The predictions that Hans Scheffer and Michael Heerkens made five years ago in Quote were hardly modest. The turnover of their Helloprint platform, where customers can go to have anything they can think of printed, was 15 million euros at the time and there were 75 people on the payroll. A year later, that turnover had to have doubled, to have increased to 100 million euros in 2019. Since then, the gentlemen have by no means been sitting still, but Scheffer is now willing to confirm that they did have a very big mouth. Laughing: 'But we have certainly continued to build! We now employ 200 people of 22 nationalities and are active in thirteen European countries. Last year the counter stood at approximately 50 million euros in turnover. We have 500,000 customers and 300 manufacturers are affiliated with our platform. Helloprint facilitates the entire process, from orientation to delivery, but we outsource the printing itself to our partners. The hardest part has been managing growth in the right direction over the past five years. If you hire thirty people at the same time a few times in a row, it is not easy to monitor the culture of your company. We had to pay a lot of attention to that.”
More than seven years after it was founded, there is still no profit being made. According to Scheffer, this is because everything is invested in growth. 2020 promised to be the best year ever, but the week before Mark Rutte's historic press conference, we saw sales in Spain and Italy almost completely disappear. The same happened afterwards in the Netherlands. Our turnover is largely generated by events, such as football matches and concerts. They all fell away. That was extremely intense; you sit down with the banks and your suppliers and save costs where possible. Luckily we didn't have to fire anyone. Incidentally, thanks in part to the unique policy that we pursue in the Netherlands, that may also be said. In most countries, the government provides support with unemployment benefits, but then the problem is that your people are not allowed to work. In the Netherlands, wage costs are reimbursed, so that everyone can continue to work and come up with new things. That is of course essential for us. It soon became clear that it would not take a few months.”
15 percent of Helloprint's turnover already comes from printing mouth caps and splash screens. "It can go that fast, yes. The light switch went out in March, but we've come up with a lot of new things. Don't forget that certain markets have grown enormously because of corona. The catering industry has started to deliver much more and online retailers are also extremely busy. All those packaging and boxes had to be printed.' Are they not positive against their better judgement?
We are in the center of Rotterdam and if you don't see anyone on the street there for days, it's hard to comprehend. But on the other hand, it's just reality. You are forced to be creative and perhaps come up with a new business model. We are now also going to print merchandise for the music industry. Sure, 2020 has been an incredible roller coaster, but intellectually it's been an insanely interesting year. Just keep believing in the plans you make with your team and make it happen.”