Veloretti

“We couldn’t have grown as fast if we’d wanted local bike shops to carry our bikes.”

Interview with Ferry Zonder — founder of Veloretti.

Veloretti

Veloretti is an online bike brand that develops, produces, and sells its own products. It delivers bikes throughout Europe. Founder Ferry Zonder started the company after he couldn’t find a suitable bike for a reasonable price. “In 2011 I was searching for a good bike and that turned out to be a huge hassle,” he says, “So I wondered: can you get a light-weight, good-looking bike that rides well for 300 to 400 Euro? Why don’t I just do it myself? And that’s how it all began.”

“I wondered: can you get a light-weight, good-looking bike that rides well for 300 to 400 Euro? Why don’t I just do it myself?”

Ferry Zonder founder of Veloretti

No experience whatsoever

Ferry had exactly zero experience in designing bikes and that’s why it took a year and a half for Veloretti to go live. He flew all over the world, seeking out suppliers. Gradually, he came into contact with all the suppliers he needed to get his business rolling.

“You meet a frame builder, “ he explains, “and they know where you can get your wheels, and then that person knows where you can get your tyres. So, you go from one supplier to another until you have all of your parts covered.” While he was doing all this, he had a light and sound production company. “I sold that and put all of the money made from it into Veloretti,” which launched in 2013. “And going live couldn’t have come at a better moment, because we had spent all the money I invested,” he says, “Now, we’re seven years down the road and the product is the same as it was on day one.”

Ferry Zonder posing with a Veloretti Bicycle

The philosophy behind the company

Is the bike exactly the same as it was at the beginning? “I think the bike is 90% the same,” Ferry concludes. “We’ve developed a lot,” he tells, “Some of the parts on the bikes weren’t that great in terms of quality and we chose the wrong bolts on the first batch of bikes we made, which rusted. At the time we had thought this through, and the supplier said the bolts were okay. You only find out that they’re not once people have started using your product. Now, we’ve got that under control.”

A close up on a Veloretti Bicycle

The fact that Veloretti has figured this all out is actually pretty special, in fact. They only sell their bikes online, and even though they come with warranties, you can’t take your bike back to the bike shop around the corner like you would when buying the traditional way. They do, though, have a brick-and-mortar store in Amsterdam, but you can only look at bikes there. If you want to buy and pay, you still have to do it online. This is unusual in the Netherlands, where most people buy bikes from physical locations where they also have them serviced. But Veloretti’s online-only approach is purposefully part of the philosophy behind the company. “When you receive your bike, it’s 85% assembled,” Ferry says, “So you have to be kind of handy to put the rest together. If you’ve tightened all the bolts and put the rest together yourself, you can also change the bolts yourself. In that sense, we have a great deal of flexibility when it comes to our customers. That was the plan from the beginning.”

“We have a great deal of flexibility when it comes to our customers. That was the plan from the beginning.”

Ferry Zonder founder of Veloretti

“You’re not thinking straight”

“When I first started Veloretti, everyone said, ‘You’re not thinking straight. You have Cortina, VanMoof, Gazelle, who are you to start a new bike company?’” Ferry explains, “Yet, no one was selling bikes online.” “You, though, did have bike shops that were on the web, but you didn’t have any online bike brands,” he distinguishes. “We couldn’t have grown as fast if we’d wanted local bike shops to carry our bikes. This is the case because it’s impossible to get into the retail sector if you’re a new bike brand, the entire dealer channel is bound to contracts and purchases. A few brands cover 99% of the market - you’re not breaking into that unless you serve a niche. Moreover, I wanted to sell our bikes outside of the Netherlands.”

Example of a page where you can buy Veloretti's bicycle online

Because there weren’t any other online bike brands, there weren’t any examples Ferry could use to show him how to pull it off. “We had to think of everything ourselves. For example, we created transportation packaging that you can use to send a bike anywhere in Europe for €19.95. Sometimes we pay more than this, sometimes less,” he notes. “Sending a bike to Cyprus costs a bunch more than €19.95, but that means one of your bikes is on Cyprus,” and then, “the person riding the bike is going to football and then the people there see the bike. The more bikes you have on the streets, the more you’re going to sell and the more demand you’re going to create. People who love their bikes are the best advertisement you can have,” he says, “Next to Facebook and Instagram, this type of brand ambassadorship is a main promotional channel. We do everything for our clients.”

A complicated product

“We want satisfied customers, so service is one of the most important pillars of our business. We’re always making sure our clients are happy, which is why our reviews are so good, ” remarks Ferry. And a lot can go wrong with bikes because they’re complicated products. “Damaged bicycles, lost parts, people not putting the bikes together correctly. And you want, of course, to deliver a great customer experience,” he says, “this means that everything has to be sustainable and easy to maintain.” But what if something breaks? “Then we send them whatever parts they need for free,” and, “If it’s something more complicated, for example, the rear hub is damaged, customers can go to a local bike shop and get it fixed. All they have to do is take a picture of the receipt and send it to us and they’ll have their money back in a couple of days.”

“We’re always making sure our clients are happy, which is why our reviews are so good.”

Ferry Zonder founder of Veloretti

A better bike for a better price

Veloretti can deliver on offering a better bike at a better price because they know precisely what can break on a bike. “We’ve been doing this for seven years and we know exactly what can go wrong and how to fix it. This is all included in the price. The retail margin you pay when you go to a bike shop, you don’t shell out for that with us,” he explains, “With us, you have a better bike for a better price. We have a very efficient distribution model. For example, the bike doesn’t need to first go from the supplier to the wholesaler, and then from the wholesaler to a purchasing group, and from there finally to a bike shop. We’re much more efficient than this, which is also better for the environment. People are beginning to pay more attention to this part of the equation.”

Ferry Zonder riding a Veloretti Bicycle

The impact something has on many touchpoints in the world is important, “and that’s why biking so popular. A bike is elegant, good for the person riding it, the environment, and the infrastructure,” Ferry states. “In the Netherlands, it’s always been like this, but the growth we’re seeing abroad is huge,” he continues, “which makes what’s happening better than I could have ever dreamed when I first thought of taking Veloretti abroad.” Here, he says that, “Our biggest advantage is that we’re from the Netherlands because this is a country that’s seen as an authority when it comes to bikes. People want a Dutch bike, they think it’s great. City bikes as well as e-bikes are in demand, “and that’s why we’re developing our own e-bike that fits in with our philosophy: a cool bike that’s not super expensive, designed by us. This directly contrasts what other bike brands are doing.” For example, “Brands all get the batteries and drive systems for their e-bikes from the same place, and all of their bikes look the same,” he says.

No sales

“But,” Ferry notices, “it’s interesting that they roll out new bike collections every year while the bikes from the previous year are just as good as the new ones. Why don’t they do a collection of bikes from the past, because these are still quality? That’s why we barely change our offerings.” “Our clients know,” he says, “that if they buy a bike next year it’ll be just as good as it is today,” moreover, “You never have to offer sales. We’ve never put anything on sale.” “I value transparency,” he says, “and Mollie’s like that as well, you have a transparent model.”

Ferry Zonder flashes through Amsterdam on a Veloretti Bicycle

“You don’t only notice transparency in the way you communicate with the outside world, but how you act,” concludes Ferry. “You’re always reachable and if an issue arises, it’s solved immediately, for example, with a chargeback or integrating Klarna.” In addition, “Visually speaking, Mollie looks amazing. You see a lot of flashy webshops that when it comes to paying, you’re redirected to a payment portal that looks like it’s from the 90s,” he describes. “But yea, maybe that webshop has a fixed contract with their payment service provider. I used to have one who operated like that, but that setup doesn’t work for me. It speaks to your advantage that you’re flexible and have the guts to commit without a contract. I think that’s great.”

“I think it’s great that you all have the guts to commit without a contract.”

Ferry Zonder founder of Veloretti

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