There are many opportunities for Norwegian companies and entrepreneurs in Thailand. Of course, taking advantage of these isn’t as simple as showing up.
For fine jewellery manufacturer Felicia Design, it required resiliency, a willingness to adapt, staying positive and getting involved with local organisations. Last year saw Felicia Design celebrate its 25th anniversary. The silver celebration was a joyous time for the company. It also provided Founder and Managing Director Ms Vibeke Lyssand Leirvåg with a chance to look back at the journey required to reach this milestone. “I am proud to have reached our 25th anniversary. But you can’t reach this milestone on your own. My team has had an important role and we couldn’t have done it without their commitment and dedication,” Ms Leirvåg says. “We must thank our customers who we have built relationships and partnerships with over the years as well.”
The company has also faced its fair share of challenges during the past 25 years with the most recent being the COVID-19 pandemic. Overcoming these obstacles was vital to Felicia Design not only surviving but finding success. “Being an entrepreneur and having made it to our silver anniversary, it is in our DNA to be resilient. Felicia Design has survived every crisis,” Ms Leirvåg explains. “To succeed, one needs to face these challenges and be reactive. Being reactive has been very important during the COVID-19 pandemic. Decisions must be made fast and taking calculated risks is part of that.” She adds that navigating challenges in Thailand was not done alone. Local organisations, such as the ThaiNorwegian Chamber of Commerce, have been a valuable source of knowledge and information for the company.
“I’ve been involved with the Thai Norwegian Chamber of Commerce since 1996. It has proved to be a vital resource over the years. The organisation provided me with opportunities to get advice from larger corporations when I couldn’t afford to have an HR department to do the research for me,” Ms Leirvåg notes. “I have always been able to receive help when I needed it. This is particularly valuable in a country where the language and policies are quite different from Norway.” In addition to being resilient, there are other characteristics that are needed to make it. Having the right mindset will help, especially for entrepreneurs and SMEs who aren’t likely to have massive backing. “When you’re an entrepreneur, you need to stay positive and keep that mindset. You have to understand that you never fail because there is always something to be learned from your experiences,” Ms Leirvåg points out. “SMEs shouldn’t be too proud, either. It is okay to ask people for help or advice.”
Ethical and Sustainable Development
In recent times, Felicia Design has looked for opportunities to pursue ethical and sustainable development, even becoming a member of the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC). While it can be easy for smaller companies to think its efforts won’t contribute to change, Ms Leirvåg believes all action is positive. “Many SMEs fall into the trap of thinking their actions can’t make a difference. That’s not true. Small steps do make a difference,” she explains. “For SMEs, it is sometimes difficult to embrace sustainable production because of that mindset. For us, we didn’t want to simply talk the talk, but we needed to walk the walk.” In this case, walking the walk meant applying for membership with RJC, the world’s leading standard-setting organisation for the jewellery and watch industry. Founded in 2005, it focuses on achieving the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals by emphasising business ethics and responsible supply chains.
“Joining a bigger organisation, like RJC, shows we are committed to sustainable production. Their global standards of sustainable production are goals we want to work towards even if we can’t accomplish them all today. Being a part of the RJC family means we belong to a large partnership and together we will build a sustainable future for our industry,” Ms Leirvåg states. She continues, “Today, we know we can’t produce jewellery made from 100 percent recycled materials and responsibly sourced gems. It’s just not feasible. But we can do as much as possible to get there. This also includes future plans to incorporate more sustainable efforts into our operations, such as using solar power, to make it greener and find ways to reduce the use of plastic in our operation.”
As a Norwegian company, Felicia Design has always held Norwegian values when it comes to both sustainability and ethics. Being in Thailand means the latter can be difficult. However, the jewellery manufacturer didn’t let that deter it from taking action. It recently joined the Thailand Private Sector Collective Action Against Corruption (CAC), a leading platform fighting graft in the country. “We joined the Thai CAC to demonstrate to our clients and the world that is it possible to operate a business in a transparent and clean manner. Joining also improves foreign perceptions of this country and shows our staff that we practice what we preach,” Ms Leirvåg says. “We have been able to reinforce the anti-corruption message to our employees as many of them attended Thai CAC training courses and learned the CAC principles. The tailored CAC training helped our staff have a better understanding of the reasons behind some of our policies.” While Felicia Design has always been committed to anti-corruption, it wasn’t able to join the Thai CAC until the organisation launched a certification for SMEs. The benefits have been far reaching for the company. “Engagement with the Thai CAC helps to strengthen policies and internal controls specifically in Thailand, providing assurance that Thai management and staff have been trained and are taking ownership in the fight against corruption,” Ms Leirvåg details. “Through the CAC SME program, we feel like we have a voice and can make a difference.”
From Silver to Gold
Felicia Design may have only recently celebrated its silver anniversary, but the company is looking towards the future and, eventually, a golden anniversary. Up next for the firm is its move to new facilities and bringing all production in-house. “We are moving from a 1,500 square metre facility to a 6,000 square metre one. This gives us more space and ensures we can now do everything inhouse and give us the opportunity for growth,” Ms Leirvåg reports. “The move provides us with opportunities to further improve our OEM services, branch into new innovative ways of production, build a new luxury manufacturing section and be true to our slogan ‘Emotion through Innovation’.”
Adaptability has been important for the company on its journey. The focus of Felicia Design has changed since starting operations 25-years ago as the manufacturer has learned more about what it does best. “Our company has had a lot of chapters over the years. Since 2015, we have been 100 percent focused on being an original equipment manufacturer (OEM). This was done so the company could focus on what it was best at,” Ms Leirvåg states. “That has presented us with new challenges as well. Most notably, being able to produce the same manmade piece repeatedly.” Having new facilities and additional space allows Felicia Design to solve that challenge. There is also an opportunity to further its training capabilities, including further development and improvement of practical goldsmith skills for employees, digital skills and offering language courses.
“Giving back is something we are committed to doing. We are setting up a training centre to upskill and reskill employees. It is important to add value to the employee experience,” Ms Leirvåg explains. “Giving back to society through education is another area we have and will continue to invest in. For example, we are working with the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Thailand and its Education & Skill Committee on a pilot project that focuses on teaching STEM science to children through practical experiments.”
From a market standpoint, Ms Leirvåg admits the jewellery industry is changing, and this will likely shape the company’s future. “Consumer habits are evolving. It used to be that a person would buy jewellery for someone as a gift. This usually meant the person purchasing it was focused on the size of the gem or the materials. Now, people buy jewellery for themselves and care more about design. We must be able to respond to this trend,” Ms Leirvåg concludes.
- Felicia Design celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2021
- The company is a member of the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) and the Thailand Private Sector Collective Action against Corruption (CAC)
- Felicia Design is currently moving into a new 6,000 square metre facility
- In 2015, the company began focusing entirely on being an original equipment manufacturer of jewellery
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