Human: Oscar Bjørn-Rosager
Country: Copenhagen, Denmark
Domain: Entrepreneurship, Ecommerce/Sports Industry
Job Profile: CEO/Founder – Proownedcycling
The quaint Scandinavian country of Denmark has time and again been listed as one of the happiest countries in the world. The Danes, perhaps, have unearthed the secret to contentment and bliss. It is worth noting that this is not the only area in which they are excelling in. Many Danish startups and innovations have swept the globe.
This is a one-of-a-kind journey of an innovator on a mission to change the cycling and sports industry. According to a well-known Danish proverb, “Alle de store ting I livet kommer med et problem knyttet,” which translates to “All great things come with a problem attached.” The goal of innovation is to find solutions to problems that we see around us and this sustainable solution provided by a young pioneer is here to change the cycling world forever.
So here’s introducing the next human in the series, the trailblazing Oscar Bjørn-Rosager, founder of ‘ProOwnedCycling‘ also known as ‘CYKOM,‘ whose innovative idea to bring professional bikes and pro cycling clothing, as well as gears left over from the sport’s World Tour to amateur cyclists and cycling enthusiasts across the globe, has been a refreshing answer to sustainability in the sports ecosystem. He has seamlessly transformed his passion for cycling into a thriving business and Forbes has recently named him on their 30 under 30 lists for changemakers in Europe in the field of Retail and eCommerce.
Growing up in Denmark
Oscar reminisces about growing up in the small town of Hareskovby in Denmark where everybody knew each other.
He reflects, ‘I had a pretty normal childhood. It was amazing to have friends all around and one could just walk door to door. At some point, I found my love for cycling.’
The family has been his greatest support throughout his journey and he has inherited his passion for cycling
His father has been the most influential person in his life, instilling in him some of the incredible work ethics and determination that he possesses. The senior Bjørn has helmed his company for the past twenty-five years in the packaging industry and has been a key figure in his son’s life.
‘My father will always be the guy I look up to. He taught me to put in the hours in my jobs and assignments. In spite of being so busy and building his own business, he has always been such a good father. He has always supported me in all my ventures‘, he explains.
One of the best pieces of advice he remembers receiving from his father was that it was okay to feel left behind and that one should never fail to appreciate one’s accomplishments.
He recalls, ‘He would tell me things like how I would feel like I’m falling behind, but it’s because I’m running really fast. He taught me not to lose sight of my accomplishments.’
His grandfather, who introduced him to the world of cycling as a young boy, was the other most influential person in his life. And supported him up through his cycling career.
‘He was a cyclist himself, and one day he took me to the velodrome and asked me to try it out. He took me there again and again until I told him I’d try it. It was the greatest thing I had ever tried in my life,‘ he recalls fondly.
After his doting grandfather’s demise, he made a promise that he would never give up cycling in honor of the man who introduced him to the sport.
He recollects, ‘I made a promise that I would honor his memory and keep cycling.‘
He recounted a time in his young cycling career when he competed in his first race and was disheartened because he had to finish the race alone, trailing behind everyone else. He was amazed to see that his grandfather was the proudest person in the room and cheered him on with how he completed the race, no matter what the outcome was.
‘I rode the whole race alone. I apologized to my grandpa for disappointing him but he was the happiest and proudest person I had ever seen in my life. He was just so happy that I completed the race and that really motivated me. That is something that keeps me going even now.’ , he gaily remembers.
It was an important lesson that the incredible cycling veteran and humanitarian taught him: if you do your best, you should be proud of yourself irrespective of the outcome.
After graduating from university, he recalls his first job as a teacher at the IT University of Copenhagen, where he taught subjects such as entrepreneurship and business decisions.
‘I was 22 years old. And I taught people who were mostly older than me, between the ages of 24 and 28. It was a little awkward in the beginning but it is one the coolest experience I have had. ‘, he reveals.
He admits how he isn’t the only entrepreneur in the house. His family has had their own tryst with the world of entrepreneurship. And he explains how it inspired him to find a way to make a difference in the world.
‘Most of my family have set up their own companies, some more successful than others. I grew up around people who are self-employed. It inspired me to do what I do.’, he discloses.
One of the best advice he has received is the importance of believing in yourself regardless of the circumstances or the naysayers.
‘It‘s important that no matter what other people will tell you or how silly the idea sounds, it’s important to believe in yourself.‘, he advises.
His interest and expertise in mathematics did not come easily. He was in third grade and vividly remembers struggling in math class. An intervention by his kind-hearted math teacher, Pamela, helped him to find the belief that he could ace the subject.
He recollects, ‘My third grade math teacher took me aside and told me how I was getting the best resources in the class and that I needed to start believing in myself that I could perform well in the subject.’
And that small remark has stayed on with him throughout his life. He explains how he found the confidence to excel in the subject and maths has become a subject that comes naturally to him. And it has led to his company’s involvement in various philanthropic work to nurture and develop young talents and provide a platform for them to pursue their dreams.
‘Cycling means the world to me, and we try and develop young talents from various parts of the world like Colombia and Africa,‘ he explains.
A cycling world
This young inspiring entrepreneur found his startup ‘ProOwnedCycling‘ when he was nineteen years old and still in high school. Cycling had always been a lifelong passion for him, and he knew he wanted to explore new ways to innovate in the sport.
‘Many of the professional cyclists got a lot of sponsored clothing and accessories and didn’t use it. So I started buying these clothes from the riders and everyone laughed at the idea of who would buy cycling clothing at the time. But I believed in the idea.’, he reveals.
His foray into the cycling world started off in a unique way. In 2012, he joined a cycling team with his future business partner and close friend Casper Hillstrøm. He describes how they both went to the same boarding school and cycled on the same team for a couple of years.
He recollects, ‘He has been the most important person in this journey. We have experienced so much together.’
The journey hasn’t always been easy , he recalls back how a few years ago they had just purchased a couple of thousand dollars worth of bikes and realized the stockroom had no locks and alarms. The duo had to spend a month and a half sleeping on a mattress on the floor in the cold winters.
‘It was mentally and physically challenging. We took out two mattresses and slept on the floor in the stockroom for about a month and a half in the cold winter. It was during times like these that we had each other.’, he discloses.
He has been featured on the Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe list for Retail and Ecommerce for the year 2021. The innovative and sustainable Danish startup has gained much traction and attention, particularly during the pandemic, as sales of refurbished cycling gear and clothing, as well as expensive professional bikes left over from the sport’s world tour, reach an all-time high.
‘I found a wonderful partner for my company near the end of 2016. Casper and I have accomplished a great deal, selling not only used pro cycling clothing but also cycling team overstock. We are now partnering with the Tour de France teams.‘, he cheerily explains.
In the initial days, he describes how he had not realized the startup would garner so much attention and success over the years.
He admits, ‘I was interested in sustainability. And it started off as a great idea to gain some experience in the field.‘
His first job was mowing lawns, where he learned the value of hard work, and after one of his customers purchased a ride-on lawnmower, he found the time to listen to podcasts and music. That’s when he realized the significance of technology in our lives.
‘At the age of around 12 or 13, I was mowing lawns in the neighborhood. I rented a lawn mower to ensure I could do the job faster, and I started to work on accord instead of getting paid per hour. I started to earn more than 50 dollars an hour mowing lawns, It made me realize how important technology is. Technology makes us more efficient and provides us with the most valuable resource …time. The only thing we can’t get back is time.‘, he reveals.
In the early days, the ambitious young innovator and entrepreneur had done a variety of odd jobs to fund his company. He describes how he used to work in a bar at night to save up money so that he could work on his startup during the day. Sleep was the furthest thing from his mind.
He would say, ‘Hard work pays off. But be consistent. Putting your soul and effort is going to take you so much further than you can imagine. If you are passionate about your job, it’s going to be easier to do the hard work.’
Oscar advises on how patience has been the key to his success. He admits how the road has not always been easy.
‘You will miss 100 percent of the shots that you never take. You need to keep trying. Don’t miss out on the chances in life. You will never get them again.’, he reveals.
He recalls receiving an invitation to attend a Forbes’ 30 under 30 event in Botswana and almost declining it due to the various work pressures that the budding startup has been experiencing as it prepares for its partnerships with the Tour de France teams.
He remembers, ‘I knew I’d never get such a chance again. I am really glad I made it there. The relationships I’ve formed and the people I’ve met have all been unforgettable.’
Cycling is more than just a sport to him; he believes that he is living out his grandfather’s dreams through his work.
‘I am not a cyclist anymore but I am still living out my grandpa’s dreams by meeting and working alongside some of the greatest cyclists in the world.’, he endearingly reveals.
One of the most difficult challenges in the next stage has been to move the company forward. He describes how most of his days have been spent in back-to-back meetings with potential investors and VCs interested in becoming a part of the innovative startup.
He advises, ‘My best advice for future founders is to find something you would do for free…Find something that other people find crazy…It does not always have to be an idea that everyone understands as long as you believe in it.’
Oscar’s incredible transformation and journey have indeed shown us the power of believing in our dreams and working against all odds to make those dreams a reality. From a passionate cyclist to a trailblazing entrepreneur, he has taught us the importance of holding on to our ideas and passions no matter how tough the road gets.
The many upcoming trendsetters and changemakers of Denmark have paved the way for transforming their passions into career opportunities, enabling them to never work a day in their lives, which may have been the much talked-about source of the country’s happiness quotient.
As the Danes would state, ‘happiness at work’ is absolutely fundamental.
We may have unearthed the elixir of happiness.
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