When Lina Andersson, the founder and CEO of Once Upon, realized that she didn’t have one single printed photo of her daughter, she decided to build an easy to use photo book app to solve her problem. The existing photo book services were too complicated, she wanted a simple and smooth app with a beautiful result. In 2016 the Once Upon-story started.
Based in northern Sweden, in the town of Skellefteå, the company is growing rapidly and reaching global markets. Through collaboration with six local printing houses they now have customers in Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany – but also in the US and Australia.
– It’s so meaningful to be able to help people to tell their stories. Mostly it’s happy memories, but also other kinds of moments in life. We think it’s important to tell these stories too, and it means a lot to us to be a part of that and being able to support people, says Lina Andersson, founder and CEO.
As an engineer with focus on ergonomic design, Lina Andersson has her background as a project manager for consumer goods with different companies.
– About ten years ago I switched to digital products and since I started Once Upon I have the luxury to work with both. I’ve worked for Sony Ericsson, Volvo and OBH Nordica. This gave me a deep understanding of production, supply chains and processes, as well as working with product range and marketing. Not to mention product development, says Lina Andersson.
What motivates you in building your company?
– My curiosity is the core of my motivation. Discovering what I don’t know – yet. Devoting oneself to learning new things. I also think it’s important to know your ”why”. I work continuously on knowing our ”why” in everything we do. This provides greater meaning and motivation for everyone.
This past summer Once Upon released a desktop version of their service, something many customers had asked for. This makes Once Upon the world’s first seamless service for creating photo books.
– Once Upon is so easy to use. With our new platform you can work seamlessly between devices. It allows you to start a project on your phone on the way home from work on the bus. And if you want you can continue with your book on your desktop, picking out photos on a big screen. And then you can lay down on the couch with your tablet for the last touches. Maybe add captions, preview and order your book. Or the other way around, says Lina Andersson.
Once Upon has grown, especially in the last two years. A majority of the team of over 50 people is based in Skellefteå. With a People and Culture-team both existing and new members on the team are supported. There’s a strong focus on onboarding and a structure with defined responsibilities, in order to grow in a sustainable way.
– We’re continuing to work on a variety of product updates and features that I’m sure will be appreciated by our customers. But more importantly, over time I think we’ll more and more define who we are as a brand. This will be noticeable in everything we do and I’m so curious where it’ll take us, says Lina Andersson.
A goal is to reach net zero emissions in ten years. Therefore they’ve done detailed calculations of their carbon footprint throughout the value chain and dived into production to see what needs to change there.
– Our focus on sustainability is driven by our whole team. Going forward we’re looking at how we can implement changes in our everyday work. As an example, last year we removed the plastic packaging around the books – saving 3 tons CO2 per year. This also resulted in our print partners removing plastic on deliveries for other companies as well. We just love when improvements we’re doing are picked up by other companies as well, says Lina Andersson.
Five years in, she describes that learning new things is the most rewarding part of building a company. As Once Upon grows quickly there’s endless opportunities for deepening her and the team’s knowledge.
– At the same time this is the greatest challenge. Understanding where we should focus in order to move forward in the best way. Knowing what I know now I would have tried and experimented more in the beginning. I can’t stress enough how important this is. Sometimes you’ll make mistakes along the way, but that’s part of the process, says Lina Andersson.
Experience Once Upon here.