“We went straight from the bar to my apartment and started programming.”
Erik was still at university when his employer, Nic. Oud, asked him to take over a small packaging webshop. “I was a lead generator for them. For me, it was fun, starting my own business.” What began as €400 monthly revenue turned into €100,000 annually. “I thought, okay, it could be interesting to do e-commerce. I know how to do this.”
After graduation, Erik began as Key Account Manager at MyParcel. “It was still relatively small – fourteen people in a villa in Hoofddorp. We put 300 clients a month on the platform. The bigger clients were for me because it was easy to talk to them from an e-commerce standpoint.”
When MyParcel was bought by PostNL, Erik knew it was time to move on, but wanted to stay in e-commerce. “It could be interesting, and I knew how to do it. With Nic. Oud and MyParcel, I was able to grow in a safe environment while learning the tips and tricks in e-commerce. It’s an old-fashioned product and I wanted to push it further. Erik tapped Nic. Oud IT-team member Robert de Beurs and classmate from the HVA Florian Lem on the shoulders and stepped out for a beer. “We decided on bubble envelopes. It’s easy to send, it’s light, and there are eight sizes. At three o’clock in the morning, we thought, it was a good time to build the e-commerce website. We went straight from the bar to my apartment and started programming a new website.”
Erik established Luchtkussengigant.nl (this later became Verpakgigant.nl) 2 years in and focussed on the quality of the product before broadening the horizon. He reached out to the suppliers he knew were floundering in the wake of the takeover of MyParcel. The company grew, but it wasn’t able to sustain full-time employees until Thijs Bosgoed (mentor and CEO of BuyBay / Lucy), encouraged Erik to see how far he could take the company. “He said, ‘Just do it. Give yourself six months to build your own business, to be self-sustainable.’ That’s what I did. After six months I was able to afford my own salary.”
Verpakgigant began to thrive. “At the beginning of the pandemic, we had enough cash to say okay, let’s put all our eggs in one basket. Now we are the biggest distributor of bubble envelopes in the Netherlands. We do around 14 to 15 million pieces per year.”
With personnel primarily composed of successful interns who’ve grown with the company, Verpakgigant is currently serving over 18.500 clients within the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany. “I like to call us, ‘Not the Old Fashioned Packaging Guy.’ It’s a really old-fashioned market. Usually, an account manager comes to you with a suit and tie and a brochure. But us, we’re the young guys on the block. We don’t need an account manager on the road. We’re doing things in a different and more cost-effective way.” Erik hasn’t met most of his clients, but he’s been able to develop a personal relationship with them through different online channels. He emphasizes that Verpakgigant does not focus on selling. “Instead, we focus on the right fit.”
“It’s not a sexy product, but everyone needs it.”
The problem Verpakgigant faced was how to make that product accessible for a range of clients, including those with small to medium enterprises. “It’s not a sexy product. It’s an old-school product, but everyone needs it. We want to make it as accessible as possible, and as easy to order as possible.” With contracts on the table, Erik and his team decided to be fully transparent with pricing. “We publish tier pricing for our product on our website. It’s all out in the open. You don’t need to call us.”
Next came smoothing out the customer journey. “When you need to find a product, it’s impossible. With the standard search feature, you put in ‘cardboard box’ and it spits out ‘bubble envelope.’ It’s not related.” Erik committed to identifying a better way. “Most companies have a B2B portal that’s from the stone age. They can’t send out track and trace codes.” These systems are not integrated, preventing ease and creating a messy experience for customers. Due to their corporate nature, they aren’t able to adapt quickly enough to the ever-changing landscape of E-commerce. “We want to integrate some of the old players in the market to make our platform the kickstarter for other wholesalers. They can now use our API system to get their product on the market for a large audience. When we tell them our hosting fee, they say, ‘How is that even possible?’ We become a very interesting solution.”
Then came the question of sustainability. “It’s not always easy to see where the product comes from and what is a good choice. You’re supplying one-time packaging materials that are being thrown away instantly. Plastic uses less energy to be produced, but the end client perceives plastic as horrible. Paper is massively energy consuming to produce, but for the end client, it’s perfect to use.”
Verpakgigant’s solution? Direct, transparent communication with the client. “Let’s do it now, and place that in front of the client. From now on, all products will be 30% recycled at the minimum. We communicate that to our clients. But if they have a choice between a recycled version and a cheaper version, small to medium clients almost always choose the cheaper version.” Erik discovered the best way to encourage sustainable purchasing is to put those products front and center. “It needs to be cheaper, or it needs to be put in your face.”
“We don’t know their track record. We can’t find a CFO. They want to pay via invoice. How do I fix that?”
As interest grew, so did Verpakgigant’s client list. And with this came invoice requests but Erik was hesitant to offer invoices as an option to new customers. “We were frequently asked if clients could pay with an invoice. They wanted to buy today and have fourteen days or 30 days to pay the bill. And we didn’t offer that. We didn’t know their track record, and often we couldn’t see if they had a CFO or a finance team. I thought, how can I fix this without putting my business at risk?”
Biller reached out to Verpakgigant for months before Erik responded. “I thought, who is Biller? I’ve never heard of them. Leave it. I remember when my second child was born, the representative from Biller was still emailing me.”
Meanwhile, the solutions Erik found just weren’t cutting it. “I was looking at Buy Now Pay Later Solutions from a number of providers, but nothing worked. Either they didn’t respond to my requests or their solution was aimed at consumers. It was one disaster after another.” “We thought, Are there any B2B processors? Didn’t I once see that in an email?” The next time Biller reached out, Erik responded.
“Biller takes over the risk. I call it the hipster way of factoring.”
The deciding factor was the chance for Erik to offer a form of invoicing without having to chase down clients. “It solves a lot of questions for us. It saves me a lot of overhead, here in the office.” Verpakgigant prides itself on finding answers ahead of the curve, and Biller offered a solution allowing Verpakgigant to offer financing without a finance department. “I never want a finance department. If I can automate things, I’m going to automate them. It saves a massive amount of time.”
Verpakgigant has seen a significant improvement in its business since using Biller. Not only did their average order value increase from €141 in 2022 to €178 in 2023, but 6% of their customers now choose Biller over other popular payment methods like iDeal, PayPal, Klarna, and Creditcard. Biller takes over part of the risk, eliminating the need for Verpakgigant to worry about credit control. This has been a game-changer for the company and has allowed them to focus on other areas of their business. “It’s clear that Biller is the hipster way of factoring”, and it’s worth considering if you’re looking to improve your business’s financial health.
“Now I’m the person at the other side of the table.”
When Erik assesses his journey from university to Verpakgigant, he’s able to identify the key factor is his success. “Surround yourself with the right people,” says Erik. “What they have been for me, I want to be down the line for others. Three years ago we started lecturing at our university, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, as a success story. Now I’m the person on the other side of the table, and I can relate to the students. I tell them, to connect on LinkedIn and send me questions. If you need an introduction, we’ll see what we can work out.”
Erik recently attended his high school reunion. “Back then, I was not sure what to do. But my classmates said, ‘Everybody could see this was in you. It needed to come out somewhere.’ This is the result. This is just the beginning.”
How can B2B Buy Now, Pay Later help your business?
If you’re tired of chasing invoices or juggling competing financial priorities, B2B Buy Now, Pay Later could be for you.
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