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Inside Bridge i Kista:

The place where entrepreneurs grow

Kelly Sempangi is the nanny who dared to switch to clothing design thanks to "Bridge", an innovative showroom where local entrepreneurs can develop and showcase their products.
“It’s a huge opportunity to be able to show your products in a forum where entrepreneurship is seen as a force for change and where people can have the opportunity to start their own business under equal conditions,” says Kelly.

It's an early December morning when a waiting Kelly Sempangi unlocks the door to Bridge, a shopfront that looks like a regular store but holds so much more. As the name suggests, the initiative is about bridging barriers: geographical, socio-economic and cultural.

“We are very nervous and not used to media attention,” says Kelly and waves The Kloud's reporting team to her colleagues waiting in the room. Four just-as-nervous female entrepreneurs who, thanks to their promising products, earned a place here at Bridge.

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In addition to Kelly and her brand "Sempangi Collection" – which transforms waxed cotton fabrics from various African countries into Western fashion products – there is Nancy Abdu who, with "Top Style Sweden", provides Järva with gold-plated jewelery suitable for every day as well as parties.

Tava Barivan, a dental student with a passion for chemistry and biology has developed a night cream that repairs the skin barrier using shea butter as its main ingredient, neatly packaged under the “La Nouvelle Moi” brand.

Entrepreneur number three, Azadeh Hosseini Akram, has managed to land two brands at Bridge. "Long wear design", which offers full-length garments for all seasons, as well as the massage studio "Concrete therapy", where she uses her skills as a trained nurse.

And last but not least is "FÄRG". Since 2022, this makeup brand has been owned by the influencer Aysha Jones, whose mission is to challenge and improve the fashion and beauty industry. Aysha has won several awards for her work and she also founded the Swedish branch of human rights movement Black Lives Matter in 2020.

“Aysha was unfortunately unavailable so I am representing the brand today,” says makeup artist Milica Zivkovic.

“What sets us apart as a makeup brand is that we love to teach our customers how to use the products in the best way. And we work hard to be able to offer a range that suits all budgets and skin types. We also offer short makeup courses, high-level intensive training courses and several inspiration courses per year for our stockist´s and industry professionals.

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It is important that locality and inner city meet

We are invited into a conference room where Amir Sebdani joins us after a stressful morning with his toddler. Bridge is one of the projects of BLING Startup, where Amir works as a project manager. He says that Bridge was founded in Järva by Deqa Abukar and Adnan Yousuf with the aim to establish structures that they felt were lacking for local entrepreneurs.

“We believe and hope that Bridge manifests everything that should exist but doesn’t – a platform to do the kind of business that local entrepreneurs are structurally prevented from doing. The meeting between the locality and the inner city is an important piece of the puzzle in the business. The inner city is about capital and resources, while the local town has enormous potential and competence. By enabling meetings, we hope to be able to connect them.”

Another purpose of Bridge is to make local people aware of entrepreneurship.

“Since Kista Galleria is a hub in the Järva region, with a high level of foot traffic, the local entrepreneurs who are showcased also become role models and pave the way for the next generation.”

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Focus on the entrepreneur, not the company

When asked what the entrepreneurs get help with at Bridge, all five answer in unison: "everything".

“At first it was about us being pushed to even dare to invest in our ideas. During the journey we have received everything from practical help with registering the company to advice on how to deal with customers, and thinking about innovation and marketing,” says Kelly.

“Exactly! Here the focus is on building us up, as entrepreneurs, rather than focusing on the companies. Many incubators focus on building ideas and businesses. But if the company fails, what happens to us?” Azadeh adds.

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"Considering the journey Kista as a district has started, there are enormous opportunities for innovative thinking about how to conduct retail trade."

A desire to renew retail trade

It is clear that the entrepreneurs are happy with the level of support and are very grateful for the chance they have been given. But the future seems more uncertain. At Bridge, you get a seat until you are ready to fly. So, what's the next step for those who are ready to leave the nest?

“I tend to call myself the veteran of the bunch because I've been here since May 2021. Actually, I'm ready to stand on my own two feet, but am not able to pay market rent, not yet. A middle step is needed, preferably here in Kista,” says Nancy Abdu.

“I really agree,” says Azadeh. “In these times, it is risky to sign a long contract. In the group, we talk a lot about how we could renew the way we conduct retail trade; how we could find solutions that lower the risk for the contractor.”

“Considering the journey Kista as a district has started on, there are enormous opportunities for innovative thinking on the matter,” Kelly interjects, before excusing herself to take a customer.

It's getting close to lunch and the shop is starting to fill up with customers. So, for now, it is time for the editors to say thank you and goodbye.

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