In 1950, at Ekeremma Farm in Ljungsarp, Åke Johansson responds to an advert in the paper from Messrs Malmström & Co., the company which first introduced moccasins to Sweden. It reads, “we’ll pay you to knit our socks!”.
Åke takes on so much knitting production that there is not enough room in the family home for all of the new knitting machines and employees, which means that a number of ‘home knitters’ have to be employed. Åke manages with just 25 m² for winding, knitting, packing of finished products and administration during the first 8 years of the business.
At the end of 1951 competition is fierce. Moccasins are the height of fashion and with 10 or 12 manufacturers in Sweden alone, Åke starts a major project developing several new moccasin styles. He knows from experience that that the only thing that will make his business succeed is marketing and sales, so he puts a notice in The Gothenburg Post advertising his moccasins. Having received replies from three large shoe retailers, he does the only sensible thing. On the morning of June 17th 1952, he gets on his bike and sets off to negotiate a reduction in price of the moccasin soles. At the same time, he offers his products to some local retailers. Whilst on the road, he continues on to Gothenburg to visit the three shoe retailers that responded to his notice. After a couple of successful days he cycles the 120 km back to Ljungsarp, with a briefcase full of new orders.
After some initial teething problems where suppliers sometimes struggle to keep up with demand, the company is working hard to find loyal suppliers of, for example, moccasin soles. Åke knows not to brake whilst going uphill, and he secures a very important new customer in Åhlen & Holm AB.
Substantial business development and sales efforts are under way. Åke is working hard with new knitting machines and new premises. In 1955 he buys a car, a Volvo Duett, to make business trips easier. In 1958 a new factory opens its doors for the first time. Knitting and sole manufacture is to be done here, which helps in keeping up with customer demand.
Saving the business
During the mid 50′s competition was still fierce. Sales of moccasins to bulk distributors slowed, which is why at this point the company focused increasingly on shoe retailers. This proved to be a very good decision; indeed, it probably saved the business. By the 1960′s the company was the largest manufacturer of moccasins in Sweden, with only two or three others left standing.
Watch out for the Indians
In 1968 the business is sold to Åke’s three siblings, who carry it on. Two years later, in 1970 it becomes “Nowali”. The name comes from an Indian girl in the song, “Watch out for the Indians”, by the singer Gunnar Wiklund. Moccasins originate from the leather shoes that Native Americans used to make, hence the company is suitably named after a Native American girl.
Nowali of Sweden today
A great deal has happened since then. New owners, new premises and an extended range, together with the core product; the moccasin, have carried the company forward. One thing however that has remained the same through the years is the awareness that good quality together with good customer relations always wins in the long run. We will never compromise on quality and to this day, we still make our moccasins at our factory in Sweden and they are still stitched by hand.