On June 8, the Flanders Meeting & Convention Center at Antwerp Zoo was transformed into BOPE. A large-scale convention that brought together various entrepreneurs from the Benelux around the digitization of the printing sector and the challenges of tomorrow.
The program was spectacular: speakers from Germany, the Netherlands, Panama, Denmark and Belgium underscored the international nature of the event. Also came to speak: our Mr. Chief himself, Jesse Marynen, who meticulously explained the story of our online platform INKOprint. A little recap of his – if we do say so ourselves – impressive talk!
How authenticity helps build a future-proof print business
Jesse Marynen: “I’d like to take you back to the year 2017. I had ordered business cards for myself. Never did I think something so simple would change the course of my career. When the cards arrived at my home, I was blown away. The quality of the packaging almost surpassed that of the product itself. Every detail was just right. Goosebumps!”
“I had ordered the tickets from Moo.com. Until today one of the largest e-commerce printing platforms in the world. It has several production sites in the UK and US and revenues exceed $100 million a year. The crazy thing: they only use five to seven different papers. This gave me an idea…”
Evolution of the graphics market
“I thought about the question: what is the added value of print and how will print evolve in the next decade? Online printing companies have proven their existence in recent years. They have made printing more accessible and popular for everyone. See how easy it is to order 25 invitations today. A decade ago, that was not possible.”
“On the other hand, we all notice that the market is stabilizing. With larger product offerings and more print options, we have to look for new markets, with an increasing focus on B2B in particular.”
A digital extension for Buroform
“An online print platform is indispensable if you want to build a future-proof print business. So, I stood there on my doormat, with Moo.com’s cards in my hands, and I thought I had found the answer: I copy Moo.com!”
“I looked for a business partner with an IT background and started visiting companies that could possibly help us build out the platform. Soon we found out that building such a platform would cost €500,000. Money we didn’t have.”
“I started looking for investors. I remember the pitch at Cartamundi like it was yesterday. I stood there in a large conference room, where four managers looked at me with a scary look full of expectations.
Clammy hands, buckling knees…. I thought, Jesse, you MUST get this right. But even before I could finish my pitch, they interrupted me: Cartamundi didn’t see a future in the concept. And I also got the same cold ‘no’ on all subsequent pitches.”
“I was deeply disappointed, but I believed in my project so much that I decided to look for a cheaper solution and fund the project myself. In Eastern Europe, I found a partner who would develop the platform for €88,000. Hallelujah!”
“Weeks went by. And the more time passed, the clearer it became that things would not go as smoothly as I had imagined. Communication was strained, expectations didn’t match. We had to pull the plug. My project had failed and I had lost a lot of money.”
“Grow like a lobster”
“I was convinced that I should abandon my dream. That maybe it just wasn’t ‘my thing.’ Yet I didn’t want to just throw everything overboard. I was and still am convinced that e-commerce is the future. I decided to crawl under a figurative rock for a while and let the idea grow, just as a lobster does. A story that Dr. Abraham Twerski could explain better than myself.”
“Under that rock, I realized it’s not enough to be a copycat. To be successful, you must stay true to your own values:
- I value accessibility and ease of use.
- I love printing and the craftsmanship involved.
- Nothing is worth more to me than the freedom to do what I love for myself.
Step by step
“I wanted to rework the concept with my own values in mind. Start small and build step by step.”
“A customer told me, ‘Jesse, when I need special advice on paper and binding techniques, I come to Buroform. But for standard printing, I look online. That’s just easy: You choose your product, upload your file and confirm.'”
“In addition, I regularly receive students in the print shop for a company visit. And again and again I ask them the same question: ‘Suppose you come into a marketing agency, how would you order your printing?’ What do you think the answer was?”
Online, of course!
“It became increasingly clear to me: why not just combine the best of both worlds? Niche products in an e-commerce context. I wanted to build out a version of Buroform that would be accessible to any online client. My own values formed my compass.”
Freedom, craftsmanship and accessibility
“Because I value freedom , we decided to write the platform from scratch. We want to remain captains of our own ship.”
“My love of craftsmanship manifests itself in the fact that we stay close to our product. We print what we are good at ourselves, and work with local print partners for products we have less experience with. And, of course, our platform is fast, user-friendly and accessible to everyone.”
“The sum of those three values became my new company: INKOprint.be. An online printing company that unites authentic craftsmanship and the digital future of printing. It serves current and future generations who crave accessibility, ease of use and a wide range of premium products.”
“And best of all: I see myself reflected in my business because it is built on my authentic values.”
Are you ready for your “lobster moment“?
When Jos Steutelings of VIGC – Graphic Innovation asked me if I wanted to be part of the speaker program during #BOPE2022, my breath stopped for a moment. I could only think of one word: Wow…. WOW! – Jesse Marynen