Monday, 8 August 2016
INTERVIEW | MICHAEL URBAN AND SASKIA BUTIN
Melbourne has a long history of producing quality furniture designers and manufacturers. One of the more recent companies to emerge is MuBu Home. Michael Urban and Saskia Butin launched the brand less than a year ago after moving to Melbourne from Vietnam. Following the birth of their daughter the couple struggled to find good quality yet affordable furniture. Michael, who grew up building things in his father’s workshop, ended up making all of the furniture for the nursery. This became the starting point for a journey to Melbourne and the launch of MuBu Home.
“The city and its design scene inspire us,” Saskia says. “There are a lot of furniture designers around here, a lot of beautiful furniture on the market and it lifts us up to think that we can contribute to it, in our own way.”
Michael was born in Sydney and after working as an apprentice chef at the Park Hyatt and gaining his qualification, moved to Denmark in 2004. While working in Copenhagen for six years he gained a huge appreciation for Scandinavian design. After returning to Australia in 2010 he changed careers and ended up working for a furniture manufacturer, which eventually took him to Vietnam where he met Saskia. After growing up in France and studying and working in several countries across Europe, she moved to Vietnam in 2006. Eight years later Saskia moved with Michael to Melbourne to start a new journey with their young family, and MuBu.
Since launching the business in October 2015, they have stocked a range of Scandinavian brands as well as developed their own range.
Which five words best describe you?
Michael: Multi-skilled, creative, passionate, determined and energetic.
Saskia: Calm, patient, passionate, sociable, down-to-earth.
How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since?
Michael: After working as a chef in Copenhagen, it was more of a coincidence that got me started in the furniture industry. After the passing of my mother shortly after my return from Denmark doing something different professionally was a way for me to get stuck into something completely new and challenging at the same time. After working in Vietnam for two years, I could not see myself working for anyone else so Saskia and I decided to start our own venture. We moved countries, became parents and set up our business - all in the same year. We have not taken the easy path but it is all one big and rewarding experience and adventure.
Saskia: After working in destination management for a few years in Vietnam, I decided to go back to university and take an Executive MBA course. I knew that there were bigger things for me to do out there, I just needed to equip myself with a wider skillset until the opportunity came up. During my last year in Vietnam I was working for a consultancy firm in the field of hotel/resort development and management. We did everything from concept and brand development, project management, architecture, interior design, sales, marketing and communications - that’s where I was - to hotel management. It was a great way for me to be exposed to a lot of things that I am passionate about. Seeing projects grow from A to Z is extremely rewarding.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Michael: To follow your instincts.
Saskia: To be patient, to listen more than you talk and to follow your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.
What’s your proudest career achievement?
Michael: Apart from MuBu Home, it is to have set up a fully functional manufacturing plant in Vietnam, where I knew no one and nothing at all. It was the best learning experience.
Saskia: Setting up MuBu Home and seeing how far we have already come in only six months.
What’s been your best decision? To move to Melbourne, for personal as well as professional reasons.
Who inspires you?
Michael: My daughter. I have always fought hard for things but since her birth this has taken a whole new dimension. She is the reason behind everything we do.
Saskia: Michael, he is extremely driven, nothing can stop him. I sometimes have a hard time keeping up with him, but at the same time he inspires me to push my own limits and to always try and find a way to do something. With Michael, the sentence “can’t do it” is never an option. And, of course, our daughter, in every single way.
What are you passionate about?
Michael: Scandinavian design, furniture design, making and building things in general, traveling, food… the list is long. Saskia: Our baby girl, travelling, foreign languages, and people that make me feel home, if this makes sense. People who are simple, warm, natural and easy to talk to.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet?
Michael: This is a difficult one. I would love to bring my mother back for a moment and introduce her to our little girl. She would have been a wonderful grandmother.
Saskia: There is no one I would ever choose over my twin sister. If I could get to see one person, it would be her. She lives in Paris and occasions to see each other are all too rare, unfortunately. And if we could both meet and have a guest at our table, maybe Oprah.
What dream do you still want to fulfil?
Michael: To see MuBu Home grow into a well-established business and see how far we can go with our project. We have plenty of ideas and dreams for MuBu Home beyond our online store and we hope to fulfil them all.
Saskia: The day we can take a bit of a long break and break our current 24/7 - almost - work routine it would be to travel the world with our girl, show her places that will inspire her and open her heart and soul to extraordinary things and feelings.
What are you reading?
Michael: Everything I need to know about everything I do. I always research about everything and most importantly about how to do things. If there is something I don’t know how to do, I will research until I find out. In a day it can go from reading about woodwork, upholstery, social media, machinery and tooling. A good book sounds good but being sleep deprived, they just put me to sleep!
Saskia: The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philip Sendker. It is set in Burma and on top of being a beautiful story, every single detail, smell and sound described reminds me of my life in Vietnam. I love books that make you travel.
images courtesy of mubu home and greenhouse interiors