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Bootstrapping From a Small Town in Denmark to $12 Million: Sebastian Petersen, CEO of TrendHim (Part 2)

Posted on Thursday, May 30th 2019

Sramana Mitra: Can you tell me how many years are we talking in this mode? When did you move out of your mom’s house to your own apartment?

Sebastian Petersen: We only did that for about six months.

Sramana Mitra: How much were you doing, revenue-wise, when you moved to the apartment?

Sebastian Petersen: I guess $10,000 a year.

Sramana Mitra: How long did it take you to get to a million dollars in annual revenue?

Sebastian Petersen: That took us about six years. It was the toughest six years of my life. You’ve got to push through a lot to reach that first million in revenue when you start at zero.

Sramana Mitra: What do you think clicked? In getting to the first million, what do you think drove you to that milestone?

Sebastian Petersen: That was basically just a lot of hard work and grinding. We could have gotten there a lot easier. Back in 2008, e-commerce was so young. It was so hard to make money on it. It was difficult in many ways.

Getting from a million to $10 million is more interesting. If we had focused on scale a bit earlier and thought more about international expansion, we could have saved some years. It wouldn’t have taken six years. It could have taken just three.

Sramana Mitra: Where were the customers coming from in that first million?

Sebastian Petersen: Only Denmark. The first six years was only selling to customers in Denmark. It was all over Denmark. We next opened to our neighboring countries. In Denmark, there are five million people. That was our target group at first.

Sramana Mitra: When you started selling elsewhere, what did you do differently? Was it that you were buying more Google ads in other places? For a men’s jewelry e-commerce company to go beyond Denmark, what steps did you have to take?

Sebastian Petersen: If you want success with e-commerce today, you have to scale internationally. We were beginning to get three things right – the logistics part, the payments part, and then simply scaling our system. We scaled everything from translation, marketing, site performance. We got really good at user testing and building that user-friendly website. That’s what drove us outside the country borders.

Once we got that right in one country, all of a sudden, we could scale all over Europe really fast. Once we started opening our neighboring countries, it only took us three years to build another 20 countries.

Sramana Mitra: Tell me specifically about what you did. You’re talking about a bunch of buckets. When you talk about needing to do something in logistics, what did you need to do in logistics? Did you put warehouses in every country? What was the methodology?

Sebastian Petersen: I can only talk about Europe. It’s all about moving products from A to B as fast and as cheap as possible. We have a whole network of logistics suppliers. If you just use one supplier to ship all the way to the end customer, it gets too expensive. I think we use 19 different suppliers.

When you go into a new country or target group, you go deep into what it is the customer wants and needs. What are the local shipping and payment options? What are their preferred ways of getting the product? Then we make sure that we tweak our website and logistics.

If we just have a universal way of selling and communicating, we won’t really be successful doing that. It was all about talking to a lot of customers, find out what they want, and then making sure to take it seriously.

This segment is part 2 in the series : Bootstrapping From a Small Town in Denmark to $12 Million: Sebastian Petersen, CEO of TrendHim
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