Six years ago, entrepreneur Ida Backlund (Founder, Rapunzel of Sweden) was inspired to set up her own business selling natural, human hair extensions. She wanted them for herself but couldn’t find a supplier that offered what she saw as the whole package – good quality, customer service and fast delivery. So she sourced her own, sold them to friends, then to friends of friends, and it snowballed from there – and, last year, Rapunzel of Sweden saw revenues of approximately SEK80m (€9.3m).
“Everybody wants quick delivery – they want it tomorrow, they want it for the weekend.”
Today the online business has 36 members of staff and its products – which now include other hair care products and wigs – sell in 36 countries.They are also sold in a large number of hairdressers, including three in Sweden owned by Backlund herself.
The website has grown from something “small and simple” to a platform that includes links to social networks, video tutorials on how to use the products and a new portal, “Stars by Rapunzel”, which shows celebrities such as Swedish DJ duo Rebecca & Fiona using the extensions and giving their reasons why.
The site receives 210,000 visitors a month and the conversion rate sits at a healthy five per cent. “Everybody wants quick delivery – they want it tomorrow, they want it for the weekend,” Backlund explains.
“We needed to find a solution to make it fast, effective and, as the product doesn’t weigh much, low cost.”
She uses a number of different partners “to get the mix right for different countries” and to give consumers a choice of services. Asendia is part of that mix and she believes their partnership is most effective when it comes to Norway – Rapunzel’s third largest market after Sweden and Finland.
“We receive many orders from Norway each day, but it took us a long time to find a good way to send things there. As it’s not in the EU, customs and VAT make it more complicated,” she explains.
With Asendia, Rapunzel sends the products to Norway in bulk, and individual orders are prepared for customer delivery once they are in country and customs is cleared. Although it means that orders cannot yet be fulfilled for next day delivery, Backlund says it is currently the best solution available.
“It took us a long time to find a good way to send things to Norway. As it’s not in the EU, it makes it more complicated.”
Backlund also pays a lot of attention to product packaging, explaining that even though the goods are received through the post, it is important that customers get the same shopping experience and excitement from opening the packaging. This is part of her desire to “control the experience from beginning to end”.
Although she is comfortable with delegating day-to-day business decisions to her managers, Backlund remains very hands-on when it comes to product development. Most recently, for example, she has worked with a group of girls suffering from hair loss for medical reasons to develop a range of human hair wigs as an alternative to the synthetic ones traditionally available through hospitals. “It took us a long time to find a good way to send things to Norway. As it’s not in the EU, it makes it more complicated”
Rapunzel has its own factory and in September will be opening a new warehouse facility more than twice the size of the existing one. “It means we can send customers their orders immediately,” she adds. and she believes that ensuring the quality of the products, customer service and delivery is the main reason behind her success.
Location of company: Nordics