1. Inspiration

A permanent pitstop

Family and housing

When Henrik Otto Jensen left his job in London in the late eighties to work in Esbjerg, it was only meant to be temporary.

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Birgit Bech Jensen

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Now the owner of businesses in Esbjerg and Copenhagen, he's still here, in a city he loves for its scenery and pioneering spirit.

When I enter Kaffesmeden, a coffee bar in the centre of Esbjerg, Henrik is already seated in a corner with a cappuccino. It may only be Wednesday, but this turns out to be his second visit there already this week.

“I like using the city’s cafés, and often hold meetings there instead of at the office,” explains this 54-year-old businessman. And there is no doubt that he holds a lot of meetings. Henrik is the
owner of no less than five businesses in Esbjerg and Copenhagen.

To and from London

Born in Esbjerg, he moved at an early age to London to study. After working as a trainee at one of the UK’s oldest shipping lines, he was appointed manager of a British shipping firm in his early twenties. A road accident tragically paralysed his father from the chest down, causing Henrik to return to Esbjerg for a while.

“At that time, my father owned and ran Niels Winther & Co., a shipping company, and I came home to try and revive the business after it had started to get into difficulties without him at the helm. Via contacts in London, I managed to win contracts with the bulk coal-carriers bringing coal to the Esbjerg power station. Things just progressed from there,” he says by way of explaining the pit stop that ended up being permanent when he bought the business from his father in 1994.

“I helped attract Grimaldi Group to Esbjerg, making it into one of the biggest and longest-lasting shipping routes ever to use Esbjerg.”

Henrik Otto Jensen

Importing 70,000 new cars every year Only two years later, when he was 32, he happened to come into contact with the Italian Grimaldi Group shipping line. That turned out to be a major turning point in his career. Together, they set about importing cars to what is now Scandinavian Auto Logistics. Over 70,000 vehicles are now landed at the Port of Esbjerg, accounting for around 30% of Denmark’s annual imports.

“I helped attract Grimaldi Group to Esbjerg, making it into one of the biggest and longest-lasting shipping routes ever to use Esbjerg. We started off importing Fiats in 1999, but nowadays handle a number of other makes,” says Henrik. As a result of his close links with the Italian line, he has even been awarded one of Italy’s highest honours, and is also the Vice Chairman of Denmark’s shipbroker’s trade association.

Henrik Otto Jensen used to be surrounded by forest and sea, but in early 2018 he decided to move into the city and bought an apartment in Esbjerg

From forest to city

In the meantime, his father’s former business, renamed Niels Winther Maritime, grew rapidly. When Henrik took it over, there were only three employees, but now there are 45, working at offices in Esbjerg and Copenhagen.

“We have a lot of activities within the offshore wind turbine industry, and have of course grown in line with its own expansion on the global market. Most of our customers are located abroad for the same reason, requiring a lot of travel to build the business up. Nowadays, I leave most of that to others. I’m rarely away from home more than a couple of days every other week.”

‘Home’ is only ten minutes’ walk from the coffee bar we are in, located in the new Kareen neighbourhood. “I used to be surrounded by forest and sea, but in early 2018 I decided to move
into city and bought an apartment here. I love seeing how the city changes at close quarters, and things are moving fast at the moment. And being able to simply walk to work is of course wonderful,” he says, pointing out the nearby Street Food as one of his favourite venues for an easy evening meal.

Plenty of ambition

Cutting down on travel means Henrik has more time to pursue new ideas and initiatives.

“I recently helped start up Boost Esbjerg – a free incubator for entrepreneurs in their startup phase. Esbjerg has several shared office facilities, but we needed something for the new-starters who were not yet making money. They need help to get through that critical early stage. The idea came from a trip to Silicon Valley in 2017.” He felt immediately that a startup
incubator of the kind he had seen there would be perfect in Esbjerg:

A look into the future

Esbjerg has always been a dynamic city, something that can really be seen in recent years. It has become the coyntry's fifth-biggest city, but how will it develop over the next few years? Jesper Frost Rasmussen is the mayor, and gives us a few pointers.

Read the article

There is a unique spirit in Esbjerg. While other cities may have long-established traditions created over the generations, this is a relatively young city. That’s why it fosters so many entrepreneurs in many ways, people with plenty of ambition. This has been a great place for me to run and grow my business.”

Events for you

Space is good

Even though Henrik has visited lots of exciting places on business trips, he has never been tempted to leave his home
city again.

“Esbjerg has lots of space. Neither the roads, bike paths nor beach are ever crowded. I’ve visited lots of really exciting places around the world, but I could never be without what Esbjerg and its surroundings can give me, including sport on land and sea. I love to get out on my mountain and racer bikes. In the summer, I sail competitively in Ho Bugt, along with 10-15 other boats. Oh, and I’ve just started to windsurf again. We have the perfect conditions here, with lots of open water, space … and wind!”