Sander Berendsen - SB Supply
SB Supply has been active in the online sale of design accessories and gadgets since 2011. The company supplies products to consumers (B2C) and to other businesses (B2B) in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Austria.
SB Supply owes its success in part to its strong and outstanding brands such as Apple, Bluelounge, Griffin, iHealth, Twelve South and Withings. Combined with its innovative website technology, it makes SB Supply a dynamic and growing e-commerce player.
SB Supply concentrates all its efforts on international niche markets
“Look here son, I would suggest you just hang out with the guys and girls and motorbikes …”. Sander Berendsen can still hear the district judge’s words ringing in his ears. He was sixteen at the time, and bursting with ideas for his own business. There was just one hitch: as a minor, Berendsen had to have the judge’s permission to register with the Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s almost instinctive for people to react that way. So often I’ve heard people say: ‘There’s no way you can do it...’ But that only fuels my drive to push on, and to prove them wrong!” Thanks to SB Supply, Berendsen is now a player in ‘the internet of things’: “I managed, especially by concentrating on special and unique products for niche markets. That’s where you can make a difference.”
The best way to get an idea of what SB Supply is, is to visit the website. “What you see is an online shop with exclusive items that offer some form of connectivity to mobile devices. We are not bound to any brand in particular, but with our distinctive lifestyle accessories, we stand out as an expert in exclusive goods.”
From items to solutions
Sander Berendsen’s story resembles that of any young starter, at first. “Five years ago I really fell in love with the internet and was sure that everyone would start using it to buy stuff. And so I set up SB Supply in my parents’ garage. I started with accessories for the iPhone and iPad, and after the iPad 2 was released I quickly moved into all sorts of products and gadgets like sleeves, loudspeakers, and so on.
The business soon evolved further to include exclusive top-end products like luxury leather bags and accessories by Bang & Olufsen. And now we’ve reached the point that we sell comprehensive solutions for markets like domotics, personal health and education. But with mobile equipment as the common denominator, of course. The smartphone and tablet are still where it all starts.”
Since its inception five years ago, SB Supply has far outgrown Sander’s home garage. “We have become a cross-border player with a focus on the Benelux, Germany and Austria. The strategy is to think big, but to keep the company local. So the German branch of SB Supply is really German, including a German telephone number, German customer service, and a warehouse directly at the border. At present we’re still capable of applying different pricing strategies for different countries, on the basis of a single stock. This is also made possible by the differences between the markets. But eventually it will form a single system so that we can continue to compete with the big boys in the web industry.”
Retain the expert position
Berendsen’s strategy is to promote SB Supply as an expert. “There are lots of online shops that sell ‘everything’, and that are competing each other to death with discount pricing. For a growing group of customers, this no longer seems credible or trustworthy. You cannot be an expert in everything!” That’s why Berendsen chooses to concentrate on details: “It’s the small things that really make a difference. That’s why we serve our German customers in German, for example. Dutch entrepreneurs tend to underestimate this, while it can really make a difference to your turnover.”
The personal, 100% focus on the customer is only possible by making resolute choices, says Berendsen. “Do what you are good at, and leave the rest to other experts. That’s why we have outsourced our warehousing. This relieves us of all domestic and international logistical concerns, so we can concentrate on perfecting our offer, the marketing and sales.” At the same time, SB Supply is fully exploiting its pioneer position in the Dutch market. “We’re still ahead of the game here”, says Berendsen, “and that’s how we can make the difference. For instance in terms of members’ service and how our email response and online banking facility are set up. We’re all set to roll this out internationally as well.”
Sander Berendsen is now aged 21, and has been an entrepreneur for 5 years. “If you ask me whether and how it has changed me, then the main thing is that I have become very independent”, he reflects. “Quite understandably of course, as I started taking on a lot of responsibility at a young age. But the good thing was that I could pour all my creativity into this. Today’s society tends to make it hard for young people to express themselves creatively, because they get pigeon-holed from early on. I had to find my own solutions, which obviously wasn’t always easy.
So when the opportunity to get support from Starterslift* came my way, it really came at the right moment. And, obstinate as I am, the support was offered in the right way. At first Starterslift was like a sparring partner that helped me look at the business from different angles. Later it helped me as an intermediary to arrange financing and housing.”
Right now SB Supply is on the verge of a new phase (once again): “The business is really at full throttle for the German market now! From early next year on, it will have overtaken the Netherlands as our main sales channel. The ambition is to eventually roll out the business all across Europe. Where will we be at in five years from now? I do see some consolidation around 2020, with growth confined to certain trends. But then things move so quickly nowadays, it’s difficult to plan ahead for even just a year.”
And so Sander Berendsen will continue to pursue his current strategy – from his office at the Tilburg University Business Center. “This is the ideal spot for me. No need for me to run around the warehouse all day. Central management is through international phone lines, and thanks to the many international students here, every customer can be served in his or her own language.” Which is Berendsen’s way of saying that what matters is not so much the size of your organization, but how smartly it’s designed. “That’s key to surviving in the web industry.”
- Business Model
- Business operation
- Business center
*Starterslift has continued under the name Braventure
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