Swedish Startup Space

How Campusbokhandeln Came Back From The Verge Of Bankruptcy

Written by on September 16, 2016
Editors Note: This post is part of a series called Featured posts, presented by Breakit.

After a bumpy road, the Swedish online store for academic books has the pedal to the metal – with a turnover of $3.5 million this year. “Many did not want to see us to succeed,” founder Fredrik Hagenius says.

Campusbokhandeln was founded eleven years ago by Frederick Hagenius, then a student at Örebro University in central Sweden. Campusbokhandeln allows students to buy and sell used, as well as new, textbooks.

Fredrik Hagenius began by opening a local bookstore in Örebro and then opened another in the nearby city of Karlstad. The stores were run by employees until 2013 – when Fredrik Hagenius decided to take over the reins.

“I quit my previous projects and thought I would give the bookstore a real chance, as it was doing so well,” he says.

Hagenius bought out a competitor in the university town of Lund in Southwest Sweden and created a web shop – which crashed shortly after its launch.

“We were a little naive and inexperienced in our selection of developers. The website was down for three months. We almost went bankrupt and could no longer afford a developer,” Mr. Hagenius says.

So, what did Hagenius do?

“I had to learn code. The advantage of being a bookseller is that you have lots of books that can be of help,” Mr. Hagenius explains. “I find it hard to give up, and felt I had no option. The debt we had created forced us to continue to grow,” 

After three months of hard work, he had learned enough code to re-open the web shop.

“There were many who did not want to deal with us again. Slowly but surely, we rebuilt confidence, and we started getting customers back,” says Hagenius.

Despite the uphill battle, Hagenius succeeded. Last year the startup had sales of $2 million and this year the bookseller calculates that the figure will land at $3.5 million.

“We invested a lot in marketing, and our brick and mortar stores give us an advantage against webshops. Next year we will open a central warehouse to put more focus on our webshop,” he says.

Today, 85 percent of sales come from the web shop. The seven physical stores located around Sweden, function mainly as pick-up and drop-off sites.

The challenge in today’s strained book industry is to keep prices as low as possible.

“We have competitors like classifieds sites and Facebook groups, along with other major e-book sellers like Bokus and Adlibris. But we want to become the largest in Sweden and are on the right track to do so,” Fredrik Hagenius says.

Although external capital could help Campusbokhandeln grow faster, Hagenius consciously declined that opportunity.

“We were in the middle of the process last year. But I chose to cancel,” Mr. Hagenius says. “I want to see how far we can take it ourselves. Most of the year, we have good liquidity with opportunity to grow.”

Does that mean that you work a lot?

“Not as much as I did before. It is no fun to work too much. I try to work smarter and stay in balance by exercising and spending time with my family and friends,” Mr. Hagenius says.

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