From setbacks with the HUG, brother and sister Behage have only grown more confident

The world already looks very different for HUGseat from Drachten in 2018. What can change in just two years, brother and sister Behage now know better than anyone else. Their "sleek, tough and sexy" HUGseat has gained a lot of dimensions, because after the launch full of hope and optimism, there was a roller coaster of market bumps, emotion, illness, uncertainty and finally a new shining perspective. Mentally, it was an ordeal, observes Arlen Twaalfhoven-Behage.

She adds that it was different for her brother Camilo Behage. ''He knows the ropes, because he has several companies. For me, it was the first time I experienced something like this,'' Arlen Twaalfhoven observes. It's a tick when the beautifully styled HUGseat - 'the coolest infrared sauna for 1 person on 1m2' - elicits compliments everywhere but leads to only a minuscule order list. To make matters worse, she also ended up in the hospital at the time of the launch and was out of action for several months. ,,That was quite a blow: out of circulation for a long time and then all of a sudden I see that even without me it just goes on.''

Quick and honest conversation

But experiences, however blunt and cruel, lead to new insights and sometimes to more stable characters. At least that is Arlen Twaalfhoven's experience. One of the most important lessons learned she knows immediately: , "Camilo and I entered the conversation quickly and honestly. What now, we asked ourselves. And then we went full steam ahead.''

And now she knows: ''I have become so much more confident through all the complications.'' She lists: hospital, surgery, family with two children and a husband, and then the HUGseat. Arlen Twaalfhoven: ''It was pure bad luck physically. But I had to think about myself and I learned to focus then.'' The world now looks different again. The HUGseat is experiencing a second birth: a lot cheaper, still sustainable and made of top materials. Completely in line with their enthusiasm to bring a beautiful and innovative product to the market.

Not a stuffy loft, but design

Let's go back to the beginning for a moment. It's 2017. Camilo Behage, former basketball player, is moving into two areas as an entrepreneur: lighting and infrared wellness. The infrared sauna has been a predictable product for years: an enclosed cabin modelled on the Finnish sauna, a design factor near zero, and ease of use is not much better. Arlen Twaalfhoven: ,,I knew Camilo's urge to make something beautiful out of it. At one point he asked me to work together.''

The HUGseat can be installed in twenty minutes and one press of a button, just sit. The cuddly seat with full-spectrum (short and long wave) infrared emitters in the face and back is initially garnering praise everywhere: durable, design, no stuffy cubicle, can be placed anywhere. HUGseat is the world's first designer infrared cabin for one person. The product is right, Camilo and Arlen soon know. The final design receives funding from Rabobank and NOM.

Infrared cabin too pricey

The duo focuses primarily on the business market, with the private individual still in the back of their minds. Dealers, vacation parks and hotels are visited. Nothing but praise but almost everywhere the cabin is still seen as too pricey. At 6250 euros, the price is too high. Arlen Twaalfhoven: ,,Whew, that was a bit of a swallow. But we picked it up quickly. In the existing process, we could barely get cheaper. So we sorted everything out.''

The parts of the HUGseat are not produced in Drachten, they come from elsewhere and are assembled in Drachten. They manage to tinker with the manufacturing process. This is quite difficult, because the infrared seat consists of high-quality material. Arlen Twaalfhoven: ,,We are in a certain way in life, our products are part of a way of life. We carry that out as well.''

Price should be under 4000 euros

The new price is a good twenty percent lower: 4895 euros. Arlen Twaalfhoven: ,,We are very happy with it, the companies are also enthusiastic and yet we regularly hear: call back. While we want to go. They focus on hotels. ''That's where we think there are great opportunities,'' Arlen says, ''because not everyone likes to go to the big sauna in a hotel.''

HUGseat begins open days and becomes visible online. It seems to be working. Some HUGs are sold, requests for quotes are coming in. Interest is good, but sales don't really take off. ''You don't immediately know what the reason is. We do notice that many parties do want to do business with us in the long run. We talk to a lot of parties. And gradually the idea is emerging that 4800 euros is a barrier. We have to go below 4000 euros.

Russian brothers know an address

They are looking in Bangladesh and Africa to see if it can be produced cheaper there. ''That's a pretty tricky route,'' she notes in retrospect. ,,Everyone wants a better world, but not at any cost. The materials used there do not meet our requirements. My farmer and I both firmly believe in the HUG, but in our way: sustainable and high-quality.''

Brother and sister also cross the border and come into contact in Germany with two Russian brothers, customers of Xiomara infrared radiators, also a company of Camilo Behage. They give them an address in Russia where the HUG could also be made. They can hardly believe it. Without making any concessions, they can now offer the HUG for 3895 euros. And that is almost 40 percent lower than when it was launched two years ago.

If you can't win home game already....

Arlen Twaalfhoven: ,,But the money is fairly depleted. That's why we are knocking on NOM's door once again.'' And at the same time, contact has been made with the ExportCarrousel, a student-staffed export assistance service. Eyes are set on Sweden and especially Germany. Arlen Twaalfhoven: ''We have thought about going abroad before, but yes, if you can't win a home game already...''

All signs are now green for HUGseat. ''Still, I'm a little more cautious,'' Twaalfhoven says. ''My gut feeling says that the prize is going to catch on. But is that really the case? At the same time, Germany is a very different market than the Netherlands. Yes, the market is bigger and there is a larger group of rich people. It's not just about rich people. It's mainly about people who want nice things and care about health. Our material is tiptop and that is looked at keenly in Germany.''

Through experiences now alert

And by all experience, she is alert. ,,I am on immediately, at any signal. The alertness is great. Immediately it goes through my head: what is possible and what is not. No, it's not insecurity. I am more confident than ever before.''

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