19 Feb Sandra Yonter talks about Market Expansion in Europe
As the SVP of Europe, New Markets & Artist Community for Redbubble, Sandra Yonter is an experienced executive with 25 years of experience in building and growing businesses internationally. Currently based in Berlin, she has lived in Singapore and Paris, and worked as a marketing and business leader across various industries including publishing, dating, fashion, home decor and online marketplaces.
She joined RedBubble in 2015 and was one of the first employees in the region. Since then, she successfully launched German, French and Spanish speaking European markets, opened the entity in Berlin and has grown the team to close to 30+.
What made you choose to launch into the Berlin market?
At the time, Redbubble decided to establish the business in Europe and we had a few places in mind including London and Berlin. For us, the best way to make a collective decision was to create a matrix with a list of agreed criteria to assess and compare each market accordingly. This matrix comprised of elements such as the number of other International e-commerce companies, ease & cost of doing business, talent pool, laws & employment regulations, corporate tax rate or existing direct flights to our Melbourne and San Francisco offices. Unsurprisingly, London was not only much more expensive (both for office rent and talents) but also added an extra hour difference with our Melbourne office. We decided to open an office in Berlin as it was better aligned with our needs, values and constraints; Berlin is the second tech capital of Europe and still growing. It’s also emerging as a creative hub, with such a rich artsy infrastructure!
As a company when did you know you were ready to take on a new region?
What led to Redbubble’s decision to expand into markets beyond our English-speaking historic markets and support it through a dedicated European office is the size of the eCommerce market in Europe (which accounts for 621 billion euros in 2019 and is growing exponentially). Our decision was also based on a community of artists already selling their designs and the organic sales that we were already generating without having operations nor localised platforms in the region yet so expanding in Europe was not a high-risk move.
And we wanted to support this expansion with local talents, who know the local players, the market, and the culture.
How did you find navigating the different tax laws, employment laws, etc?
Foreign companies not experienced in German corporate, labor, accounting and tax need to be aware of all statutes and comply with all requirements. Being a French citizen and Redbubble being an Australian company with offices in Melbourne and San Francisco, establishing a German company and accessing the required information was challenging. We relied a lot on knowledgeable and recognised external partners and German government agencies to tackle the bureaucratic hurdles.
Did you get any sage advice before launching? If so, who from?
Launching in a new location requires patience, internal buy-in and a solid business launch plan. You also need to surround yourself with knowledgeable experts in the various fields that will be covered. So it is beneficial to network and get insight from other people’s experience through conferences, meetups, groups and associations. We were also lucky to benefit from customized consulting and assistance from Berlin Partner für Wirtschaft und Technologie or the Australian Trade Commission (Austrade).
Did you start off with a co-working space, shared office, remote workers, registered office?
We started with a co-working space to bring our first 4 hires together, as it was the most flexible way of settling in Berlin. A shared office provides the ability to connect with other people to expand your network, find partners or potential collaborators and the regular events organised in the space are an accessible way to provide your employees with a nice working environment. More importantly is the flexibility, coworking solutions allowing you to pay for the space you need and expand your space as your team grows.
What would be your top three tips for a company launching into Berlin?
- You need to be fully cognizant of the challenges that you will face while starting a business in a country that is not your home. Before you get started, study the laws and requirements for the country you’re interested in.
- Identify the cultural differences between your home country and the country you are entering as it can be quite a challenge; do a bit of research in topics such as communication styles, meeting etiquette, hierarchy, time sensitivity, etc.
- Then look at the talent pool dynamism of the country and how it is aligned to the company’s culture. In other words, how, as a new company in the market, will you be able to attract talent? It is really key to look at 3 elements: Dynamism amongst the community, Talent pool, Cost of hire
What market in the EU are you most excited about launching next?
There’s still lots of potential for growth within the markets that we’ve launched. Our market penetration in the newly launched markets is lower than our penetration in the US and the UK. So we think that continuing to invest in French, German or Spanish speaking markets, is a great way to prioritise our efforts.
But we keep on assessing additional markets with high potential through in-depth market research, both within Europe and other regions.
The MitchelLake team would like to thank Sandra for her continuous support. As proud advocates of women in tech, we admire her successful journey as a woman in the digital space as she has been able to successfully grow Redbubble footprint in the European region while being a mum of three.