Belgunique is a start-up that’s providing a brand-new e-commerce platform that will host a lot of ‘Made in Belgium’ products. Their mission? Making sure that Belgian talent gets an honest chance to get closer to the consumer. We had an interesting talk with the founder, Sofie Smolders!
First of all, please tell us more about the idea behind Belgunique?
Well, to start off with, it’s important to know that Belgium holds quite the talent: so many people nowadays are choosing to create their own products – and to develop them by hand. And you cannot not see this: when put in numbers, we discover that independent professions in Belgium have risen by no less than 40% over the last ten years.
Another striking evolution, is the behavioral change of our consumers. They’re looking for authentic products and they’re aware of the sustainability, reputation and eco-friendliness of the products they (want to) buy. So, buying locally and choosing handmade products plays right into this need.
Great, right? Well, not really: the big problem that rears its ugly head, is the following: all those talented designers that can provide these products? They’re incredibly hard to find online, because of the very fragmented market.
And this is where Belgunique kicks in: we want to bring designers and consumers close(r) together. We’re helping the designers find the market they’re looking for, whilst helping consumers buy local and authentic products by offering them a one-stop online shopping experience.
What are your most valuable e-commerce tips, especially for designers?
First of all: it’s important you find your story – and you tell it consistently. Online storytelling has to be crisp, transparent and consistent. Many designers don’t know and/or have this. What they do have, are a lot of complex creative processes and a lot of inspiration for their designs. Which is very good, of course! But, eventually, every designer needs to transform all of this information into an interesting and close-to-home story for the consumer to believe in.
Secondly, you always have to keep it simple. Don’t offer your consumers too much information, too many options, or too many alternatives and/or extra’s. We know you probably have a lot to tell and/or show, but an overdose of information will be confusing – especially when the consumer is buying your product online.
And last but not least… You should definitely invest in some quality product photography – especially when it concerns products that are handmade and artisan. After all, the consumer needs to have evidence that the quality of the product is trustworthy. So, provide you consumer with the trust he or she needs to purchase the product online!
What are your most valued entrepreneurial tips?
Let’s start off with the hardest step: taking the plunge. Because no, this will not be easy. But, believe us: you’ll regret it when you won’t do it. So, just go for it and follow your instinct!
Following, you should never take the plunge alone. Surround yourself with a strong team – or at least with a complimentary co-founder. I am lucky enough to run Belgunique with my sister as co-founder, and of course we make a great team. It’s so incredibly important to be able to brainstorm with someone about key strategic decisions and to discuss certain possibilities. Believe us: working together will help you reach your goals that much faster!
Lastly, you should always keep your feet grounded. Meaning: be (and stay) realistic! Don’t expect success overnight – and don’t expect an easy ride. Give your business idea enough time to grow, whilst giving it enough commitment and attention. Just don’t rush it.
What are the things we have to look out the most for?
First of all, don’t go overestimating revenue in the first year(s). You’ll be only setting yourself up for disappointment. Keep it real and realistic.
Secondly, be sure to do the required market research: you need to understand the mixed needs of your target market. Because your product or service may be astounding and revolutionary… But if there’s no market for it, it has no use. When this is the case, you might consider spending some of that budget on educating the customers.
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