Nelli Jeloudar is the founder of Bundleboon, a quick-growing curated shopping service for kidswear based in Amsterdam. Nelli spoke to us at DTC Journey about her unique experience going from a sales associate, to bootstrapping her own business, to securing funding on the Dutch version of Dragon’s Den in just a few (very busy) years. Listen to the full episode here.
Nelli Jeloudar - Side Hustle to Ecommerce Success
Nelli’s journey is full of fascinating insights, here are our top takeaways for DTC founders and anyone looking to skyrocket their ecommerce offering.
Founders are made, not born
“I never wanted to be an entrepreneur!” Nelli admits that dreaming of starting her own business wasn’t a goal until she was in the right circumstances. After starting her career as a sales associate at Pandora, she joined a startup which was offering personalised shopping in menswear. As the two founders took Nelli under their wing, she had a realisation:
“It doesn’t really matter your background or skill set. As long as you have the right idea and customers who want to buy your product, and a great work ethic, then that’s all that matters - so I thought, if those two can do it, so can I!”
Pick a niche with room to grow
Once Nelli gained experience in the personalised shopping space, she began to see opportunities all around her, but research revealed the untapped potential of children’s clothing, the fastest growing part of the fashion industry at the time. As U.S. companies such as Stitch Fix and Trunk Club began to flourish, there was no personalisation service for kidswear locally. It was the perfect niche, “Kidswear was such a safe category, nobody wanted to touch it.” So, Bundleboon was born.
Bootstrap while you learn
Bundleboon began as a side-hustle while Nelli kept her full-time job, but the concept quickly proved to be in demand, with her first campaign garnering 150 pre-orders through the reach of her personal network. Knowing she needed a partner, Nelli met her co-founder Monique Janke at a start-up weekend event, and they quickly became an unstoppable duo.
For the first two years, Monique and Nelli ran the company lean and focused on building a solid offering. “We made a lot of mistakes in the early days. That made us stronger as founders, stronger as a team, and turned our concept into something that our customers really really wanted.”
While early investment might be validating for new founders, it can be a double-edged sword, tempting founders to scale a product that hasn’t been thoroughly tested and refined. “Splurging on a new system or new website at that early stage would have been a huge mistake,” Nelli says, “Because you don’t know what your customers really want until you test it.” Once Bundleboon hit 10,000 orders in their first two years, Nelli knew she had a viable business on her hands.
Entering the Dragon’s Den with confidence
In 2020, Bundleboon was chosen to be featured on Dutch Dragon’s Den. “Entrepreneurship really pushes your limits. I used to be a shy presenter,” Nelli says, “But Dragon’s Den was a huge milestone for us, such a proud moment. We were first-time entrepreneurs, suddenly pitching to these dragons - and we walked out with a deal of half a million euros.”
Taking calculated risks is core to Nelli’s approach. While she didn’t quit her job as soon as she started Bundleboon, she went all-in after investment, and has changed her approach as the company matures. “You have to take risks, and we are bolder now because we want to grow very fast.”
Embrace the power of automation
Bundleboon’s team is lean and relies on rigorous data analysis to pinpoint what customers want. “We have a great team of 14 people, that’s all we need. Unlike other personalised shopping services that have 200, 300 people - 14 is all we need because we have a great system working for us. You can have hundreds on payroll that would do the work for you, but if you don’t collect the right data, there’s no way you can make it work, especially in personal shopping.
Data collection is core to the Bundleboon model. “We collect data to the point where we know exactly what the customer wants - in terms of return reasons, style, sizes, everything about the customer and child.” That level of careful analysis means the kept-rate goes up for customer’s second, third and fourth boxes.