Maastricht-based company Greentom, producer of the greenest stroller on the planet, recently worked together with Maastricht University (UM) School of Business and Economics (SBE) students participating in the course Value-Based Marketing.The students put their marketing knowledge to the test by working on real-life cases for local companies that participate in the Limburgmakers subsidy program. Greentom founder Bart Bost spoke with us about his company, its marketing challenges and the experience of working together with students.
“Whatever we design and produce, it has to be the greenest on the planet; that’s our goal,” founder and creative director of Greentom, Bart Bost, explains. “In my previous company, my team and I designed and produced luxurious strollers, for all kind of different brands. We would get a list of similar features from every brand: the stroller had to be safe, practical to use, child friendly; important features for young parents of course. On top of that, the stroller needed to look good, and the more extra features and details a stroller had, the better, because—naturally—that made it more expensive. The sky was the limit. The strollers were produced relatively cheaply in China or Taiwan, where a couple thousand people were paid to assemble the strollers.”
But then Bost, as he puts it, “converted”. His experience had shown him how he did not want to work. “I strived to design a stroller that is recyclable. On top of that, I wanted to get rid of the manufacturing in low-wage countries. To make this happen, I needed a product that’s minimalistic and can be assembled very fast.” Bost managed to design a stroller that meets these requirements, and a friend helped him with the financial part: Greentom was born.
Almost three years later, Greentom has 26 employees and is selling its strollers in over 30 countries. The strollers are 100 percent green, with a frame completely made of recycled plastic and bio-plastic and a fabric made of recycled drinking bottles. Both fabric and frame are easy to disassemble and can be reused or recycled again. The strollers are assembled locally, which diminishes pollution due to transport.
Working with SBE
“I am very satisfied with our green strollers and business is going well,” Bost continues. “But the market is big and the competition is strong. Therefore, I was happily surprised when Limburgmakers and the UM selected Greentom to participate in the Limbrugmakers program and the Value-Based marketing course from SBE.”
Approximately 40 SBE students, divided into teams, worked on a marketing case relevant to Greentom. “The students delivered detailed marketing research that gives us a big amount of data: sometimes scientific feedback confirming our assumptions, sometimes new insights,” Bost says.
He adds that he was impressed by the refreshing ideas the students shared and the capacity to give an outsiders perspective. “We focus very much on the fact that our strollers are green, because that’s our unique selling point. But the students pointed us to the known fact that young parents above all want a stroller that’s safe, practical and child friendly. Of course our strollers meet these requirements, but we might need to communicate that more.”
International insights and implementation
Serving a worldwide market, the international composition of the student groups working on their case was a very big plus for Greentom. “I don’t think there is any other way to have such an international group of highly educated, smart and motivated people thinking with you on your marketing strategy,” Bost says with enthusiasm. “There were students from everywhere from China to Eastern Europe, but also The Netherlands. I would definitely like to participate again next year.”
The competitive aspect of the course—the team with the best research and ideas wins—also gets Bost’s approval. “It made the whole experience very playful and it brings out the best in the students, I believe.”
And the results will be put to good use. “We have a big pile of research papers to gain knowledge from,” Bost says. Since we’re not such a big company, we don’t have the manpower to conduct all this research ourselves. It will also take a while before we read everything and talk it through, but I’m positive we will use this information for our future plans.”
A green future
Greentom would like to continue growing as a green-lifestyle brand—not only designing and producing strollers, but recycling them to products needed later in life. “It would be great to give our customers a discount on new recycled products if they hand in the old ones,” Bost says. “A walker for a stroller for example; the frame is almost the same. As long as our product is the greenest of the planet, we’re on the right track. And we already met some students that we would like to have on board when they finish their studies, so they can think with us about this green circle of life.”
Value creation through enhanced or new services
As part of the Innovation Assistance trajectory, “Creating value through enhanced or new services,” Maastricht University (UM) School of Business and Economics (SBE) student teams are finding strategic solutions for participating companies. In addition, the companies follow five intensive knowledge sessions, where they gain new knowledge and insights. The Innovation Assistance trajectory concerns one of the four priorities of LimburgMakers, a programme developed by LIOF, Chamber of Commerce and the Province of Limburg which aims to help product-oriented companies develop more services.