18 Oct 2012
When I started my business back in 2005, my parents were sceptical about the idea of selling height-increasing shoes on the internet, but they wanted to give me a chance, and financed the project. With €100,000 in my pocket I found a manufacturer willing to produce a very small order, create a website and finance initial advertisement campaigns.
With the help of some friends I had the website translated into six different languages. Sales were very low in the beginning–I was selling between one and five pairs of shoes a week, and it was hard to survive.
From the ground up
I initially had my shoes stocked in a small warehouse close to Brussels. Every day I picked and packed orders, processing returns myself. Upon receiving inventory from the manufacturer, I stored all the shoes using as little space as possible, in order to minimise warehousing costs. At that time I also answered all phone calls personally and in a number of languages. I was busy and working all the time, and sales started to grow slowly but steadily.
Today as much as 50 pairs of shoes are being sold daily, occasionally increasing to 500 when special promotions are being offered. A subsidiary location in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was set up a few years ago to easily serve the American and Canadian market. The website has been split up into a European and American section, and all shoes are now stocked with two professional fulfilment centres, one in Belgium and the other in Florida, which take care of inventory receiving, outbound shipping and returns processing.
Upgrading the entire website to the latest technology standards, the products are made-to-measure according to specific customer needs. Postal shipments have been scrapped, and everything is now shipped through UPS. We are fully integrated with UPS, meaning shipment and return labels are created automatically upon order and return placement by customers on our website. Throughout the years I have managed to move from a manual system to a fully professional and automatic business system.
I believe several factors apply when considering the skills and capabilities of being a managing director. I studied international business management at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, writing my thesis on building an e-commerce trust by applying usability principles. This offered me an excellent basis to start-up my own e-commerce business, paving the foundations for a successful and user-friendly e-commerce website. I mainly took marketing courses at university, which gave me a good insight of how to promote a product, and how to lock-in customers. As a perfectionist, I manage every detail to avoid future problems, so that the business runs smoothly and efficiently during the second stage.
Networking has also been key in building the business to the stage it’s at today. Meeting people, negotiating and discussing the best price for my products, and making sure the price is beneficial to all concerned is all part of the process. Networking has enabled me to set-up strong and competitively priced contracts and relationships with a number of outlets, including: fulfilment centres; UPS; online payment providers; manufacturers; and my webmaster. By using the skills and capabilities that are needed for a successful website, Bugarri Shoes has run like a professional and continuously growing e-shop. Talented in programming, the designer is also a photographer, and has a Google Adwords degree. He creates the website, designs brochures, online advertisements, newsletters, leads photo shoots, and programs the integration technology with UPS.
The team of highly skilled and professional employees guarantee the success of Bugarri. There are a number of key characteristics a managing director needs to possess. To be at the centre of your business at all times; act like a team leader; and make sure that every team member performs at their best. All my business costs have been converted into variable costs. The entire cost structure of Bugarri Shoes reflects sales, and my fulfilment centres bill according to the number of pairs shipped, stocked or returned.
The webmaster works with a sales commission, and UPS bills according to the number of packages shipped and returned. The production and advertising costs are related to sales. Many large companies would be surprised to see a business with almost no fixed costs, especially in the current financial crisis. However, Bugarri Shoes continues to grow throughout the unsettled economic situation.
For more information visit bugarrishoes.com