Koen van der List

You have to be willing to take risks, adapt to new demands and let go of business as usual.

A year ago, Koen van der List graduated with a Bachelor in International Financial Management – the study programme is now called Finance & Control (international). He decided to continue building his online store, which he created during his studies. It's going well – very well, in fact. His company grew, even during the coronavirus crisis.

Koen says, ‘During the third year of my study programme, I created three different online stores as part of research on search terms. When I found that a term was being searched for very frequently, but there was hardly anything to cater to the search, I investigated whether I could start an online store for that product. Based on my findings, I created online stores for cuckoo clocks, anatomical models and massage products.

No employer required

‘When I graduated, I knew that I definitely did not want to work for an employer. I wanted to continue to build on my online stores but couldn't make a living from them yet. That's why I also worked as a freelance online marketeer for a time. When my online stores started to grow, I noticed that it really got me motivated. I felt like I was building a machine that was generating income. I stopped working as a freelancer when my online stores made enough for me to live on.

Building customer relationships

‘I am now totally focused on https://www.demassagewinkel.com/, as it has the greatest potential. I also really enjoy expanding it. I only sold massage tables on the website at first, but I soon started to receive questions from customers such as whether I also bought covers. Based on the demands from customers, I started to expand my product range. I now sell covers, massage oils and a number of accessories. These are products that you can use to build customer relationships. It's much easier to make two sales to a single customer than it is to make one sale each to two different customers.

New demand due to the coronavirus crisis

‘When the country went into lockdown in March, I noticed that things slowed down for two or three weeks. The massage tables weren't really selling, so I adapted to meet a new demand: disposable materials. One such product is paper rolls for massage tables, to keep surfaces hygienic. However, the material is uncomfortable and makes annoying crackling sounds – not great if someone is receiving a relaxing massage. This made me focus on rolls made from fleece, which don't produce the crackly sound and are much more comfortable to lie on. They are selling very well, as are many other hygienic products.

Free webinars

‘I also realised that masseurs now have time to also improve their business, rather than only focusing on massaging. That's why I started offering webinars on topics such as how to handle your company's finances, Search Engine Optimisation, advertising and how to reach new clients. I offered the webinars for free, because when the masseurs needed new materials, I would be the first person they'd think of.

Growth during the crisis

‘My turnover in June was double what it was in January. Things have really picked up since masseurs were allowed to return to work in May. They are now buying lots of oils, disposable materials and disinfectants. My standard range is also selling well.’

Virtual team

‘I want to grow my company more with a virtual team. I have entirely outsourced the logistics of procurement and shipment to a company in Breda, so that it doesn't really matter where I work. Seeing as I like to travel, it's a great added bonus. Employing a permanent team in an office would only limit me. That's why I hire freelancers who work from their own locations. For example, I'm currently employing the services of a freelancer in Bali who handles my company's finances. In the near future, I'll move abroad to work from there.

Spotting opportunities

‘I never saw the coronavirus crisis as a threat. In fact, it made me think bigger. I've set bigger targets for my turnover and profit, and I want to grow my team. If you think of a crisis as a threat, it will become a threat. If you look at it from a different perspective and see the opportunities, then you can achieve much more than you previously thought. You have to be willing to take risks, adapt to new demands and let go of business as usual.