The HUG will become the new standard in the world of infrared if it is up to brother and sister Behage
A dream. That's what Camilo Behage, wellness entrepreneur and lighting consultant in Drachten, had been walking around with for years. He looked for producers to make his wish come true. Without success. Then he decided to make his dream, developing 'infrared sauna HUG', come true himself.
By the end of this month, the first twenty-five HUGs will roll off the assembly line and be delivered to their buyers. The HUG is an innovative infrared chair for use at home or in hotels and vacation homes. It has been and still is an adventure for Arlen Behage, co-owner of HUG. Yet she is determined that within five years they will have conquered not only the Netherlands, but also Europe.
Infrared can be different
"The idea for this chair came from my brother Camilo. He had been working on infrared heaters for saunas for ten years. These all looked the same: enclosed cabins, straightforward. Whereas for the effect of the full-spectrum infrared radiation, it is not at all necessary to close off the room. He felt that the traditional design could be renewed, but the sauna market proved conservative. So he decided to do it himself and asked me if I would participate," Behage says. "I had to think about that for a while, not because I didn't believe in the concept, but I didn't necessarily see myself as a manifesto entrepreneur. Still, I went for it."
From ideas on paper to viable business
The duo began with two major decisions regarding their entrepreneurial adventure: they would not design the infrared chair themselves because there was a good chance they would fall into professional deformation AND they wanted funding. "My brother has several ventures, all self-financed. But in general, it takes a long time to build something without external financial impetus. That's why we immediately set out on a funding path. We took an awful lot of actions to finally actually get it done. We went to workshops, events and meetings, until we came into contact with Flinc. They guided us very well in making our company investor-ready. We had ideas on paper and an initial business plan, they helped us turn that into a viable registration with the Chamber of Commerce, with a loan in our pocket from Rabobank and the NOM."
Entrepreneurship is life in flux
February this year, brother and sister were able to present their first prototype at a celebratory event in Amsterdam.
This took more doing than the spectators realized: "It was exciting until the very last day whether the first HUG would arrive on time. An essential part of the design is the sustainable capsule, made from PET bottles.After a long search, we found a manufacturer in Belgium who could make it for us, but they had to have the mold made in Eastern Europe. And there it was quiet for a long, very long time. It worked out, but these are the exciting moments of this entrepreneurship. We depend on so many people and companies. By now things are running smoothly, but starting a business like this involves a lot of ups and downs. I sometimes call it life in flux. Everything has passed by in the last two and a half years in terms of emotions."
Siblings and business partners
Yet the tense moments do not put pressure on the relationship between the two entrepreneurs. Behage: "We did not go in unprepared. We know each other through and through, but had also already tasted business cooperation. That is very important: a business relationship is different from a private relationship. We also started a coaching program right at the beginning. That way we could get to know each other better, go through scenarios and make agreements about them. How do we deal with setbacks, but also: how do we deal with success? The lessons from that process still help us today. I would therefore recommend that to anyone if they want to start a business with someone else."
"Time is a debatable concept in entrepreneurial land"
Another piece of advice Behage likes to give to entrepreneurs looking to launch a new product: "Ask for advice. Gather people around you who are knowledgeable and listen to them. Talk about your ideas and also actively ask if they can help with anything. There is so much benevolence, but also so much knowledge available. I have really taken countless workshops, including through Flinc. The tendency is quickly to think that there is no time for it, but it actually saves time in the long run, because making a liquidity budget, for example, goes a lot better if you know what you are doing." Moreover, time turns out to be a debatable concept in entrepreneurial country, Behage believes. "Don't misjudge the time it takes to actually sell something. We had counted on a year's lead time, which turned into two and a half. We all read about super-fast launches, but often the preparation time is not taken into account and that is exactly what is essential."
The HUG as a concept in Europe
With the first sales as a feat, the Behages look to the future with confidence. "We want to enter Europe starting next year. We are now targeting individuals who have the money for this chair and are happy to pay for the relaxation and other health benefits of twenty minutes of infrared a day. In addition, hotels and vacation homes are an important target group for us. They can offer extra luxury to their guests. In five years our HUG will be a European household name, that's what we're going for."
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