Steen Kanter spent 22 years helping to make IKEA the global presence it is today. Now, nearly 20 years since he moved to Raleigh, he’s ready to settle down and get involved in the Triangle startup community.

Kanter doesn’t expect to make investments in Triangle startups. But he does some serious mentor chops with decades of experience building brands, including the last 17 years running his own global branding firm called Kanter International.

But Kanter cut his teeth and built his own brand at the modern affordable furniture store chain based in his native Denmark. He joined the company when it had just eight stores in Scandinavia and helped to grow its footprint in Europe and into the U.S. as president of IKEA U.S. East. Global sales grew from $200 million when he joined the company in 1971 to $10.5 billion when he left in 1994 to work for now-defunct Lechters Housewares. He came to Raleigh to serve as president and CEO of Body Shop Cosmetics in 1996.

Kanter hopes to spend one-on-one time with one lucky winner of the first Big Idea Project beginning this October. He’s among three partners in the project that we profiled here. 

To help the Triangle startup community get to know Kanter, here’s a recent Q&A I conducted with the man. If you’re free on Oct. 13, you can meet him at The Big Idea’s main event, where one winner will be chosen to receive $100,000 in legal, branding, marketing and web development work. The deadline to apply is Sept. 30.

In the meantime, enjoy meeting Steen Kanter.

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