Anne Trads Juel Sauerberg has an impressive entrepreneurial history in Singapore. We ask her how it all started and what she’s doing today as the Norbreeze founder – which includes the gorgeous August Berg watches.
Where are your roots and how did you end up living in Singapore?
I’m from a small city in Denmark named Silkeborg. It’s a beautiful place known for its lakes and forests, where we spent summers walking in nature and swimming. I’m the daughter of a self employed brick mason and I always dreamt of living overseas and experiencing different cultures. At 16, I took a holiday job in Switzerland; then, when I was 18, I spent a year in the US.
I returned to Silkeborg but soon moved to Copenhagen where I joined nursing school, aiming to become a child physiotherapist. But I stopped after a year to go back to my creative passion and study jewellery design and craftsmanship.
When I had the opportunity to visit my boyfriend (now husband) in Singapore, I went to all the art and design schools here to find the right one to apply for. I got accepted to Lasalle – then I packed up my things in Copenhagen and told my family I’d decided to study in Singapore!
Today, I’m married to my Danish husband and business partner, and I’m a mother to Mille Marie (10) and Carl August (12).
Tell us about your business background.
After I graduated from Lasalle in Design Communication, Singapore was suffering from a SARS outbreak, and it was a challenge for many businesses. Batey Ads, the design agency where I was interning, wasn’t able to take me on full-time. I was on a student pass and couldn’t stay without a job so I had to think fast and innovate!
I had become a member of the first women’s association of the time, PrimeTime, where I’d met and learnt from strong women who had set up their small businesses, so I thought that’s what I’ll do! While studying, I had been selling my art paintings to earn a little extra money, and with that experience as well as my graphic and design experience from school, I founded my first company, Trads Creative – that got me my Employment Pass.
In 2004, I co-founded my second company with my partner. Known today as Norbreeze Group, it was created out of a passion for bringing high-quality, accessible Danish design to Asia. Skagen Watches was the first brand we brought in; later came Pandora and Bering. We ventured into European brands, too, launching Cath Kidston, Monica Vinader, Olivia Burton and Joe & The Juice in the region. After several years, I decided to close Trads Creative and officially join the Norbreeze Group.
What’s your role at Norbreeze now?
I’m the Chief Creative Officer and I run the company together with my partner. My day-to-day work is brand strategy – launching new brands and products under our group.
In 2019, we started our first very own Norbreeze brand, August Berg, and I’m currently involved with launching this unique brand globally. It’s a Danish modern vintage watch brand that’s changing the world, one watch at a time. For every August Berg watch sold, we give a child in Africa six months of education. With every 20,000 watches sold, we build a school for then; the Danish charity organisation Human Practice Foundation is our social responsibility partner.
August Berg is close to my heart as it’s all about doing good and building a better future for the next generation, while applying expertise gathered from the watch industry over many years. It’s a brand that focuses on inner values, the power of slowing down, being present and appreciating that time is a gift! As a working mother and daughter living abroad, this resonates with me now more than ever.
How have you had to adjust over the past two years?
Oh, where to start!? Firstly, I’m not someone who gracefully mastered the work-from-home-with-kids-around situation. (A salute to the amazing mums who just rock that way of working!) I get easily distracted and need lots of alone time in my day, so after trying and failing greatly, I felt that something had to change. So I decided to get up at 5am each day. That way, I get one hour to do yoga, meditation and journaling! It has made a huge difference in my life as I truly feel I’m given an extra hour in my day; by the time I wake the kids, I’m already fuelled up and prepared. It makes me a better person to myself as well as the people I love.
Any big goals this year?
Yes, every year and every month I have a goal! By the end of 2022, I want to start the building of our August Berg school in Mount Kenya. I also want to complete my Jewellery Diploma at JDMIS (Jewellery Design & Management International School) and learn to speak the level of French I had in school.
What do you love about doing business in Singapore?
The “can do” attitude, the fast pace and the support. There’s a feeling of sisterhood here; I have the luxury of meeting so many innovate, inspiring and motivating businesswomen, and I’ve always felt at home in Singapore, experiencing support and motivation as a start-up.
In the beginning, in my mid-twenties, when no one believed in our vision for Skagen or Pandora in Asia, it was difficult; but hard work, a good ethical way of doing business and a humble attitude always pays off in the long run. And Singapore has always found a way to adapt and make it possible for us and other SMEs to innovate and push through the tough times.
Any other countries you love to work in, or go to for a holiday?
I really love working in Vietnam where we have our Norbreeze office handling Pandora Indochina, but Singapore is 100 percent my base and my home. Whenever possible, I go back to our holiday home in Denmark to reconnect with my roots and enjoy the seasons; it’s a 45-minute drive from Copenhagen and five minutes from the ocean. I also get excited to go to the spiritual parts of Bali.
I’m very simple and loyal when I travel, and I generally prefer to go to places where I know the people and they know me. It gives me a sense of coming home, I suppose.
This article first appeared in the July 2022 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!