Mick Berry founder and CEO of Berry Boards
I like the fact that you can simply add and remove payment options. Everything is under one app.
In late 2018 Mick Berry bought an electric scooter and noticed a problem. Recovering from several operations due to a back injury, he had hoped the scooter would help him regain his mobility. But the width of the scooter’s footboard forced Mick to stand with one foot in front of the other, as if on a tight-rope.
The ergonomics of this weren’t ideal, especially for someone with a sore back. What if, Berry wondered, there was a wider footboard that could clip securely onto the scooter frame, thereby allowing the rider to stand with feet side by side, offering a more optimal position for the hips and pelvis.
Having previously run a health and safety consultancy, Berry used his existing knowledge and entrepreneurial knack to create a wider deck. Then, he put the prototype on social media. Turns out, there were loads of electric scooter riders who wanted the same thing. In 2018, Berry Boards was born, and in the first year the company turned £30,000 in revenue.
“When I first started, there were only like three or four scooter brands,” Berry explained. “So I had a one page website, and it just had this shape, this size, and it was only one model. Then the scooter company released another scooter, a slightly bigger one. So obviously we wanted to capture that. So we made a bigger one. Fast forward to now and we’ve got templates for about 50 scooters now.”
In building his business — and becoming the first company to get a design patent for an aftermarket electric scooter part — Berry has become adept at the art of offering a fully customisable ecommerce experience online. His customers can submit virtually any design they wish for a wide array of scooter types, offering virtually limitless variations.
And staying true to his entrepreneurial spirit, Berry’s done it mostly by himself.
If you want something done right, do it yourself
Many founders become less and less involved in the day-to-day workings of their business the more successful it gets. Berry is definitely not one of those founders. For the first couple years, he ran Berry Boards alongside a full time job and found himself packing boxes until 2am regularly.
“I’m now the director, owner, manufacturer, designer, I do the R&D — I do everything,” Berry said, noting he only accepts help from his wife and occasional freelance assistance from trusted friends. “I’m a bit obsessive when it comes to the quality side of things, I won’t just let anybody do it.”
After outsourcing core parts of the business before, it’s now all done in-house. The company maintains its own CNC machines, 3D printers, a wide format printer used to print the graphics on, and is even starting its own carbon fibre production process.
Berry likes the control that this level of involvement gives him over the business in a rapidly changing environment. Electric scooter legislation varies by country (they are currently not legal in the UK) and the likes of Brexit have put a dent in some of the company’s cross-border European commerce, though Berry expects that to recover in time.
“I don’t like being relying on third parties to be honest, because they’re all very good at the beginning of a business relationship, but eventually, you’re not the priority for them anymore,” Berry said. “So we brought it all in house [and] we’re quite confident now. If we wanted to do a new product, our product design process is a lot more streamlined now.”
Personalisation and customisation are both core to Berry Board’s offering. That goes for everything from offering many different scooter models to where the item is being shipped. Much of Berry Board’s customer base is outside of the UK, and global shipping is offered to all customers.
From the consumer’s point of view, designing their own bespoke board online is akin to designing their own t-shirt. Berry Board’s webshop uses a product plug-in that allows customers to upload their own pictures, choose from pre-set graphics, or Berry will even design a custom file for them free of charge with no obligation to buy. The conversion rate on custom-design files hovers around 90%, a sign of the good faith Berry has fostered with his customers.
All of this is made possible by running the website using WooCommerce, which has powerful customer personalisation tools. When it came to choosing a payment partner, Berry came upon Mollie when he was notified his former payment software was no longer supported by WooCommerce.
Looking for something that integrated multiple options like Klarna and Paypal — he was looking to get rid of the native PayPal app on his site — he found Mollie’s fees competitive and the one-stop-shop aspect attractive.
Even for someone like Berry who likes to do everything himself, condensing all of his payment types and gateways under Mollie’s umbrella was a much better approach than the constant troubleshooting of different apps and platforms. The WooCommerce plug-in made it especially easy.
“I thought it’d just be just better to get everything under one app so that I don’t have to worry about integrating so many different things, and I like the fact that you can simply add and remove payment options,” Berry said. “You can only allocate so much time to something like figuring out how to integrate Klarna. I just haven’t got time to spend two days sat the computer doing that.”
No magic formula
It’s always hard for a company that was a pioneer in a given space to stay ahead of the pack once competitors enter the space, but Berry seems well-placed to do it.
He seems to have the right attitude toward both his competitors and his customers. While he often has to reach out to tell competitors that they can’t use his patented board shape, he will equally offer to help them create their own. And with his global customer base, he’s keen to give them the benefit of the doubt, and fix any issues with that human touch — even if it means hopping on a FaceTime call with a customer in the U.S. who accidentally ordered the wrong board type.
And as for other entrepreneurs hoping to emulate Berry’s fairy tale success story? His advice is certainly no magic formula, but it does work.
“Make and present the product as best as you can. Be as approachable as possible. And try to offer really good customer service.”