How She Does It: Melanie Adams and Jon Bjarni Baldursson of Alrún Nordic Design

Melanie Adams and Jon Bjarni Baldursson of Alrún Nordic Design
Alrún Nordic Design is a small family company founded by Jon Bjarni Baldursson in Reykjavík, Iceland. Since 1999, we have been creating original bindrune jewelry that is rooted in a heritage of Nordic art more than a thousand years old.

Our designs are based on twelve inspirational Icelandic words, with each letter of the chosen word represented by a corresponding runic letter. To bind the rune, we overlap the runic letters along a single central stave.

Bindrunes were used to cast magic spells, conceal secrets, and to create powerful personal amulets. They were also common in more mundane aspects of everyday life and were used as brands for livestock, signs of ownership, and were a method of relaying messages. The ancient Norse believed that a bindrune could intensify the meaning of a personal message and invoke its power in their lives.

We are now developing a range of products for the home, starting with our beautiful Nordic wool blankets. Made of Icelandic wool and dyed especially for us in Iceland, their striking patterns are constructed from our Love and Strength symbols. We welcome you to share in the beauty of new Nordic tradition and make it yours.

Deb Bailey: Welcome to the Secrets of Success blog, Melanie. I'm excited to hear about your business. How did you get started as an entrepreneur?

Melanie Adams: Glad to be here, Deb. When Jon and I first met at university, he was just starting what would become Alrún Nordic Design. We spent a lot of time talking about the ideas he had, and I was really impressed by his focus and drive. Once I moved to Iceland in 2004, my contributions to the company became much more tangible and I became a sort of accidental entrepreneur.

With a background in literature and music, I bring a creative vision to the company, and I think I’ve really internalized Jon’s passion for the business. His determination has shown me the benefit of taking risks, and so over the years I’ve learned to invest more and more of myself into the company. I feel that we share the burden more equally now, and that we complement each other professionally.

 Alrun Nordic Design logo

Deb: It's not always easy to find someone who shares your vision. Sounds like a terrific partnership. Are there any lessons learned that you’d like to share?

Melanie: Well, being a family company, it can be challenging to separate personal and professional life. I think most people in our situation would agree that there have to be clear parameters to govern when work ends, and personal time begins. In the first years of our growing company, we both sacrificed a bit too much – it was an exciting time, but we didn’t take care of ourselves as well as we should have.

We’ve learned now how essential it is to listen to our bodies, get enough sleep, and spend time away from the stress of the business. Even though we love what we do, it’s been important for both of us to cultivate our own separate interests and take personal time. That way, at least for me, I’m able to bring a more vibrant energy to my work.

Alrun Nordic Design jewelry

Deb: That's great advice for other family companies as well! So, who are your ideal clients?

Melanie: We like to say that every symbol tells a story, so essentially anyone who wants to share something about themselves through our jewelry is an ideal client. But in other terms, we really hope to appeal to people who purchase consciously, who shop for meaningful and lasting items that will bring a positive vibe into their lives. 

Deb: What inspires you to do the work you do?

Melanie: Firstly, our original bindrune symbols are so unique, with such a great historical connection. I’m so proud of Jon’s innovative ideas and I want to see them succeed, so I suppose that love is my primary motivation!

Secondly, I love hearing from and meeting people from all over the world who tell us how meaningful our jewelry is to them. Our pieces have been worn as symbols of support by families in mourning, by mothers during labour, by entire wedding parties, by professional athletes, musicians, stunt-people, and ninety-year old twins! The list just goes on and on. And it strikes me how incredibly different every one of these people are, and yet how they’ve all found a beautiful meaning in our products. It’s very touching and humbling to be a part of so many lives and it confirms to me that our message of love and strength is having an impact in the world.

Alrun Nordic Design jewelry

Deb: That's wonderful. When you make things and get that kind of feedback, it shows you how important your work is. Many people go into entrepreneurship so that they can be of service and create things that change people's lives. What advice would you give to women entrepreneurs who are just starting out?

As someone who never intended to become an entrepreneur, I think the most important thing at the onset of a journey like this is to have absolute conviction in your idea. There will be people who don’t understand or appreciate your concept, and it’s important to be dedicated to your plan. While it’s also important to be receptive to good advice and guidance, having faith in your idea will make it easy for others to believe in you too.

 Alrun Nordic Design jewelry

Deb: So, true. You have to believe in your vision even if no one else can see it. With all the work you and Jon are doing, what is your favourite activity to relax and unwind?

Melanie: If I had my way, every week would end with a walk along Reykjavik’s beautiful coastline, and perhaps tapas with friends downtown. I also have a serious love of Nordic crime shows, which are even better enjoyed with a glass of wine.

Jon is an excellent dancer, so he loves to meet up for salsa downtown, but he’d just as happily unwind on the golf course or go windsurfing!

Deb: Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your journey. Please share your website and social links.

Melanie: I enjoyed it, Deb. Here are the links:

Melanie Adams & Jon Bjarni Baldursson of Alrún Nordic Design

Facebook: AlrunNordicDesign


Twitter: AlrunNordic

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