Clas Ohlson was born in 1895, in the village of Skog in Aspeboda parish, a few miles southwest of Insjön, in Dalarna. At seven years of age, he got his first job as a messenger boy at Åhlén & Holm, the company that would subsequently become Åhléns department store that we know today.
Clas developed an early interest in technology and innovative thinking and his first well-known invention was a swim glove, a webbed finger glove, and he sketched a drawing of this when he was ten years old.
In 1918, after he had managed the bicycle repair shop for some time, which was established by his late brother Arvid, Clas established the mail order company Clas Ohlson & Co. He was convinced it was very likely that there were other people living in the country who shared his passion for technology and initially he started selling technical handbooks, but soon expanded his range to include cameras and camera accessories, art supplies as well as boat and furniture designs.
There is no doubt that Clas Ohlson was a major contributor in increasing radio ownership in Swedish homes during the latter part of the 1920s following the introduction of radios in the product range in 1925. In 1926, business operations moved to more spacious, newly built premises and it was here that the first sales over the counter took place. The company grew rapidly over the following decades, and in the 1960s in particular, sales quadrupled over a five-year period.
Clas Ohlson himself was very involved in the company up until he passed away in 1979, and his curiosity, entrepreneurship and inventive mind contributed to many commercial successes over the years. Not only that, he was also a highly appreciated manager and as a person, displayed an undeniable interest and concern for his employees.
Clas Ohlson created a company where respect and warmth became a central part of the company culture. Even the local community around the Clas Ohlson company benefited from the Clas Ohlson spirit. For example in the 1930s, Clas Ohlson established the cinema ”Sang” in Insjön, which became an important meeting point in the area.
When the company were about to celebrate 100 years, the Clas Ohlson family decided that the time was right to honour the memory of Clas and to support the local community where the company operates as well as society in general, by establishing the Clas Ohlson Foundation. The aim of the foundation is to honour the memory of Clas Ohlson by supporting innovation and entrepreneurship in Dalarna, Sweden, giving young people access to education and helping people in need.