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Hire the people with great intentions and who are eager to learn

Helloprint marketplace for customised print products

Please introduce yourself and your startup Helloprint to our readers!

My name is Hans Scheffer and I am the CEO and co-founder of Helloprint – the world’s largest marketplace for customised print products. We bring local production and delivery to a global audience of entrepreneurs and e-commerce companies. Ultimately, this reduces cost, speed of delivery, and carbon footprint. With this approach we have the ambition to become the world’s largest and most sustainable marketplace for customized print products. 

An exciting development is that we recently launched a partnership with Canva, a free online design service, which serves hundreds of thousands of European small businesses via the power of online design combined with print.

How did you get the idea of Helloprint/ Why did you decide to start with Helloprint?

We started Helloprint back in 2013, however, the journey started much earlier. I used to work in events and the cost of promoting your at the time event was steep. When we ordered around 5000 flyers, the invoice was around 389 euros. As a small business, we needed to save every cent possible. We crunched some numbers and came to the conclusion that, if we were to combine orders, the cost could decrease dramatically to about 89 euros. That’s when we realised that there was a huge need for efficient and accessible printing services for small businesses and we instantly moulded a business model out of that.

After selling my first business in this space in 2012, I decided that this huge market still had a tremendous potential, because back then, ordering print was still overly complicated. We decided to start Helloprint; with the mission to make ordering print easy, for everyone, everywhere. Just as easy as buying a book or shoes online.

What is the vision behind Helloprint?

The vision behind Helloprint is to build Earth’s largest platform for printed products in an affordable, sustainable, and reliable way, and to offer our customers the most easiest way to order print and customized products online. 

Over the past few years, we’ve built a company at Helloprint that differs on quite some elements from other companies I’ve seen (not that I have that much experience yet, but I do have some). Every company has its own culture and their individual elements that make them unique. Culture is a set of elements that, when connected, is the most powerful element of a company’s future success. They can’t live in isolation and they can’t be injected into a company. They need to be part of the intrinsic motivation of the team instead of being an artificial element.

At Helloprint we have a unique culture of freedom and responsibility from the get-go. I believe that this is the true differentiation behind our growth.

How difficult was the start and which challenges you had to overcome?

Building a business on culture is not easy and we definitely had some bumps along the way. Overall, we experienced growth and progress from the start of our inception. We quickly internationalized and grew the team from four young guys with a dream to a 200 person team made up of 32 nationalities. And of course, this comes with some large struggles.

Prior to Covid’s disastrous impact, we enjoyed a three month record for revenue and orders. Unfortunately, the pandemic affected our sales negatively which proved to be a major challenge. We needed to make a very impactful approach; We refinanced the company quickly and we invested our own money. Finally, we asked our print suppliers to help us out by either accepting a percentage of what they were currently owed or a deferred payment of the total amount plus interest, to be paid over five years. We did this because our most important goal was to keep the full team, and in turn, our culture. That was more important than anything else in the company, our own interests as entrepreneurs, the interests of our shareholders or the interests or – sorry to say – all our other partners.

Right now, we’re back to very positive growth again, but it was surreal to see our sales collapse by almost 90%. With our team, we fought day and night for months to survive. Our entire management, together with our existing investors and our house bank, made a very significant investment into the company to ensure that the company could get through the crisis. This is why I am so proud of how far we’ve come as a company and how much stronger we are post-corona.

Who is your target audience?

Our current audience consists of mainly SME’s, creative entrepreneurs and (small) NGOs who are looking for a reliable partner to express themselves and show their identity via customized print products. It is a very large target group of over 213 million global potential customers, and it is our ambition to serve them all. We offer them our services via our European e-commerce model via Helloprint.com and via our new printing-on-demand service via Helloprint API. 

Since we have a marketplace model instead of a production plant, we produce as local as possible via a network of over 221 high-quality producers in 21 countries. 

What is the USP of your startup?

We are the printing service that keeps sustainability at the core of what we do. We never make sacrifices when it comes to helping the greater good and ensuring optimal sustainability – it’s our fundamental belief that the world is a little bit of a better place if everyone gives a little bit back. That’s why we support local initiatives, ecosystems, and entrepreneurs. At Helloprint, we believe the world of tomorrow is our world. In a polluting industry as the print and customization industry – the fifth-largest industry worldwide – we believe it’s even more essential to take responsibility and accountability for our actions.

Can you describe your typical workday?

Overall, I prioritise being visible for the team, so I mould my schedule around that. My typical workday does, however, start off with meeting my international team through a video conference call (not only do we have an office in the Netherlands, we have an incredible customer-service team in Spain). Once I’m in the office, I go over my agenda for the day. Some days consist largely of networking and connecting with other industry leaders. Other days I’ll connect with executives to ensure a smooth workflow. It all depends on what we’re doing at the moment as a company, and I love to be as flexible as possible.

Where do you see yourself and your startup Helloprint in five years?

When we started our company, we could never believe where we are at the moment: Activities in 13 countries, over 2.000.000 print orders for over 700.000 international customers and almost 250 Helloprinters from 32 nationalities in Rotterdam and Valencia, working on building dreams each and every day.  

We’re blessed and grateful for the chances we’ve had since our inception, but we’re still far off from realizating our goals and dreams. One of those goals (and also personal dreams) is to become the world’s best employer. That’s as important as our growth, and it’s also a personal goal for me as an entrepreneur. I want to create a company and culture where people can become the best version of themselves, develop themselves and get inspired, it’s as simple as that. And it’s my intrinsic motivation to create that company within the next 5 years.

What 3 tips would you give to founders?

For me it always starts with Team. You can have the best idea on the planet, but if you don’t have the best team, you will not win the game, I’m sure of that. I appreciate the art of bringing hyper-growth to companies on a mission – this is 100% driven by the people and culture that you create. 

My second piece of advice is to create a workplace culture and environment that allows you and your employees to thrive. We do this by creating a culture that is at the forefront of our strategy as a company. Our culture is extremely important at Helloprint and we are very proud of the culture we’ve built with our team. That start for me with giving professional people the toolkit to achieve excellent performance, and that starts with responsibility and freedom. That is very important to get people going. 

Furthermore, I think it is important as an entrepreneur to set high standards and unrealistic dreams. Because it’s those dreams that make the team thrive and get the best out of themselves. I always say, “Shoot for the moon, aim for the stars” – this mantra guides me through my hardest days as co-founder of Helloprint, but it also motivates the team. If you want to see your passions soar, you must be the one to create that space for yourself. If you experience bumps along the way, that’s part of the journey and the bumps provide teachings you wouldn’t have learned otherwise.

So, it all comes down to the following: Work with the best team possible. Right now, I have the privilege of being surrounded by the most motivated and passionate team I’ve ever worked with. It makes the successes that we share so much sweeter. Together, we are currently building the world’s largest marketplace for custom print products. Side note, we say that it is crucial to never hire brilliant jerks – hire the people with great intentions and who are eager to learn.

Thank you Hans Scheffer for the Interview

More information you will find here

Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.

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