My Swedish Career

‘I wanted to do something different from everyone else’

'I wanted to do something different from everyone else'
Jonathan with his family in Stockholm. Photo: Malin Mörner
Jonathan Boutin moved to Sweden at the age of 20, and over a decade later his adventure has taken him across the country and through different jobs. He tells The Local how he went from a car parts factory to setting up a vegan bakery.

“I had no goals or plans but wanted to do something different from everyone else,” says the Canadian expat, who was first drawn to Sweden by his girlfriend at the time. “After a few years of going back and forth between Sweden and Montreal, I realized it would be cheaper just to move here.”

Boutin arrived in Småland in the south of the country with no knowledge of Swedish and no idea what he wanted to do. His girlfriend’s family helped him find a job in a factory, preparing car parts for delivery, where the Montreal native picked up the language by listening to his colleagues.

“It took about six months for me to start understanding them, and then I began asking questions,” says Boutin. “After about a year I could converse.”

He adds that the language is the biggest hurdle for expats trying to integrate, but that if you make the effort, “you can assimilate, and it’s extra special because you still have your own culture and stick out, but you’re also part of a group”.

In fact, after 18 months at the hubcap factory, Boutin applied for a sales position in a mall, working entirely in Swedish, and later becoming a store manager. “I found that I had a knack for sales, and because I had a bit of an accent, it made it a little more interesting!”

Over the next few years, Boutin moved around Sweden in various sales and management roles, eventually joining a company specializing in online scheduling software. The company grew from five to 50 employees in five years, and Boutin travelled across Europe in his roles first in Business Development and later as International Marketing Director. “I liked it because it was the future, and it was needed,” he says.

p { margin-bottom: 0.25cm; line-height: 120%; }a:link { }
His current job fills another niche, but this time he is working with “the future of food” – Gott by Malin, a bakery providing cakes which are vegan, gluten- and lactose-free. The company was actually the brainchild of his current Swedish partner, Malin Hernström, a personal trainer.

Many of Hernström's customers would ask if they could go for fika straight after their training sessions, and she became increasingly frustrated at the lack of alternatives to the traditional sugar-laden Swedish cakes. Taking inspiration from the raw food movement sweeping across Canada, the US and Australia, she began making raw food balls to sell to her clients.

One of the cakes. Photo: Private

“Then her colleagues' customers started ordering them, and I used my network to do research, and discovered that there was a definite need for an ‘alternative fika’,” explains Boutin. “At the end of 2013, I decided I was going to focus on this.”

He left his Marketing Director role and set about building a kitchen for the raw food bakery from scratch, applying his sales experience to a new product.

The couple had big ambitions from the start. “We built it as a volume business to cater to large orders – so we needed customers. We knew that meant it would be tough in the beginning and the first year was very difficult,” says Boutin. “When we started, I knew I could sell but had no idea in what direction we would go. Now we know our strengths and what to do, but we made mistakes and tried to do everything at once.”

Six months into their bakery business, a new challenge came along – the couple had their son, Jack Sven. Although this meant Malin was unable to work for several months, the baby also gave the couple motivation to persevere with their goal.

“We want to do our bit to make the world a better place for him to grow up in,” says Boutin. “From the start we noticed there was a huge potential. Vegan or raw food can sound boring, people imagine grass-like clumps of pure nutrition, so our focus has always been on making it taste good but also look good – it just doesn't have a bunch of crap in it!”

The bakery started out with one regular customer ordering 20 raw food balls each month, but grew quickly; the last few months have involved a lot of investments in new kitchen equipment to increase productivity and meet the demand for the alternative fika. Swedish department store NK was the bakery’s first big name customer, but clients now include household names in Stockholm such as Urban Deli, Johan&Nyström, Paradiset and Scandic Hotels.

Jonathan, Malin and Jack. Photo: Malin Mörner

“We wanted to make a bakery instead of just a healthy cafe, because there are already a few of those and we wanted these alternatives to be more spread out, to be available anywhere – at regular cafes and not just 'health cafes' – so that people always have that choice,” says Boutin.

Although Gott by Malin has grown, the couple still own 100 percent of the company and Malin approves each recipe personally.

They also take care to balance the demands of the business with their family life. “We have clear guidelines on who does what, and we turn everything off after a certain time every day. We don’t talk about work at the weekends.”

As well as supplying to cafes, the bakery draws in a lot of private orders, including birthday cakes for children. “These orders make me really happy, it shows that other parents also have the same vision for the future,” says Boutin, adding that Jack will be getting a Gott by Malin cake for his second birthday.

Photo: Private

Boutin explains that in his first years in Sweden, he moved between cities and jobs “because I always got bored and needed something new.” But he has grown fond of his adopted country and says: “My roots are in Montreal, but my home and life are in Sweden. The standard of living kept me here, and now I have a family, it's the best place to be.”

The only things he misses about Canada? “My family – and proper hockey!”