Going it Alone, Together

Member Entrepreneur

30 Jan 2017, Fanny Siltberg

Going it Alone, Together

Have you ever heard the saying that if you want to start a company, don’t wait for the right time, just go for it? Two people who took those words to heart are Cate Högdahl and Nelson Ruiz-Acal. Continue reading to get to know the couple who met at university and went straight on to found an internationally successful design agency together.

It was during their final year as industrial design students in Madrid that Cate and Nelson noticed they complemented each other well when working on projects together. Straight after finishing their studies, they bought a small house in Sweden and spent the winter renovating it. Högdahl describes it as a “make or break” experience both as a couple and as design partners.

“It was a fantastic experience. Luckily we not only survived it, but started Cate & Nelson Design Studio as an outcome,” she tells The LINK.

Cate & Nelson is a multidisciplinary design studio working in a variety of sectors including furniture, lighting, product, interior and creative direction. With offices in Sweden, Spain and UK. Cate & Nelson create products and interiors to offer something over and above expectations. According to Cate Högdahl, the duo draw their inspiration from an ongoing design dialogue, and through observation of daily life situations and needs that arise from product requirements, materials and spaces they utilise.

When asked if mixing business with pleasure and starting a company with a friend or a partner makes things difficult, Högdahl describes how it isn’t so much the relationship that you have that matters, but how you communicate with each other.

“Nelson and I don’t really think that it makes a big difference if you are friends from the beginning or not, as long as you are able to have an open and honest dialogue between the two of you and work towards the same goals,” she says.

The house renovation took place in 2006 and after that, the company grew quickly.

“Our first goal was to work with most Swedish furniture manufacturers and be able to find our designs in various interiors. We then went on to open up an office in London and Spain and work on wider types of projects internationally,” Högdahl explains.

This would turn out to be an integral success factor for the company’s future, and Högdahl believes that they have gained a lot from using a continental approach from the outset.

“It makes us able to analyse each project from a wider spectrum. Our designs are distinguished by the studio’s broad range of skills, sustainability, honesty, high functionality and continental approach,” she explains.

Ten years after the company’s inception, the collaboration is still going strong and Cate & Nelson have exciting ventures in the pipeline. The LINK are proud to reveal the first sneak peek of the design duo’s latest project. This month, Cate & Nelson will launch a range of watches under their own brand, Cate & Nelson Watches. Högdahl explains that in developing the range, she and her partner spent a lot of time creating a Scandinavian integrity in the design.

“These are watches developed with the design aware customer in mind, and the Scandinavian feel is an important focal point. For example, the wristband is created by Tärnsjö Läder, which is an artisan leather tannery in Sweden,” she says.

The official launch will take place at Stockholm Design Week in February.

The experience of embarking on the journey to become entrepreneurs has been challenging at times, but very rewarding, according to Högdahl.

“Having worked with many different types of companies within different sectors you realise that design is a very good asset in any kind of company. Either if it´s a company targeting design aware customers or a company that at first sight might not be connected to design at all,” she explains.

These experiences have also allowed Cate & Nelson to realise where their strengths lie, and what it is that has kept them competitive for over a decade.

“ We would definitely say that by partnering up with us, you get a design studio that not only has a wide international network and access to different cultures, providers and resources. At the same time, you get the advantages of the detailed and personal relationship of a smaller company,” Högdahl tells The LINK.

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