She is a mother and the daughter of two cultural workers who worriedly wondered where they went wrong when their daughter choose a career in law. Bolagsjuristbloggen met Mikaela Mars, the young super-talented GC of Swedish rocket company VitaminWell – we are impressed 😍
What has brought you to where you are today?
I do not want to belittle the hard work I’ve put in, but it is in many ways a series of coincidences that led to me becoming a lawyer in the first place. I started to study after a couple of years working as an M&A paralegal at Vinge, when I was 28. I was surrounded with colleagues who saw a lawyer in me long before I did myself (thanks Stina Kokko!). Well in law school, I was highly motivated and had a clear image of what I wanted to do after graduating. Maybe this made me a boring class mate, but I have hardly never wanted anything as hard as that graduation certificate (even though my parents, who work in the culture sector, were worried about my strange career choice, hoping that it was not a reflection of any mental health issues).
Before studying and trying my wings in the law firm world, I had a background of working outside of the lawyer profession – as a political secretary in the EP for example, as a school teacher, musician, and personal assistant, and I think that all contributed to me finding the confidence to apply for the job as the first lawyer of Vitamin Well in 2015. Back then we were 60 employees, had an established HQ in Sweden and small brand offices in three additional Nordic countries, carrying three major brands. Today, four years later I have about 300 colleagues situated in offices in 12 countries all over the world. We have built a portfolio of five strong functional foods brands: Vitamin Well, Nocco, Barebells, NOBE aloe vera and Snackbros, and distribute to almost 40 countries over the world.
It’s been key for me that I get genuinely excited and motivated by our rapid growth, that I thrive from having a great portion of freedom in my position to decide on solutions and policies. Very early on I’ve represented the legal department in our group management team and that was an important signal, showing that the legal aspects of business decisions are just as important as other aspects.
What are your personal goals for 2019?
The Vitamin Well Group has experienced massive growth during 2018. As a result, our legal team has expanded greatly as well. This provides for all kinds of challenges for me, to keep up speed with the changing dynamics of the team and optimizing how we are organized.
For Vitamin Well, one year is a very long time, in which an enormous amount of larger business decisions are made and implemented. One year can mean reorganizing departments, introducing a completely new brand and/or product category and setting up shop in a new part of the world. My personal goal in this environment is to make sure that the legal department remains motivated and not stressed by the speed. We need make sure to celebrate all the great achievements we make, and never forget what the great positive change we can make for colleagues in all functions. Also, we have to make sure that the business and all new employees know about us, and always want to turn to and collaborate with us. I think visibility and personal contact is key! The legal department is not a supporting function outside of the business but a strong equal partner to sales, business development, finance, product development, communication and marketing.
What are your team’s priorities for 2019?
As a company, innovation is one of our core values. We need to continue to evaluate – what does that mean for us? How can we work smarter, adapting to new circumstances? Currently we are working a lot with putting best practice routines and SOPs in place in all areas where we can benefit from this. It benefits all, if we manage to make the business self-sufficient in processes that can be standardized. Another priority on this theme is to find ways to work integrated with our fast growing subsidiaries outside of Sweden. It is a major challenge to be a team of Swedish lawyers, situated in Stockholm, and to turn into the legal resource for several jurisdictions.
We are always looking to learn more about the dynamics of the legal market and the people who work in it in order to serve it best. Do you need help building your legal team or a gig-lawyer? Get in touch here: firstname.lastname@example.org