This Dutch Bicycle Company Created the Best Hack to Ship Their Bicycles

When Dutch bicycle company VanMoof got tired of their bicycles getting damaged during shipping (before arriving to their customers), they decided to do something truly ingenious and super-practical.

What they came up with is one of the best hacks I’ve ever seen in business…not counting the ones people come up with using stuff from IKEA, of course.

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Image Credit: VanMoof

What’s a hack you say? Well depending on who and where you are, you might think I’m referring to a washed up Hollywood writer or Mr. Robot (you should watch that show!) or a one of those nasty coughs you get when you’re sick.

But the hack I’m referring to these days is being able to transform something ordinary into something extraordinary. They printed a TV (television) on the sides of their existing packaging!

Yes, you heard correctly. After eight years in business and struggling to find a responsible way to ship “to your front door for free”, the two Dutch brothers (owners of VanMoof) had an “aha moment”. Their boxes used for shipping was roughly the same dimensions as the biggest flatscreen television you could find.

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Image Credit: Fast Co.Exist

Even after a photograph posted to Twitter resulted in the jig being up, VanMoof had still successfully managed to have shipping damage to their bicycles drop by an average of roughly 75%. That sounds like a great hack to me.

On the side of the box is a little poem too that made me smile:

We like bikes

and we like you

and the rest of the world

to ride bikes

and like them too

I guess the business lessons here are to always look for clever (and unorthodox) ways to get your high-quality product in the hands of your customers or in this case to their door in the best ways possible.

Sometimes the solution to the problem is staring you straight in the face. Keep your eyes open and look around for inspiration.

And finally, cutting overhead expenses is vital to maintaining your profit margins. If you’re an eCommerce business then it’s probably a good idea to find some neat hacks to reduce potential damage to your goods.

Have something to say about this article? Well why not leave a comment below so we can have a little discussion. I’d love to hear your ideas. No honestly…comment.

Featured Image: VanMoof

Old 2005 Interview of Mark Zuckerberg Proves You Should Always Believe in Your Idea

How big is an idea? Just two week ago, Facebook launched its platform “Facebook Live” with the goal of giving users the “power to broadcast from a smartphone to anyone in the world”. An early interview of Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg proves that it’s important to remain focused on what your ultimate goal will be.

Here we see a young Mark, 21-years old to be exact, discussing his then “new” social media startup “The Facebook” in Palo Alto and holding a beer no less.

When asked by the interviewer “What was The Facebook?”, Mark explains that it was “An online directory for colleges” and also that it was interactive. “Growing from one university (Harvard) to three other schools (Columbia, Yale, and Stanford) gaining thousands of users in a couple of weeks. Closed with 29 schools and “came out to the mythical place of Palo Alto”. From here on we all know how the story goes.

It’s a short video, but it has some great gems for newbie entrepreneurs. Here are the most important lessons from this early interview in my opinion:

  1. Define your goal.
  2. Refine your goal.
  3. Run quickly!
  4. Forget world domination.
  5. Don’t think about being acquired.
  6. Make a difference in the world.
  7. Stay focused!

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12 Entrepreneurial Lessons from Richard Branson’s Autobiography, Losing My Virginity

As some of you who follow my blog and social media accounts (via Facebook and Twitter) would realise, I am a big admirer of Sir Richard Branson. I’ve been a loyal reader of his blogs on the Virgin.com website, tweets, YouTube videos, and magazine contributions through Entrepreneur Magazine. I have learned, like many others in the world, a great deal of valuable business lessons that have helped me to grow my own start-up, Phresh Ideas and Designs established in October 2010.

The updated autobiography is available on Amazon
The updated edition is available on Amazon

I have never been so big on receiving gifts as much as giving them, however, this year I was willing to be the receiver after catching sight of what was to come my way. This was the first time that I had read one of his books and my wife was gracious enough to get it for me as a Christmas gift. Add ‘Losing My Virginity’ (The Autobiography) by Richard Branson on your list of books to read. It’s an incredible combination of life and business lessons. Having spent the past three days leafing through 573 pages of text and private collection of photographs and a few cartoons, I completed the book. I can happily say without reservation that it was time well invested. There’s nothing quite like acquiring knowledge from those more experienced in a specific industry or space than you are.

“What goes up must come down” was said by Isaac Newton and has since become easily one of the most popular quotes to date. This quote can be applied to everything that happened to Richard Branson through the highs and lows of his entrepreneurial career. From the day he started his first magazine, Student as a teenager in 1968 to creating a very “hip” (cool) record label, Virgin Records in his twenties was all very impressive. Consider too how he started Virgin Atlantic by leasing a single Boeing 747-200 for a year within two decades became one of the world’s favourite airlines. Virgin even successfully challenged “monopolies” like British Airways (10 years their senior) while they were at it.

Richard Branson in a take-off pose with one of his Virgin Airlines plane in the background
Richard Branson set for take-off with Virgin Atlantic in the background

It seems following your instincts has tremendous value and being extremely decisive on what looks like a worthwhile project or business opportunity is the characteristic for success or failure.

These days he spends his time exploring the limits or lack thereof in the future of space travel and space through his company Virgin Galactic. While pursuing “the final frontier”, Branson manages to focus on global warming and climate change issues exploring new sustainable fuels for aviation and cleaner energy through Virgin Green Fund. Through his interest in using his influence to solve social, economic and political challenges on a global scale, he was able to gather some of the world’s most influential leaders, The Elders. Former South African President Nelson Mandela was an original supporter in this initiative up until the time of his death.

The future of space tourism travel unveiled
The future of space tourism travel unveiled

To most, the model of the Virgin Group almost seems to be as unorthodox as any Fortune 500 company that has ever existed. It’s an ecosystem of companies in there hundreds as opposed to one gigantic entity. In hindsight, a combination of destiny and design makes Branson’s empire perhaps one of the best approaches to growing a start-up.

I sometimes look at my own life and wonder if I will ever learn to take more risks and go against the status quo, all while following my interests. So far I have accomplished a great deal as an entrepreneur through freelancing as a graphic designer. I can see where maybe I should pivot from being primarily a service-oriented business to one that is largely product-oriented. That way I can pull off earning more revenue even when I am asleep.

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Branson sits in the window of one of the earlier Virgin Records store, London

Sir Branson started off the first Virgin business in 1970 (Virgin Mail Order) selling discounted vinyl records with a small team of two and grew his business pursuits into a team of 50,000 people strong in just 40 years. Here are 12 lessons I learned from Richard’s autobiography:

  1. Lead by example in everything you do.
  2. Learn to negotiate good deals.
  3. Welcome competition, but never let them walk all over you.
  4. Follow your interests and make them a reality.
  5. If there is a market with two dominant players, it can use a third “to stir up the pot”.
  6. Understand the value of your influence as a person and use it for good causes.
  7. Some of the best business deals are done outside of the business environment, like over lunch.
  8. Keep reinventing yourself.
  9. Trust your instincts; that gut feeling you get will steer you in the right direction.
  10. Life is better with family and great friends.
  11. You must take a lot of risks to get to where you want to be.
  12. Always keep a notebook and pen handy to take notes;

Bonus lesson – always protect the downside (risks) of a startup venture.

We should all make a go at growing our businesses. We have nothing to lose, but opportunities. The Christmas holiday was here and then it disappeared without a trace. Here’s to hoping you all enjoyed yourself with family and friends and got the gifts you wanted. The New Year is just a few days away, so here’s to wishing you the very best for 2015.

A Lesson in Making Your Brand Better Than the “Norm”

If ever there was a time when I truly believed in ‘personal branding’ it would be now after my own firsthand look.

Just this month I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the winery and vineyard of Norman Hardie (owner and brand) in picturesque Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada. I know what you’re probably thinking, “the name doesn’t ring a bell” and to you I would say I didn’t anticipate it would. However, one of the important take-aways from my meeting with “Norm” is that his entire brand is a reflection of his personality and that is the secret to creating authenticity.

Oven-fired pizza at Norman Hardie vineyards

From the simple yet classy and memorable logo design, to the wine glasses etched with his logo to the packaging and decor. Attention to detail is not spared. Mr. Hardie also explained that selling wines is more than just that, it is about making an experience for its visitors and this they’ve done perfectly by adding a selection of delicious pizzas. People love to create memories.

How does anyone build their names into a brand and make it a success? Well, I think the answer lies in first creating a logo that captures who you are now and who you aspire to be in the future and your business ethos is a reflection of that.

The wines of Norman Hardie

I plan on doing two things going forward, applying as much as I learned from Norman Hardie and finally revisiting this lovely winery and vineyard for the wines and pizzas.

Fun fact: I’m really a beer drinker.

To find out more about Norman Hardie, visit the website: http://www.normanhardie.com/

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13 Small Business Lessons You Can Learn From

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1980s to 1990s – Playing around 

For as long as I can remember, drawing, colouring and or painting was what always made me the happiest. I played with LEGO® a lot and I think everything contributed to my attraction to the world of art and design and eye for detail. I like the “big picture” of any great or good idea and I also like breaking things down to really understand it.

2000s – I discover graphic design software

In 2002 I accidentally stumbled across Corel Draw® and messed around with the software designing basic things and that became my first introduction to using actual graphic design software. One year later I saw a friend of mine using Adobe Photoshop® and I thought it was the coolest thing ever! Designing using layers to ultimately create a visual composite! Genius!

2010 – I start my own company

Ten years later I started my small design company with the goal of changing the world through design and living out my dreams. The biggest challenge was keeping the momentum while working in a full-time job and trying to ensure you manage to find a way to balance it all. Believe in yourself and people will believe in you. With that I got friends who became clients and clients who became friends. I’ve met a lot of people and it feels great when they validate your work with their excitement, satisfaction and gratitude.

2012 – Celebrating my company’s 2nd anniversary

I stuck with my four page business plan and it’s kept me on track when I was losing focus. I started logo designs and I think I’ve gotten much better at it. Always wanted to make my own t-shirt collection and I did that this year as well. All in all, I think I’ve achieved a lot.

I’ve learned a lot about starting and growing a small business and some of the most important lessons have been:

  1. Dream BIG!
  2. Believe in your ideas
  3. Be fearless and take the dive!
  4. Fail fast and fail cheap. Learn quickly!
  5. Network as much as you can
  6. Find mentors who will guide you
  7. Surround yourself with positive and productive people
  8. Ask for help if you need it
  9. Read! A LOT!
  10. Allow God to inspire you
  11. Work for free sometimes if it’s a noteworthy cause in your eyes
  12. Give advice for free all the time, unless you’re otherwise hired
  13. Constantly reinvest into your business

2014?

Well… I’ll keep you posted.