For the second edition of Dealer Talks, I talked to Jeroen from Wrist Candy. I asked him questions about how he started, building relationships and being successful in the watch industry. Jeroen sells mostly modern pieces from renowned brands like Rolex, Omega, and Panerai. He differentiates himself by his approachability, genuine kindness and interest in other people, and his great sense of humor and self-mockery.
Stan: How did you start with selling watches?
Jeroen: It started for me on Horlogeforum.nl. I started thinking, oh, I like this game. And, I also find satisfaction in taking watch pictures. I can just sit on my knees for an hour in front of a photo tent. It is my hobby. Before I started my own business, I think I bought and sold 144 watches. So, in the end, I have been a watch trader for a long time.
S: Can you briefly tell me something about your youth?
J: I moved many times, so I continuously had to prove myself again. My father was strict and only wanted one thing: That I followed an education, just because he had done that as well, and I had to shut up about it. These two things caused me to look for adventures.
S: And were you encouraged by your parents to become an entrepreneur, or did it come from within yourself?
J: No, not at all. My mother had no opinion, and my father, especially when I took this step (i.e. starting Wrist Candy), frowned a few times. My father was an entrepreneur; he had his own contractor company. He sometimes asked me disparagingly: what do you make? I would say: “I make people happy.”
I make people happy. I’ve done that my entire career. I come from the hospitality industry: which is essentially making people happy and getting money for it. You also do that when you sell a watch and they go home proud as a peacock. Then you made your client happy too. It gives some kind of kick. I make money, and I am independent. It’s my hobby and my passion. That is what I am doing all day long. Above all, I make people happy.
S: Do you have another job next to the watches, or are you doing it full-time?
J: I quit my job in March 2018. I had a great job, but I just said: I’m going to start my own business. Then, after six months, I started working part-time again. It didn’t work out initially as I had to make a name for myself, and it just cost me money. I wasn’t going to look for a job anymore. That was the whole idea; I wanted to be free. So, I started doing very unskilled, part-time work. I worked at a fish merchant. And then you might think: did you quit your job for that? Well, actually, yes. Because during that time, everything came together. I drove a van with crates of fish to Belgium: to castles and restaurants. But what did I do? Because, of course, I am still a trader: the people there asked: Oh, and who are you? I don’t know you. Then I went in for a cup of coffee, and I said: I do watches. I have since sold a Deepsea, a Bell & Ross, and more to these people!
S: That’s amazing!
J: After a while, I stopped delivering that fish. So now I’m doing this. About 100 hours a week. People underestimate that. Many people think: trading watches is a nice hobby, taking some photos, maintaining a website, visiting a client now and then… Last night I was still texting back at a quarter past one. It goes on all day long. Answering questions, negotiating… Can I trade this in? Then you have to do research again: what does it cost, what is the state? What can I sell it for? So, what should I buy it for? People underestimate it.
S: Building relationships is essential in business. What are your views on building relationships in the watch world?
J: It’s not all about the money; we are humans, after all. For example, I have a few customers in Belgium, which I think cost me money. But they are such avid watch freaks. These are people you can learn so much from, and they also have a massive network of people to whom they can refer me. It’ll take me half an hour, and I’m probably not going to sell them anything. But networking is key! They will tell others: oh, then you have to call Jeroen!
S: It gets the ball rolling…
J: Ultimately, not all customers are equally lucrative. But these are also learning moments. Sometimes it costs money, learning money. I started on November 9, 2018, so just a bit more than two years ago. 2019 was my first actual year. My main focus was on building a network, making a name for myself, and collecting reviews. Five stars. It’s even in my logo. I’m just going for no less than five. If someone gives me four stars, I call them to ask where I can improve.
2020 was the year in which I saw the results. Not necessarily financially. But in the sense that people are returning and people are talking about you.
S: What does success as an entrepreneur mean to you?
J: For me, success is that I am free: that I am free in how I organize my day. I was looking for that feeling of freedom. I am sitting here at the jetty drinking a cup of coffee early in the morning and see what today brings. And it is always busy. So, for me, success is just freedom.
S: And is it mainly financial freedom or in terms of tasks and time?
J: The latter. In the end, we don’t have to call each other a sissy. I also just want to be able to buy a nice Rolex myself. I also want to make money. That is the second point. The first is freedom. That I can organize my day, get out of bed when I want – usually 6.30- but I can sleep in when I want. I can just do it. So, success for me as an entrepreneur is that I am free to organize my day.
S: That is nice. Do you find yourself successful right now?
J: Not yet. I’m at 80%. Because, in the end, I can organise my day, but I still want some more financial space to feel completely free.
S: So actually, success is having more financial security, but not necessarily having that as a goal.
J: Yes, so financial security second, but especially mental freedom.
S: What do you think are the most important skills for entrepreneurs?
J: I think that creativity and quick adaptation are crucial. And by that, I mean: If I have a consignment watch where I get a trade-in, how can I sell it? And looking at it from different angles, how can I make this interesting for me too? I call that creative. And adapting quickly is also daring to say on the spot: I will not do it. Why? Yeah, it doesn’t feel right. Yes, those two, and then you come a long way as an entrepreneur.
S: Agreed. And which of these skills do you think have had the most significant impact on your success so far?
J: Creativity. I am a creative thinker; I can confidently say that. I am someone who looks with a helicopter view. And that works well for me now. I keep getting faster and better at that. In a split second, I think: ok, what do I have in front of me, what can I do with it, how are we going to do that? That I have that whole story in my head in a minute. So that has been a significant success factor for me.
S: I find it amazing how you take your photos and how you convey your brand. Because it all fits together, and it is something that has not been done before.
J: Yes! I don’t have a tight office; I don’t have a stiff way of doing business. I aim to become genuine friends with my clients, to make the transactions pleasurable. The candy also fits with that.
S: Can you tell me about the risks you took to get to where you are now? So, you said you quit your regular job. Are there more things?
J: Yes, that’s a real risk. I quit my job for this—all or nothing. So, I’ve said goodbye to my entire career. So that is the risk I took. And I put my savings in it. Everything goes back into the watches. Well, not everything. You also have to be able to go out for dinner and buy nice watches, of course.
J: Yeah, so that’s kind of my life in a nutshell. The unrest that I have in my body Is now something that I translate into entrepreneurship. There is always new stock, new people, new challenges: tomorrow I have to go to Luxembourg or Belgium, no idea how that will go. I translate it into something positive. I am going on an adventure, and that happens because I want it myself. Period.
S: I think that is a very nice ending for this interview. It was a valuable conversation, and I want to thank you for that.
Click below to check out Jeroen’s work: