‘How a chocolate museum visit made me reflect on what great company culture is’

SI Scholar Guranda Bursulaia shares her thoughts on how a chocolate museum visit made her re-consider the importance of a company’s culture and transparency.

‘How a chocolate museum visit made me reflect on what great company culture is’
Photo: Guranda Bursulaia, PhD student and SI scholar at Malmo University.

My first two months living in Sweden have been filled with eye-opening moments. In particular, visiting the Malmö Chocolate Museum has had a profound impact on me. It made me realise what it means to make a difference as a company.  

Malmö Chokladfabrik was established in 1888 by Danish entrepreneur Emil Nissen. He was a man with a long-term vision and innovative ideas. He employed around 200 people, mostly women and young girls. He was one of the first entrepreneurs establishing Day Care Centers for his employees’ children so that women could work and be financially independent. Thanks to the Nissen’s expertise and wisdom, the factory was never shut down. Even during World Wars and economic crises. Thus, no one ever lost their job.

This story made me reflect on the hierarchy in companies. For me, Emil Nissen’s attitude guarantees stability and security for a worker. This approach is a perfect example of a great company culture: it’s about building a successful business and celebrate its results together. This team spirit and loyalty shown by the whole company is an inspiration for me.

In 1890, the company was called Mazetti. One of their most successful product was cocoa powder. Shopkeepers selling the cocoa powder had to fill in a box with significant amount of it. Except, cocoa powder is very light.  That is why they decided to earn more money by cheating and mixing cocoa powder with coffee beans, for example, to make it heavier.

Customers, used to the delicious taste of cocoa, noticed the fraud and started to complain about the powder and the Chocolate Factory in general. Emil, unaware of the scam, received many letters from disappointed customers. From then on, he would sell an already sealed package with cocoa powder which he would name “Ögonkakao” with an image on the packaging showing watchful eyes. The company’s trademark, the watchful eyes, is still widely recognised nowadays.

As a customer, I often feel duped. I come from a place where people are experts in bargaining. But I am not and just decided to put up with and it and often pay extra money. But this reaction from Mazetti makes me feel that customers’ opinions should be valued. You would probably argue that nowadays, businesses try to fulfil the needs and interests of the client in order to keep them.

But here is the difference: in the first case, it is about being fair and honest to customers, whereas in the second case it is about finding what makes people want to spend their money. While I do not judge this way of making business, I support and appreciate companies which value customers’ opinions. As a customer, I need to know if I can trust a brand. But I can only do it if the company is transparent in its communication.

This museum itself is a time machine taking you throughout the whole century. It brings forward a representation of ideal entrepreneurship: responsible, innovative, sustainable, respectful, thoughtful and qualitative. And the slogan of the factory “If we can dream it, we can do it!” has stayed on my mind ever since.


Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

Ronoh Philip, who is studying for his masters degree in Infectious Disease Control at Södertörn University, explains why he thinks the Swedish concept of 'lagom' is the best way to achieve good social health.

Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

During my one week orientation program on August 2019 at Södertörn University, we were presented with many aspects of Swedish culture and practices. One of the new aspects that I learnt was the “lagom culture”, As I quote one of the presenters about applying lagom to our studies, he said: ”Lagom will reduce your stressful burdens of hectic lecture schedules and ensure that you spend equal time of working and socializing in the university.”

So being a student with a background in public health and society, I got interested and searched for the deeper meaning of lagom, and how it can  apply to society and health. I found out that it is a Swedish way of life, it is a concept which means not too much and not too little, just enough. I learnt that it came from a Viking tradition laget om which means 'around the group' and was allegedly used to describe just how much mead or soup one should drink when passing the bowl around in the group.

If this concept is applied to achieve social health goals, it would really fit well. So, what is social health at first? Social health is how you interact with other people and adapt in different situations, it deals with how people in society deal with each other. It is important to note that there is a close link between good social health and improvement of the other aspects of human health, this can lead to the achievement of SDG goal of good health and wellbeing. It also leads to self-satisfaction and happiness; no wonder Sweden is ranked as one the happiest countries in the world. It is ranked 7th in 2019, according to world happiness report. I believe lagom has a big role in this achievement.

In the country where I come from, Kenya, one of the greatest challenges we face in our society, is the ability for people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds to interact and form positive and cohesive relationships with each other. From my perspective, when I finish my studies and return, lagom will be worth implementing in the workplace, the place where I live and the society as whole, as it is the best way of finding simple, attainable solutions to our everyday worries like stress, eating better, having downtime and achieving happiness. It’s a balance of work and life, so everything is in sustainable existence with each other.

My goal during my entire university studies at Södertörn, will be to learn more about the lagom principle and also be able to apply it on our SI NFGL Local Network platform, because it is surely one of the best ways to achieve a good  work-life balance, reaching consensus with my colleagues and adapting a team minded approach in dealing with issues in an organization and the society.