In retrospect, this is the story of one of my first customers who asked for my help to kickstart their business in an early and uncertain, but exciting stage.
In this blog, I’ll explain how we started, how Versus developed and the current status of the shop & company.
This project started during my Industrial Design Engineering studies. A peer and good friend of mine, Daan Groot, was already building kiteboards in his student house with his roommate Eddy Lansink. They shared their idea to start a kitesurfing webshop with me and they told me they had found some suppliers to start with. Daan knew about my web development skills from another project we did (Verse Ontwerpers) and asked me whether I wanted to build their initial webshop.
As with any startup we were on a tight budget, but we decided to see if it could work. We had to strip out everything that was unnecessary to cut the costs. This means the shop consisted of just a few static pages, no content management system or back-end system, not even a payment system! But what we did build, was a clear website with good product advice. We put a lot of effort in search engine optimisation (SEO) to outperform the competitors on the market.
The shop literally launched in September 2009 when Eddy Lansink caught the attention of the Internet and the Dutch national news and with a huge jump while kitesurfing with stormy weather.
This is what the webshop looked like back then:
With a growing number of suppliers, products and endeavours, we soon added an option for Daan and Eddy to add and modify content. Basically, this worked more or less the same as the static site generators that are around today. This worked for about a year, until the number of products was growing too fast. That’s when we started working with a back-end developer and switched implemented MODX for content- and inventory management.
It’s hard to imagine now, but the shopping cart and payment system was finally added more than 3 years after the launch of the shop. Back then, it was a lot harder and more expensive to set up payment options than it is today.
In the meantime, their growth had expanded beyond the webshop. Versus started a trial with a showroom, along with kitesurfing lessons and repair services.
In 2013, Versus Shop was growing at a rate that demanded daily attention to improve, update and maintain their webshop. As a freelancer, it’s not my ambition to become a full-time employee. At this point, Versus hired their own dedicated web developer and gradually my work on the webshop was handed over to the Versus team.
Versus Shop is still alive and doing well. This is how their website looks at the moment:
Some of their achievements in the meantime:
- Their team expanded from the 2 founders to a team of 25 people.
- In 2013, Versus opened their own brick & mortar shop close to the seaside in Scheveningen. From here they also run the kite- & board repair service and a kitesurfing school.
- During the winter time, Versus organises snowkiting trips to Norway.
- In 2016, Versus launched their own product line: TEN Kiteboarding
They have also made a nice video which explains it all:
Compared to the hard work, passion and dedication Daan and Eddy put into building their company over the past 8 years, my role has just been to technically facilitate what they wanted to achieve. Nevertheless, I look back at this with great joy, pride and admiration.
And of course, I encourage you to take a look at Versus Shop as it is right now.