The Entrepreneurs In The Forest - From Pike Traps To The Auto Industry

Magnus Welander Magnus Welander

Entrepreneurship was thus a long-established tradition in the areas surrounding Hillerstorp by the time Erik Thulin also began feeling a growing urge to start his own business. IN 1942 he left Hillerverken and together with his wife Gunhild started a private firm that two years later was registered with the trade name Metallfabriken Thule. In the beginning, the factory building consited of a small house in Hillersorp. Later it was a 15 square meter wash-house and carpenter's shed back on their small farm consisting of two cows and a pig in the village of Osterskog, just outside Hillerstorp.

Mindful of the food rationing situation, Erik's business started out by manufacturing a traditional product that remained in steady demand during the lean war years: pike traps. Baited with roach, these traps were wily devices that relentlessly pinned pike down as soon as they bit.

In 1944, while continuing to make pike traps, Thule began manufacturing four or five models of belt buckles as well. Before the war, belt buckles had been a major export product for German companies that had now been forced to switch to wartime production. Thule's belt buckles sold well for several years until German production resumed after the war. In the early 1950s Thule broadened its product portfolio to include flower stands, simple brass candle holders, rat traps and display stands for stores.

After 13 years in business, Thule made the leap into the industry that was to define its future. In 1955, it launched its first product for cars. The headlamp grille was a popular automobile accessory that shielded against flying stones on the gravel roads of 1950s Sweden. For Thule, it would become a stable source of income over the coming years.

Source: Thule Group