Nicholas & Robin

How a beer idea became 750,000 planted trees - NIKIN turns 4 years old

In October, NIKIN celebrates its 4th anniversary. But how did it all begin? A look back at four eventful years around the NIKIN fir tree.

In October, NIKIN celebrates its 4th anniversary. But how did it all begin? A look back at four eventful years around the NIKIN fir tree.

Nicholas & Robin

It all started 4 years ago. On 20 October 2016, two friends, Nicholas and Robin, who have known each other since their sandbox days and get on well, met for a beer in Lenzburg. There was a reason for the meeting: for a long time they had wanted to do something together, to start a joint project.

The inventive spirit was probably already in the cradle

Nicholas started his own small project while still studying business in 2013. Under the name "NIKIT", he designed and sold black Gymbags adorned with his own logo. The popular bags were very well received by his friends and acquaintances and the few hundred bags were sold out in no time. His success did not go unnoticed, and it wasn't long before a world-renowned snowboard brand from Iceland asked him to stop producing under the name "NIKIT" for trademark protection reasons. So he was forced to hang up his booming project for the time being.

Robin, who is actually a trained automotive mechatronics technician, lacked the creativity in his profession that had already bubbled up out of him as a child, and so he decided to take a new path in his life in 2015. He caught up on the vocational baccalaureate, passed the preliminary design course with flying colours and began to study industrial design. Never before had he enjoyed going to school so much - now he could finally give his creativity free rein. The language study trip to Canada opened up his horizons even more next. The breathtaking nature and the gigantic forests of Canada inspired him and, as it turns out later, also the idea that was slumbering inside him.

Nicholas & Robin

Back then Nicholas and Robin shared the sledge, today their joint venture.

A name and logo are needed

So they came together, the label "NIKIT", which had been put on ice, and the inventive spirit bursting with ideas. Outside, the autumn weather was raging, winter was on its way and that's when the idea that would make waves was born. The two thought about it:

"How about our own fashion label and winter hats for all our friends?"

But it wasn't just supposed to be an ordinary beanie, the market was already completely oversaturated anyway. The two former scouts and skaters studied next.

"Why not plant a Tree for every beanie sold?"

But how could that be done? The two googled and found the perfect solution: OneTreePlanted, a non-profit organisation from the USA that plants trees worldwide. A request for cooperation followed.

"What are we going to call the cap?"

"Hmm, it's a beanie and we're planting a Treeto go with it ... how about treeanie?"

 "And what does our logo look like?"

Robin scribbled on a napkin a narrow fir tree with a long trunk - just like he had seen thousands of in Canada.

"But what should the whole thing actually be called?"

"Why don't we just replace the letter "T" with an "N" - NIKIN - the combination of Nicholas and Robin."

That's how this first meeting of the new business partners in the pub went, and then things really got going. 

Preparations are running hot

With a budget of just 5,000 Swiss francs and no real fashion know-how, the two boys started their own business. Creating designs and choosing materials (first finding out how to do it in the first place), looking for producers, setting up a website with an online shop, creating social media channels, shooting product photos and setting up logistics. These were the first tasks that the two of them dealt with late into the night alongside their full-time studies. On 11 December 2016, the time had finally come: the website went live!

Photo Shooting

The first photo shoot in the improvised studio in Robin's garage.

The rush is growing

With the first NIKIN release, the Treeanie appeared in three colors and a new version of Gymbags. The Treeanies were initially named after the places where a Tree was planted together with OneTreePlanted (Africa, Asia, Canada). At the start they had 20 pieces (!) of each color in stock. So it started with 60 Treeanies. With great pride Nicholas and Robin packed the first orders that evening (almost exclusively from family and friends). Robin's nursery in his parents' house served as the logistics center. What a first day, all friends were now equipped with a Tree cap - and word got around. In the following days the demand next increased and so after a very short time all Treeanies were sold out.

A cry for help that is answered

The supply of raw beanies without logo (at that time still from China) arrived about two weeks later. But still missing were the labels that made the raw beanies into treeanies in the first place. Since neither Nicholas nor Robin knew how to operate a sewing machine, Robin's mother came into play. In long night shifts she sewed one label after the other onto the beanies. So it went for weeks next, the demand increased steadily and so Robin's mother sewed several thousand Treeanies in the early weeks, which were meanwhile sent all over Switzerland. Since then, a personal tree certificate has been sent along with the order, assuring that a Tree really is being planted.


Robin's mummy diligently sewed the labels onto the raw beanies.

The logistical and communicative effort became greater and so Robin's brothers, Lester and Jeffrey, could be brought on board for support. Shortly afterwards, the new NIKIN head office was set up in a small rented room in the neighbouring village - where farmers' wives had previously sold their vegetables. Jonas and Regula were the first external employees to join the team. Later on, Nicholas' wife Carla joined the bandwagon and has been keeping track of NIKIN's finances ever since. The orders piled up more and more every day and so we filled the local post office several times a day with hundreds of parcels, which were now being sent to places we had never heard of before. We were probably the best customers there, because shortly after we moved away, this post office had to close. More and more people from all over Switzerland wanted to wear a tree hat and so to this day it remains one of the nicest feelings to have seen someone stranger on the street with our treeanie on their head for the first time.

NIKIN Orders

So we went to the post office several times a day.

It's a steep climb

Over the months and years, not only has the range been expanded with various new products such as hoodies, shirts, socks and much more, but also the goal of fair and sustainable production, which we set from the beginning, has been largely achieved. Today, we produce almost exclusively in Europe, with tested sustainable materials.

With the rebranding in summer 2018, the old NIKIN logo disappeared and made way for our flagship - the NIKIN fir tree. The move to the larger premises of Wisa-Gloria in Lenzburg enabled further growth. Many new motivated employees were hired. Today, NIKIN employs around 40 people who continue to promote the idea of cool and sustainable fashion. We remain innovative, move with the times and give next full power.

NIKIN Team 2019

The NIKIN Team 2019

Several visits to OneTreePlanted, where we also lent a hand and planted trees ourselves, strengthened our cooperation next. In the meantime, almost 750,000 trees have been planted worldwide - and it's going next! Our online community has also grown tremendously - by now there are more than 100,000 people on Instagram alone who follow and support us and our vision every day.

NIKIN & OneTreePlanted

NIKIN Visit to OneTreePlanted 2019

So that's the story of how NIKIN came into being - in a nutshell. In the meantime, what was once a "small side project" has become a full-time job that has completely turned the lives of the two founders upside down. Nicholas and Robin used to build huts in the forest together, now they run their own company and grow their own forests all over the world. A toast to four great years with NIKIN!

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