Wednesday next week, the LOEY Award will be given to the best Dutch online entrepreneur. This award was initiated by VC firms Van den Ende & Deitmers and Peak Capital in 2010. Last year’s winner was Marco Aarnink, founder of Drukwerkdeal.nl and one of the youngest multimillionaires of our country. In this interview Moniek Veltman talked to Aarnink about his experiences in the past year, for example his participation in a TV show, and his plans for the future.
LOEY Award winner of 2014 Marco Aarnink’s story is intriguing. In 2005, he sold curtains on a Dutch street market. When his boss asked him to arrange business cards, he experienced how inefficient the Dutch printing industry market worked for small deliveries. He decided to found Drukwerkdeal.nl, a B2B online printing company which could produce affordably due to high volume manufacturing. Soon, they became market leader in the Netherlands. In 2014, the thriving company was sold to Cimpress NV, parent company of Vistaprint, for €24 million, plus an undisclosed amount because of an earn out deal. This sale made Aarnink, 29 years old at the time, one of the youngest multimillionaires in the Netherlands.
Drukwerkdeal.nl and the international label Printdeal.com stayed independent labels under the umbrella of Cimpress. Aarnink exchanged his CEO title for the title of Managing Director of Drukwerkdeal.nl and its parent company People & Print Group (Printdeal BV). The idea was that he would stay one or two more years and would get a results dependent earn-out. In March of this year, the moment had come: Aarnink stopped working for the company.
The decision to step out was difficult, but the timing was perfect. Aarnink explains. “I knew that the time was coming: the company was certainly ready for it, I was ready for it. After ten years of working in the online printing industry, I felt the wish to explore another market. Although now that I’ve stopped, I do miss the employees. They’ve always been an important source of inspiration for me.”
The focus on the human element has been one of the key aspects of Drukwerkdeal.nl. “Each week I had a breakfast with ten employees, our so-called ‘milk meeting’. The group differed over time. I listened to their stories, to what was important for them. In my opinion, this way of working is better than reading a lot of books such as by Maslow (Editorial note: Maslow was a psychologist who published books about human needs, among others). Also, I think that it is good to laugh a lot with your employees. Laughing is highly contagious; if I start laughing, other people will follow within no time. And happy employees will make happy customers.”
What has being the winner of the LOEY Award brought to him? “I received a lot of media attention last year. I was asked to be a jury member for a Dutch TV show, ‘Het beste idee van Nederland’ (‘The best idea of the Netherlands’), in which people present a self-created invention to solve a problem they experience. I focused in this show on whether the idea was feasible, whether the market was big enough to bear the costs. I felt at ease in the world of television, since I recognised the attitude of the TV makers: it’s hard work and risky, because the costs are high and there are no guarantees for high ratings.”
Another one of his recent activities: Aarnink became a member of the supervisory board of his hometown Deventer’s football club Go Ahead Eagles. “This is certainly a matter of ‘turning your hobby into a job.’” And, he has lots of ideas for a new company. “I am a very creative person and come up with new ideas quickly, but I also tend to lose focus soon. I’ve decided to give myself some time, maybe half a year, to develop an idea and test whether it’s feasible and scalable. I had an idea for an app that brings together people who have a chore but lack time and people who can do the chore. It appeared that this app already existed, it’s called Jobado, so I decided to invest in the company. I’ve done some other investments, mostly via an investment fund in Amsterdam in which I am involved. I like investing, but being an entrepreneur myself is much nicer. But first, I need to get a very good idea.”
This is a sponsored article. This means that the article is independently written by our editorial team, but financially supported by another organisation, in this case, the Loey Awards.