the same around Germany and where we come from the furniture and the kitchens and everything you buy also has to look good, which is also super important for us. And of course it's the value for money you get is not comparable toa lot of the competitors on the German market.

Julie: But the German market is a pretty crowded and there are a lot of competitors. I mean is that an issue?

Ralph: Yeah, there is. But it all...being very harsh, it all looks almost the same. Everywhere you go. Otherwise it gets very expensive and you don't have all this concept thinking like you have in the Scandinavian countries.

So if you go to a kitchen studio or kitchen store, it's normal that they have 5-6 brands. And then you have to choose. You know it's not, it's not so clearly told as it is here in Kvik, for instance. But but that's also more a normal way of thinking in Denmark. But it's it's not normal in the German market. So that was also one of the the the main things, the reason why we also saw there is a potential.

Julie: Not only were Ralph & Mai the first store on the German market, they saw an advantage in the way that Kvik approaches marketing. We don’t do traditional television, radio and billboards, we have a digital-only approach. And they can see the effect on their business. 

Ralph: That’s also one of the things being the first and the power of social media which is also not what you see in that way with the traditional kitchen business in Germany.

Julie: Is that right? Okay.

Ralph: We’re very strong in that and we also pull in a lot of customers. Due to that we can create a lot of bookings based on our social media appearance that also makes everything. As a partner also we can actually feel when you turn up the volume in terms of marketing. Then we can also get a lot of bookings in. So that also works. So that goes hand in hand. So actually and also not spending a lot of this typical mass marketing, having buses driving and all the typical...And that’s also one of the things that we also learned.

Mai: The customers are also coming in with their telephones and they’re saying I saw this on Instagram. We have a lot of those customers so it’s really working. That’s also good.

Julie: So it’s the ads that we do and of course we have a German Facebook page where we put the new kitchens.

Ralph: But it’s mainly the Instagram and the Pinterest and everything that’s running really but it also again it also depends on the location and where we are right now that we are also we are sitting in a very good space to..

Julie: Yeah. A lot of people, traffic goes by.

Mai: And we also have the customers. They are coming again or they are, what do you say, recommend us from friends, yes. So that’s also really nice.

Julie: So word of mouth has been very good for you too.

Ralph: That also started pretty fast which is actually the most beautiful thing about what we’re doing that we’re actually getting recommendations pretty fast and now we are doing the second and the third recommendation from customers buying with us so that’s also been really great. 

Julie: That’s fast since you’ve been open a little over a year. That’s amazing.

No previous kitchen experience

Julie: Ralph and Mai came from a retail background, but didn’t know anything about kitchens when they started, other than making dinner in their own kitchen at home. But they felt the concept was right for them.

So then you did learn about kitchens really quickly [laughs].

Ralph: We learned very fast about kitchens. Absolutely. But again we also learned we are good in swimming in terms of putting on your life vest and then you just start working with it. Because again it’s a strong concept also in terms of Kvik and also the support we have had especially for being the first and having not that much because it is different doing… It’s still retail but it’s a completely different way of working compared to where we are from in terms of having a classical retail way of working.

Julie: I mean you have to draw a kitchen in a program and you have to...

Mai: Yeah but also when we are selling clothes or something like that, the customers are coming in and we are selling and they are going out. Hopefully we see them again but with the kitchen it’s like selling and then you need whole process afterwards. That’s a bigger part.

Ralph: There’s a lot of connecting dots and everything what we’re doing and also what you’re selling to the customers is the main thing is trust because you are diving very deep into their personal affairs and that is something which takes a long time. You can have customers who are super clear in what they want and then you can sell something very fast but on the other hand it can also take very long. So it is a long process. It’s a project every time you even though how big or how small the kitchen is, there’s a lot of things which you need to connect together.

Julie: And many times do customers know, do they come in and they know what a kitchen costs or what it all entails or do you also have to educate them as to that it is a big project?

Ralph: Absolutely. It depends very much. You have quite a lot of customers who bought a kitchen before, so they know what to look for. But also there we have a different set up within Kvik compared to a lot of the competitors due to that we have transparent pricing. We have a more standout program. So we cannot solve every wish of the customer but we need to be very clear on what we can and what we are not able to do. 

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Ralph: And this is also something that especially some of the salespersons that we have who come from the kitchen business  had to find out that we cannot solve everything that the customers want because that’s the way we are working.

Mai: They needed more. They needed to learn to sell a concept and not only kitchen. 

Julie: The concept of of The Sociable Kitchen® or what do you mean concept?

Ralph:  No we mean the concept of selling just one brand, which is Kvik. And also in terms of understanding how to work around our standards. Instead of, because it's honestly the easiest thing is to sell the kitchen, but the heavy part is everything that comes afterwards and making everything work.

Julie: You get there and you measure the person's room and their wall is a little wonky.

Ralph: And also everything around that and also the expectations, it's also something which is super important also to adjust already upfront from the beginning until the project is finished and the customer is happy and because that's also a big part of it. It's actually quite normal that you can choose between 150 fronts. A lot of the other studios are maybe a little bit less but, but you know I have 24. That's all.

So we also tell the customers that what you see is what you get. This is what we have in the store and we have a lot of customers coming in and say, oh, this is actually really nice. Because then I don't have to make that many decisions. And when we hear from the customers that they say, oh, actually, you don't have anything which is not nice. You know, then that we've actually done some really, really good stuff design wise and also the way we sell.

Julie: That's awesome.

From July to July, we've sold 320 kitchens. That's almost one every day in a year.

— Ralph Nissen
Owner, Kvik Hamburg Altstadt

Ralph: Our studio is set up because then there is focus only on the kitchens and on our products and not on a lot of other brands. And what we don't offer. So that's really great and it's not only one time I've heard that. I heard that pretty often actually. So they are very fond of the way that we put the studio up and how the everything is decorated and they get a lot of inspiration.

Mai: But they also, as we also learned that the showroom, as like I've said, it's not the normal showroom for a kitchen, but a lot of people say...

Julie: How? How is it different than the other showrooms in Germany? I haven't been to a lot. 

Mai:  It's more like as if you have a, say, a normal or standard, it's, how can I explain that it's more like a big room and and this one here is if you come in, it's more like some people say a New Yorker flat. And they get the feeling, what do you say they have the feeling like they're staying at home. Yeah. So that's also really nice to hear. Yes.

Julie: And you walk from one kitchen to the other. 

Ralph: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Mai: It's like a whole kitchen. So the atmosphere is also...

Julie: Do you often take them around to see all the kitchens and talk about all the kitchens, or do they straight for the one they want?

Ralph: That that depends very much as mainly we go through because also the way that the concept is set up is of course that you can show a lot of things in the different kitchens.

One thing is design, but the other thing is also what kind of cabinets, what kind of other advantages, there's a lot of things going on in the inside the kitchens.

Julie: How many kitchens have you sold over a year?

Ralph: We sold since we started from July to July, we have been selling more than 320 kitchens.

Julie: OK. Wow, that's a lot.!

Ralph: That's almost one every day, and in a year. And I can assure you that it's quite a high number, that's that's really heavy. So, we have been busy.

We just had a really good feeling

Julie: 320 kitchens sounds like a lot in one year. It seems like a Kvik franchise was really the right choice for Ralph and Mai. We asked them about that moment when they knew that it was right for them.

Mai: I remember that Ralph was sitting and looking at his phone and he said to me, Mai, could you please come here and take a look at this? This is Kvik and they are looking for franchisees, for Germany and not only Germany for Hamburg and in the area where we are going to live again. So could that be something? And I was like, yes. 

I think Ralph and I are really, what do you say when we have the right feeling? That was the moment where I said I have a really good feeling about it without knowing a lot about it. But the feeling was there and there we were looking at the the homepage and reading about Kvik. 

Julie: And it was it was a post you saw on LinkedIn or was it an ad on LinkedIn?

Ralph: It was actually Jens-Peter who was posting something because I was connected with him at that time already due to some other reason.

And and yeah, I saw he was looking for that. It was a little bit, you know, we and we actually it was the timing was actually quite crazy is the wrong word but you know. 

Julie: It was perfect for you?

Ralph: It was perfect, but also due to at we were still sitting in in our old business and everything going on there and that was not particularly nice, I must say. But we also look very much forward and we don't look back. And it was quite strange because we had the same feeling that this was some kind of destiny thing. 

Julie: I'm not sure how many franchisees we get by the person directly writing to the CEO. But maybe it's more than I think, right?

Ralph: No, that was, I said, OK, why not? And he was the one who was posting it. So that was the reason why I didn't go the the the classical, normal way. 

Julie: That's pretty cool. What does it hurt? I have to jump in again to note that the JP Ralph is referring to is our CEO Jens-Peter Poulson. So Ralph and Mai went straight to the top.

Ralph: Yeah. I just I just wrote JP just right away on LinkedIn  just telling a little bit of our story and who we are, where we're from and and actually the the funny thing was that I could immediately see that it was actually texting me back.

Julie: He was probably like hallelujah!

Ralph: Yeah, yeah, exactly.  He wrote back, "Can I call you tomorrow?" And then one week later we were sitting in Vildbjerg, near Herning, in Denmark. So it went that fast. So I think we found each other in in that way.

Mai: And then we also just knew it was meant to be.

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Working together was part of the appeal

Julie: It's not every couple who works together, but Ralph and Mai have made it a real partnership, so we couldn't resist asking how it is to work together.

Mai: It's really nice as I think that's also why we were choosing to do a franchise concept again. Yeah, because we were, we could say, finding out that we are really good at working together, but also because that we are different in the way where we have our strengths and what to say, differences. So that's really nice. Yeah. I'm really happy. 

Ralph:  And I can only say the same. You know, it's a tough decision also to do all this, but we have been doing and also where we came from was also another franchise concept. It was more we had another partnership with the with the franchisor and that broke that relationship and we at least knew that now we want 100% our own business but still with a strong concept because we want to have a strong foundation to build our business on and that we definitely found with with Kvik.

You know, one of the points where we said, ok they're actually going to support us.

Julie: Ralph and Mai wanted to be sure that it was a mutual partnership where both sides really wanted to work together, and they definitely found that in Kvik.

Be prepared to work a lot. No, but it's that simple. You need to invest super many hours. You need to be dedicated. You need to really want this.

— Ralph Nissen
Kvik Hamburg Altstadt

Julie: And before we finished, we had to ask them one last question. What advice would you give to someone who is considering a Kvik franchise themselves?

Ralph: Be prepared to work a lot. No, but it's that simple. You need to invest super many hours. You need to be dedicated. You need to really want this.

Mai: And to be there. 

Ralph: And to be there and you need to be also be a role model yourself. And use the organisation around Kvik. Yeah, use that. And also if possible, see if you can get into some of the stores, where we are working right now. For instance, visiting us in Hamburg and work here for a month or two.

Mai: Yes. Before they're starting. 

Julie: To try it out. Feel it for yourself.

Ralph: And also I would say it is not an easy thing to open up something like this because you are really...you have to rely on many different things and persons and products and...you need to invest a lot of hours.

Mai: Yeah, but you have a strong company behind you and also a really strong concept. So if you want to then it's also the right company. Yes it is. 

Julie: Then the possibilities are there.

Ralph: Try to get into the businesses of the different kinds of partners. Try to get under the skin of the company because that's the best way that you can get a feeling of is it something that I would like to do.

A chat with our German Country Manager

Julie: Not only does it have to be right from the franchisees' perspective, it has to be the right person for Kvik as well. We have the opportunity to speak to Christian Stolte, our Country Manager for Germany, about the growth plans for Germany and for what he's looking for in a franchisee.

Christian: It's fantastic because they they have all kinds of backgrounds, they they come from either the industry or from furniture industry or they they they they come from of some kind of really construction backgrounds.

We have two candidates in the loop right now. Both of them have earlier been carpenters, so they know the...

Julie: They'll know how to install the kitchen.

Christian: They they know how to solve it and and how to make it to fit. But sales is not on their on their list. The next two we are going to open in Bremen and one in Hannover and both of them are from the industry. So it's a wide range of people, but the most important is a background in retail and experience in leadership and all these things. But from my perspective and as I see it from today's perspective within the company, I think that mindset is the most important.

You can achieve whatever you want to if you just want it and if you just go for it. And if you have the right spirit. You can learn whatever you want to grow into it. And I think how our first franchisee in Germany is the best example ever for that.

Coming from a complete different background, but yeah, putting himself onto the chair and starting just to sell kitchens, getting so engaged with it and and and move this first store into high levels from the beginning and really like completely surprising levels. So fantastic.

Julie:  Just a note, we did this interview nearly a year ago and we have since opened two stores in Bremen, an additional store in Hamburg, as well as in Hannover and Paderborn.

Christian: Germany is a big market and has a huge, huge potential, with its 86 million inhabitants.  There is big competition within the kitchen industry, but I think many of them are offering pretty much all the same. It's like a bit more a classical approach. That's what they have always done. It's not like Kvik, being the challenger in a highly competitive market. We are, I think we are so different and offer something really different to the rest of the competition in the market.

Julie: Like really different design-wise or...

Christian: I think the Danish design is absolutely one of our core competences and one of our unique selling propositions to the market. Danish design is known by most of the customers here in Germany and especially in the north. But I think it's in, in the entire German market. And yes, Danish design is one of many unique selling propositions.

I would say the another one which we hear a lot of customers - surprisingly many customers - asking about is sustainability and what and how our products are done and built and how are they going to be recycled and what is recycled?

And so the entire part of sustainability is really taking off into the market. I would say maybe a bit slower than what it does in other markets in Europe. But when it takes pace it, it really takes pace and moves, moves quickly. So we hear a lot of customers asking specific questions about that.

Christian: And third, I would like to mention that the industry in Germany is not very transparent when it comes to price setting and and how they communicate pricing to the end consumer that is interested in buying kitchen. So us giving a very detailed offer to the customer where the customer can see all components..

Julie: Every single thing that they're getting.

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Location, location, location

Julie: The old adage says that the most important thing in business is location, location, location. We think that's true. And once we found the right franchisee, we don't just leave them on their own to find a great location. In fact, we're already looking for great locations even before we find the franchisee.

Christian: And then we need to see that that the franchisee at the one hand and the second part of this process is to find the right location, right, and the right location is and has to fulfill quite some conditions. It needs to be the right location in terms of size.

Needs to be the right location in terms of neighbourhood and where is it located and who are our neighbours? It needs to be the right location in terms of conditions, not at least we would definitely like to have a super nice and cooperative landlord to cooperate with. And then it is important for us as well that in the end in the contract fulfils our expectations or our needs and that the contract conditions make it for us possible to sign the contract. So there there has to come a lot together. So franchisee on one hand, location contract on the other hand and that needs to be joined and brought together during this process.

Julie: And you don't leave the franchisee alone to figure out that location. You're hand in hand choosing location and franchise franchisee simultaneously?

Christian: It's simultaneously or in parallel exactly as soon we have a clear indication on the franchisee network for a city. We start searching for possible locations and go into the first negotiations with the landlords and then at a certain point in time, we connect the franchisee candidate with the landlord and the location we are working on and get them to become one unit.

Apply now

We're currently looking for 16 franchisees in Germany. You can see all the locations on our website at kvik.de. We have franchise opportunities in more countries too. So check our website to learn more and see if there's one near you.

If you choose us as a franchise partner, we’re there for you every step of the way. We help you with everything from your business plan to getting contracts in place to running the back office for your store. Our store construction team has a beautiful, proven concept for your store, no matter the size, and they build it up for you quickly and efficiently. Our digital marketing means you’ll already have bookings the day your store opens. You’re your own boss, but you have a strong team supporting you. If that sounds like something you’d like to be a part of, just visit our website and fill out the form today. That’ll get things started. You’ll find a link to the form below. 

Thank you for listening!

This episode of The Sociable Kitchen® was produced by me, Julie Broberg, and sound engineer Magnus Vad. 

Special thanks to everyone who appeared in this episode - Ralph and Mai Nissen from Kvik Hamburg Altstadt and Christian Stolte, our Country Manager for Germany. 

Recordings were done at Kvik Hamburg Altstadt with help from Richard and Christian Lightbody. 

Featured in this episode

Ralph Nissen

Owner, Kvik Hamburg Altstadt

Mai Nissen

Owner, Kvik Hamburg Altstadt

Christian Stolte

Country Manager, Germany