Entrepreneurship after an MBA: Wouter van Bockel

Entrepreneurship after an MBA: Wouter van Bockel

Entrepreneurship after an MBA: Wouter van Bockel
Entrepreneurship after an MBA: Wouter van Bockel  
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Bringing design furniture to an emerging South African middle class

Wouter van Bockel has his mind firmly set on turning his company Furniturespot.co.za into the largest e-commerce platform for design furniture and home decor of South Africa. A recently secured substantial investment by a VC fund in the country should bring the RSM EMBA graduate closer to that dream. Explaining the successful growth of the company, he is quick to credit his fellow students for developing and fine-tuning the original business model together with him.

When he first arrived on campus, van Bockel had no idea what to realistically expect from the school, the students and himself, he admits. But soon after being immersed in the creativity that tends to ooze from a fresh MBA cohort of 100+ eager professionals, he started to realise his future was in entrepreneurship. Brainstorms ensued and the inevitably long list of business ideas was compiled. But how to find that diamond in the rough?

Perfectly aware that his experience with start-ups and business development was limited, he turned to his classmates and asked them for honest feedback about his potential business cases. The constructive criticism, coming from his classmates with experiences in a range of industries, was invaluable, he says. It helped him to identify Furniturespot as the most viable concept and then fine-tune it, again with the help of his cohort.

Furniturespot was to be an online platform to sell South African produced and designed furniture against attractive prices.

Three years, and one relocation to Johannesburg later, van Bockel knows he made the right call, at the right time: “There are so many opportunities here. The country’s economy is still growing and we see a rising demand for design furniture from an emerging urban professional class. At the same time, e-commerce in South Africa is lagging about four years behind Europe, which makes this a great environment for start-ups.”

Working with small workshops, Furniturespot soon recorded double digit growth numbers. While a considerable achievement by itself, van Bockel came to realise that this approach was not scalable and might hurt growth perspectives in the long run. Simply adding more small workshops of five to six people would make maintaining a reliable supply chain and quality control too complicated. Bigger and more centralised factories were needed, he decided.

Luckily, the stars aligned again. Furniturespot’s growth success had not gone unnoticed in South-Africa and had made the company an attractive target for venture capital funding. Last month, three years into his entrepreneurial adventure, van Bockel inked a five-year investment deal with a South-African family office, bringing his goal to become the country’s largest e-commerce retailer in design furniture and home décor yet one step closer.

“Now the most exciting part is going to start”, van Bockel comments, “and I honestly never expected to be the entrepreneur I have become. Doing an MBA set him on the right track to get there, he says: “It taught me that to be successful you have to do your research, keep an open mind, and learn to trust others.”

Furniturespot.co.za in numbers

GoLive: January 2017

Revenue: 2018 R5.5m

Units shipped 2018: 550

Employees: 6

Return on Marketing Spend: 15x