Founders Fridays is a StartupAmsterdam initiative that showcases local entrepreneurs who help strengthen our ecosystem. By inviting founders to answer five questions, we want to shine a light on our ecosystem’s most inspirational stories and role models. We hope we’ll all learn and grow together by providing startup founders a space to share their insights and experience.
This week we spoke to Robin Broekhuizen, founder of Robin Retail, a centralised local fashion e-commerce platform and bike delivery system. Robin wants to re-localise fashion consumption and help the representation of multiple boutiques in Amsterdam.
How did your career journey lead you to found Robin Retail?
I started developing the idea during my BA and MA studies, so I didn’t have much experience when I founded the business. However, during my studies, I also gained a little experience with a startup and a few established companies in the fashion industry.
The idea of Robin Retail was born while I was writing my BA thesis; more precisely, my research revealed shocking figures about how the online shopping boom has affected brick-and-mortar (fashion) retail. It dawned on me, in a time of local bike delivery, that in the future, all physical shops will be available online and for bike delivery. So why not start now?
I took time to think out the idea and speak to as many people as possible - from local store owners to entrepreneurs and potential customers. After a fully thought-out plan was developed, Robin Retail went live in May 2020.
What makes Amsterdam a great city and a great ecosystem for a startup founder?
Amsterdam is a great city for what we do - there’s a thriving community of local boutiques with lovely and personable store owners, and the city is very bike (delivery) friendly. And beyond that, the city nourishes startups with the many resources, networks, and support systems available to them.
I have gained a lot from the networking opportunities we’ve had. Speaking to many startup founders and investors has given us a beautiful mix of inspiration and practical tips that have helped us move forward. Every time we go to one of these networking events, we walk away feeling supported and with more ideas and motivation to put back into the business.
What are the goals and needs of Robin Retail for the upcoming months?
While we’ve established a strong presence with the fashion boutiques of Amsterdam, and good relationships with those store owners, we are now mainly looking to grow our B2C side. As part of this phase, we are currently looking for investment, with which we aim to heighten our brand awareness with end consumers, grow our internal team, and further enhance the platform.
After building this strong foundation, we will look further to other cities in the Netherlands to expand. Ultimately we aim to be the biggest local fashion platform in Europe. In every city we operate in, we want boutiques to continue working with us with a smile on their face and have consumers turn to retail giants only when they really, really need to.
What has been a recent “challenge” for your business?
My research revealed that shop owners would like an automatic system to work with Robin Retail so they can continue to focus on their beautiful stores. Makes sense, of course. Together with a great development team, we realised these digital connections with the local boutiques, allowing them to sell their products on our platform seamlessly.
However, it didn't start off seamlessly of course… Because every boutique works with a different online system, building these connections was a bigger challenge than we thought. It took a while before we really knew how to approach every digital connection that had to be made and this period was quite stressful, especially considering my lack of IT knowledge. Luckily, I look back on it with a smile now - it wasn’t all so bad at all, and I’ve learned much from it.
Which shopping trends have you noticed, and how does Robin Retail aim to bring more small businesses into the digital world?
Two of the main shopping trends we’ve been noticing have been born out of this local element we have. We’re finding many consumers coming to shop because they genuinely want to support the local boutiques and sustain their existence. We’re even noticing this from customers outside of Amsterdam, wanting to shop online from their favorite boutiques in the city. This has been one of the most heartwarming trends we’ve been seeing, but also logical considering we’re still coming out of a pandemic where shopping from these boutiques was difficult.
We’ve also been noticing a lot of customers who shop, browse, and pick up their items in-store. The click & collect method has been working well, and it makes our boutiques happy as they meet their (online) customers. This has also been a great way to merge those offline and online worlds.
We want to keep making these special, one-of-a-kind local boutiques easily available online so that they are accessible to all. By growing our platform and consumer demand, we want to bring more and more boutiques on board that share our mission and simply sell beautiful clothes. Bringing local online - is our goal.
And if you want to share your story with our local ecosystem, you can contact us by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.