165 years of Scheepjes | Scheepjes interview
How did it all begin?
My parents started out 50 years ago on the market in Groningen. My mother was studying art history and my father economics. My father had to help support himself and was looking for a part-time job to pay for his studies, so he worked selling haberdashery on the market in Groningen. Together with my mother, he quickly developed this into his own market stall. This was during the time of the oil crisis and my parents worked long days and had to work hard. They didn't mind it at all because they loved it, it was their passion.
I say market stall, but my parents were actually one of the first with a market van. People in the marketplace thought my parents were crazy. They laughed at them, but before long the benefits were easy to see as they could just pack the van and go. This made being on the market much easier as it took less time and effort to store and tidy things up. Less time than with a whole stall. My father already thought differently than others and was ahead of his time. This progressive mentality took us and the company a long way.
At that time it was already clear that my father liked buying more than selling. This has become a bit of a running joke as this can still be the case at times. At first, my parents only sold zippers and buttons, but the range was soon extended to include more additional products. They noticed that this worked well and that they could serve their customers better and more completely. Over the years we have developed into a wholesaler and now have more than 50,000 items in our product range.
Scheepjes, a brand with a rich history.
Since 2010, we have breathed new life into Scheepjes. The Netherlands had known the brand for years, particularly for yarn for socks. Scheepjes was started in the Dutch village of Veenendaal in the year 1855. At that time, wool combing and spinning was still performed by hand, according to traditional methods, and practiced as a cottage industry. Over the years, Scheepjes grew into a company which supported many families. At its peak in 1962, 900 people worked for Scheepjeswol. On the year of its 150th anniversary, the company even received the Koninklijk (Royal) title, which is an honorary title given by the Dutch monarchy. In short, a beautiful brand with a rich history, a family business like ours, and a brand that connects people.
New start for Scheepjes
By the end of the 80’s, Scheepjes had really lost its spark. It was actually at a standstill. In 2010 we had the opportunity to breathe new life into this brand and took over the company. My father and I immediately had the feeling: we can make something beautiful out of Scheepjes again.
How did you achieve this?
We first started by mapping out the target group. What is happening with the customers, what motivates them, what makes them happy? I believed was important to get to the bottom of this before going any further. In addition, it is important to surround yourself with people who understand the business. We put together a super professional team, with members who each have their own expertise. We gave the team our trust to expand the Scheepjes brand. This was a time when influencers were also up and coming, so we started to work together with them. Along with putting together the new team, this has been one of the best steps we have taken during the development of Scheepjes. The online possibilities are enormous. By entering into the right collaborations we have seen Scheepjes grow into an international brand.
Qualities and colours of Scheepjes?
I haven’t even begun to describe the qualities of wool and yarn from Scheepjes. We have devoted a lot of our time and attention to this. We create the ideas for the colours and qualities of the wool and yarn, which we then pass on to our spinners. This enables us to bring unique products to the market in all the colours we want. A lot of use of colour is not very common in our market and we sometimes take risks with that, but we do love colour and we notice that our customers appreciate it too. It is one of the things that makes Scheepjes stand out. We also often experiment with different qualities, we are never stop moving and always strive to be innovative. Every season we come up with new yarn and wool.
Why do you get a smile from Scheepjes?
We now have approximately 90 people working for the company, which is quite a responsibility that I enjoy every day. Why do I get a smile from Scheepjes? Because I see that everyone works well together, they all have the same goals and everyone puts their heart and soul into their work and the company. Then you can't help but smile, right?!
The future of Scheepjes
We still have so many great plans! However, one of the things we really want to focus on is corporate social responsibility. Doing our part to make a difference in the world. Not just because we have to, but really from an intrinsic motivation. We have already made a start on this, but we will continue to implement it in the organization, our products and logistics. More to come!
Hursley, 34 - Warehouse Manager
How does Scheepjes make you smile?
Working with my colleagues, we are like one big happy family, quite literally too!
My little brother works for Scheepjes and my colleague’s sister. There are so many family members working together within the company. It’s a great feeling knowing that we, as a team, ensure all orders reach our customers on time.
If we are busy and need to work overtime, we do it happily with a big smile as we have so much fun.
We are truly a family that works together.
"Why does Scheepjes make me smile? I've had the best job in the world for 23 years! Every day I get to share my passion with crafters who get as much joy as I do from the latest patterns, products and the beautiful colours of Scheepjes wool and yarn. With this you can't help but smile!".
Lineke Vrieling is a ‘Jack of All Trades’! From the age of 17 she worked in haberdashery, which is how she got to know the De Bondt family, the owners of the Scheepjes family business where she has worked for the past 23 years. She takes us with her as she tells her story about Scheepjes and the things that make her happy. Lineke doesn’t exactly have one job title but fills a huge variety of roles. From helping in the warehouse to contact with customers, Lineke knows the company through and through and never hesitates to get involved.
It’s fantastic that I get to spend every day sharing my passion with people with the same passion, who are also so excited about the newest patterns, yarns and colours. I never get tired of talking about it. My husband sometimes says: "yes, yes, we know, Lineke", but Scheepjes is just part of who I am. My sister is the same, by the way. She has been working for Scheepjes for many years and has as much love for the job as I do. My daughter is now also working for Scheepjes. It's wonderful to see how we share the same passion as a family. In that respect, Scheepjes really is a family business. Of course, also because the current owner, Job de Bondt, has taken over from his father.
I myself, also do a little crochet each evening. Nothing complicated, just easy and straightforward projects. I sometimes say: "crocheting and knitting is chocolate for the brain". It's wonderfully relaxing!
Working With Clients Gives Me Energy
The contact with customers, suppliers, artists and makers gives me so much energy. I really have a bond with the people I work with. We give each other our best and know that we have to work together. That creates a bond and provides a wonderful working atmosphere. I always try to find the best solution for a customer, and I like to brainstorm along with them. Whether it's on a weekend or in the evening, we always make it work. A happy customer gives me energy and that makes me happy. One of Scheepjes' values is that we are open and transparent, we never lie. I think that's also a fundamental value for working well together and achieving the best result.
Colours and Qualities
We have many beautiful unique products that make our customers really happy. We develop our own yarn and wool, exactly the way we think they should be. We then discuss in detail with the spinner how we believe the quality and composition of a wool or yarn should be. We actually have very stringent quality standards and that results in types of wool and yarn that are unique in the market. I think that is what makes Scheepjes stand out. For example, we were the first company to produce Stone Washed yarn. We also always produce our yarns in a huge variety of colours. We just love colour!
What Do You Find Typical Scheepjes?
Scheepjes is a big family. We work hard and do things together, every day with a big smile. Not because we have to, but because this truly is the best job in the world!
What Was it Like in the Past?
I have witnessed first-hand the growth that Scheepjes has experienced over the past 10 years. We used to process orders in the warehouse on Saturdays. At dinner time, Mr. De Bondt (sr) would say: "come everyone, let’s eat", and then he’d serve us a delicious meal. We would then all eat together at the kitchen table. A lovely atmosphere that continues to exist in the company today. We still always come together to eat at Scheepjes HQ.