Every year about three million Christmas trees are sold in Sweden and traditionally these are then thrown out during the twenty day period. Twin brothers Tomas and Mikael Ahlsén developed a tree bag for this, an innovation that allows you to clean out your tree, pine-free and environmentally friendly.
Mikael and Tomas are twin brothers and recount how, as children, they often wrestled and fought. Today they work better together and are the innovators behind the Barry bark bag.
Like my brother, I have a background in economics, and worked in Tallinn in the 1990s. I often wrote books and gave speeches at parties and gatherings. I was then told that I should stop working in "business" and focus on the creative side instead. Shortly afterwards, I applied for a job as a writer for a golf magazine in Holland," says Mikael. His experience in journalism took him further into the advertising industry where, after three years, he started his own business in 1999, an advertising agency called Vargen, which he ran for 10 years, and then as his own creative, copywriter and brand strategist.
"There were needles all over the stairwell"
In the early 2000s, Mikael moved into a fifth-floor apartment in Stockholm.
-"Christmas was over and I had to get the Christmas tree down to the garbage room. But there was no lift, so I had to carry the tree down myself. There were pine needles everywhere in the stairwell. I had to sweep it up for a long time," he laughs.
Michael realises he needs a big sack to solve the problem.
-I called Tomas and he also thought this is a problem we need to solve.
Six months later, Barry was out on the market.
Every year, about three million Christmas trees are sold in Sweden.
-"We realised that even though Barry is a seasonal product, the market is big and if we could sell 5% of it, we would be profitable. Now both Tomas and I have regular jobs and families in addition to Barry, but if we had invested everything, I think we could make a living.
"The best thing about Barry is the joy of the customers when they experience the bark bags for the first time"
When Mikael is out driving, he often carries Barry in his trunk.
-For fun, I sometimes drive around during Christmas and knock-on customers' doors for delivery. The best thing about Barry is the customers' joy when they experience the bark bags for the first time. When they get the product in their hands and feel the joy, then we've done something to help.
Barry is made of recyclable plastic
Mikael explains how Barry was unique from the start. But that today there are copies of the product, even though Barry sticks out with its recyclable plastic.
-It was important for us to choose a recyclable plastic. It doesn't break and its stretch factor makes it very durable. However, many people have a negative attitude towards plastic, but if we recycle it properly, it's an unbeatable material.
Initially, the idea was that they would pack all orders themselves.
-We imagined we could do this. You can't imagine how many we folded in our small premises in Uppsala. We finally decided to put the production in Tallinn, which was quite easy as I still have contacts there. Since moving production to Tallinn, the logistics have improved.
-Today it is much faster, and they can handle all the packages with their work routine. They send Barry to our warehouse in Stockholm where we then ship out to the customer.
Barry can be used all year round
Sales of the bark bags increase in October and then peak in December and January. But Mikael thinks Barry can be used all year round.
-Barry can be used when you're taking garden waste to the dump, or to protect your barbecue or motorcycle. The bag is also good for storing car tyres and bicycles. We've been looking at possibly developing a sibling to Barry, a bag for storing fragile items. Maybe that's something for the future.