Recently, Manufy, an all-European marketplace for sustainable clothing production, officially went live. Already the advance of the platform seems unstoppable. But this was preceded, due to the corona crisis, by a period of uncertainty and turmoil. 'The COL has turned out to be an important lifeline for us.'
It is February 2020 when René van Doren, together with Rob ten Hoove, Michiel Dicker and Karel Bosman, found Manufy. With the platform, they want to connect clothing brands and eco-friendly clothing producers in a simple and accessible way. With the goal of encouraging local and sustainable production. The four entrepreneurs had invested heavily in the company, hired people and had also made a rental commitment for office space. Nothing seemed to stand in the way of a smooth launch of the platform. Until the coronavirus took hold in the Netherlands as well.
'Of course, that threw our plans quite off course,' says René. 'Especially also because we were sitting around the table with a serious group of investors. They were getting pretty concrete at that point. But unfortunately, after the corona outbreak, they said they wanted to wait and see what the situation was and would not invest for a while. That meant that our external funding source was completely gone. Then you have to start thinking in emergency scenarios. Which commitments have we made and which can we easily part with again? In short, looking at cost reduction in the short term. We even seriously considered shutting things down for a few months. Practice turned out to be more obstinate. After all, we had hired people. So you just have to keep paying them.
Financial peace of mind
From the start, Bjorn Redmeijer of Flinc has been involved with Manufy. Flinc's project manager supported Manufy intensively in the initial phase with drawing up the plans and guided the search for investors. Bjorn: "Manufy is an innovative, scalable platform, with a clear mission. The initial focus is on the textile market, but the platform has been developed in such a scalable way that it can easily be applied to other sectors. This ensures great market potential. In addition, Manufy has a complementary team and the founders have knowledge of and experience with the European textile market.' Funding is needed for further development and rollout. Unfortunately, potential investors dropped out, due to the outbreak of the corona crises in mid-March. 'By Bjorn we were made aware of the existence of the COL,' René reflects. 'The bridge loan turned out to be an important lifeline that we could float on for quite a few months. And so we applied immediately. I must say that the process positively surprised us. NOM acted appropriately and purposefully and arrived at a positive decision within the deadline. The COL ensured that financial peace has returned. As it looks now, we are going to make it at least until the beginning of next year, without a new round of funding.'
The COL has been used by Manufy primarily to further develop and promote the platform. The first results are now visible. 'Because we were also able to grow in staff size, the platform has been completed and we have recently gone live,' explains René. 'Without the COL, this would definitely not have happened yet. Beforehand, we had mapped out 11,000 European clothing manufacturers. We then started actively approaching them. Already some 170 of them have registered with us. To gain access to the platform, however, they must meet certain sustainability criteria. We also want to pitch again to investors at the end of this year. Among others, with the same group we were almost on board with before. But now with an even more mature product that is proving itself. That obviously makes it easier to get in.'
No patronizing finger
Sure, the past period has been stressful and hectic for Manufy. But the corona crisis also seems to be bringing the company many wonderful things. Because with the failure of trade shows, it is more important than ever for apparel manufacturers to be highly visible online. That opportunity is now offered by Manufy. 'At the same time, there is a rapidly growing need from the buyer side to produce sustainably and locally. Our platform helps them find a suitable European manufacturer for that purpose. In other words, we bring those two markets together.'
Manufy hopes the platform will create more business for both manufacturers and apparel brands. But the company also wants to try to get manufacturers to become more sustainable and share information with clothing brands. 'We don't want to be that patronizing finger towards manufacturers,' René emphasizes. 'Like: you have to operate sustainably to be allowed on our platform. We rather turn it around a bit. We say: register on Manufy and we will help you produce more sustainably. '
Manufy is looking beyond the apparel industry. There are concrete plans to expand the platform to other sectors. Consider the furniture industry, where many manufacturers in Europe are also indicating they want to produce more locally. 'From the very first moment we said that we wanted to operate sector-independently,' René argues. 'So we opted for a scalable platform. If we want to start producing furniture tomorrow, we can make the platform suitable for that within a day. Our goal is to eventually become a kind of Alibaba of Europe. Thanks in part to the COL, we have already taken the first important step.'