From shoeless street soccer to an investment in Danish television: “Running a business was never the plan.”


This post is also available in: Danish

Never in my wildest imagination did I think I could become an entrepreneur, says Art Lakhampui, who grew up in Thailand but moved to Denmark with his mother when he was eight years old.

“We moved to a small town in Jutland, Hørning just outside Aarhus, and all I wanted to do was just to play football. I grew up with soccer, and as a child in Thailand we played without shoes on the streets, so maybe that gives you an idea of where I come from.

When Art came to Denmark, football was still very important to him, and he spent most of his energy on the football pitch. He says he’s never been good in school and had a hard time sitting still, so the odds of running a business as he does now wasn’t on his side.

“When I asked my mother if she would help me reach my boyhood dream as a soccer player, I was just told to concentrate on my school. She has always said that she has sacrificed a lot to give me the opportunities I have in Denmark.”

“School has never been easy for me, I’ve always had a lot of energy, but I fought my way through and finished Aarhus Business College. It was never in the cards that I would get to where I am today, so after I got my graduation hat on, my mother agreed to pay for me to attend ISI sports college.”

From here, Art was spotted by a soccer agent from Thailand when he turned out for Ikast FS, a partner of FC Midtjylland. This resulted in a plane ticket to Thailand. He describes it as a huge dream comeming true, to be able to make money just by playing football. But from here, nothing went according to plan.

From floods to entrepreneurial dreams

“I started out playing in the top Thai league, but quickly signed a contract with a 1st Division team. There were major floods in Southern Thailand at the time I was playing, so our matches were canceled. On top of that, the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs contacted me, and told me to head back to Denmark if I didn’t want my residence permit to be revoked.”

After one setback after another, Art was far from sure what to do; should he give up his boyhood dream and return home to Denmark or throw away everything his mother had fought for in the hope of creating a better future for him. Therefore, it was also a period of thinking outside the box. That’s when the first thoughts about a startup began to pop up.

“When there was flooding, we trained in 35 degree heat with high humidity, and the sports tights we players used just didn’t work. You sweat too much and when they get wet enough, it tightens and your muscles end up cramping. They didn’t help at all, on the contrary, most of us started playing with normal underpants.”

That’s where the idea came from:

Photo Footballer Nadia Nadim and Art Lakhampui talk about the future of the business

“I thought, why not just combine sporttights and underpants in one? I started playing around with a product and got a lot of my friends and the other soccer players to try the underpants.The feedback I got was used to further develop.”

With a half-finished product and a dream of getting back to Thailand, Art flew home to Denmark to take the citizenship test, but once again, things didn’t go according to plan.

“I also failed the test the second time, so I went from playing professional soccer to working as a warehouse worker to make ends meet.”

Just when things were looking bleakest, he got a call from Team Nike in Thailand inviting Art to Dubai to train with some of the best athletes in the world.

“There were athletes from the absolute top of the world in badminton, basketball and soccer. On the trip, my coach introduced me to two of my biggest idols – Romelu Lukaku and Arturo Vidal.”

It was a meeting that turned out to be a turning point, during the meeting Art talked about the product he had started developing back in Thailand.

“They both thought they were really cool. Arturo Vidal also ended up wearing a pair in two Serie A matches, which generated a lot of followers on our social media.”

In addition, Danish national team player Nadia Nadim has also helped to get the business off the ground. All in all, this has been the starting point for AJRcollection to become something Art dared to invest in.

The Lion’s Den gave me the courage to roar

“From the moment I came to Denmark, it has been a long journey with many challenges. I’ve always been shy, and on top of that there was the small detail that I didn’t speak the language, so I’ve always faced challenges. Competing in The Lion’s Den was just another challenge. I gained a lot of confidence after my trip to Dubai, so I looked in the mirror one night and told myself that enough was enough.”

Art explains it as a really anxiety-provoking experience, but also really giving. One he in no way regrets to this day.

“There has been a lot of editing, and there were many discussions between the lions that were not shown. Beforehand, we had Morten Larsen in our sights. He’s from Aarhus, like us, and is good at online sales, which were the skills we needed.”

-Alse we had read about Nikolaj before the program. He is part of an exciting world of e-sports, and it was an opportunity to reach out to athletes who are not as physically active. It suddenly opened up access to a new market that we hadn’t previously thought of as a possibility.”

A few weeks after they had been in The Lion’s Den, Art pitched the idea to Morten, who had to approve it before it could even become a reality. But once Morten had approved the idea, it wasn’t long before Nikolaj came on board as well.

In addition to the lions, successful Aarhus investor Esben Mols has also been part of the journey from the start. He owns 18% of AJRcollection through his company Anodyne.

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