They are 21 years old, they quit their jobs and they change their bedroom into a company office. This is how the foundations of the company, today known as Allers Grupa, begin. Katarzyna and Henryk Surdej talk about conquering the domestic market and then entering the international arena, new investments and expanding the product portfolio.
Allers Grupa is celebrating 5 years of operation this year, but have you been on the market for 18 years? What were the beginnings like, what were you doing then?
We like to talk about the beginnings of our company. This story is known to all our employees, friends and acquaintances, because we are very proud that at only 21 years old and having a small, last salary from our previous employer, we dared to put everything on one card. We set up our own company. Suddenly, our bedroom also became an office and screen-printing workshop. We conducted our first business talks from telephone boxes, because it was cheaper this way. Due to our young age, it was difficult for us to gain the trust of potential customers and gain good commercial conditions with suppliers. At the beginning, we linked the future with the health and safety industry and the sale of workwear with the client's logo.
The first advertising lanyard was brought to us by a client for whom we made T-shirts and asked if we were able to make such a product for her. Of course, we accepted the order, and then we spent the weekend figuring out how to fulfill it. Managed to! We still remember the first advertising lanyard produced by us, it had a turquoise logo screened directly on the olive tape. Our production capacity at that time was 100 lanyards per hour.
We devoted a lot of time to work, but it did not bother us at all, because we were constantly together, and for two young people in love this is the most important thing. We sometimes laugh that Allers is our first child together.
KATARZYNA AND HENRYK SURDEJ
CEO of Allers Group. The owner of the brands Prosfera.pl, Lanyard. PRO, smyczomat.pl, Snood. PRO and allers workwear. They have been moving mountains together for years. They set themselves new challenges and strive for them. They know a company is made of people and a great team is a great company.
How has your assortment changed and expanded over the years?
As mentioned above, our beginning was the production of workwear, which we have been involved in for quite a long time. We still sew clothes for a small handful of our regular and friendly customers. We have an adequately equipped sewing room. However, advertising lanyards are definitely our leading product. We offer almost all available techniques for making this product.
As we have a large production capacity when it comes to sublimation labeled products, from time to time we add new products to our portfolio, which we believe may attract customers' attention. For several years, we have been making multifunctional scarves on a large scale. Last year, we also added deckchairs, which are also selling well. The quality of products is the key to us, so we do not care about a very wide offer, we prefer to have fewer products, but refined and meeting the expectations of our customers.
In 2010, you opened up to international markets, now you serve over 2,000 agencies in 21 countries. What was your path to foreign markets like?
At one point, companies offer-advertising lanyards began to appear in Poland "like mushrooms after the rain". The domestic market was saturated and small "garage companies" began to wage price wars in order to survive. It was a hard time! But remember that "hard times are created by strong people, and strong people, they create good times ". So we created better times for ourselves and opened ourselves to exports.
In this case, participation in trade fairs, especially foreign ones, turned out to be of key importance. We were slowly getting to know the work culture characteristic of contractors from given countries and we tried our best to adapt to their standards and expectations. We quickly gained a group of satisfied and loyal customers. We serve customers on all continents, but of course most of them come from European countries.
In 2019, another milestone took place in the company's history. You moved to a new headquarters and tripled your production capacity. Please explain these changes.
Exactly. 2019 was very important to us. We ran out of space again and we had to look for a new place to move to. The building we chose required a general renovation, so we were able to adapt it to our needs. We have carefully analyzed the path followed by each of the speaking, and so we have prepared the space to ensure the greatest possible ergonomics of workstations and the greatest possible comfort of its performance.
Finally, we were able to expand the machine park and hire new employees. We started to fulfill many more orders in a much shorter time, thus securing our leading position among manufacturers of advertising lanyards.
An important step was also the launch of the B2B platform for ordering a lanyard SMYCZOMAT.pl?
The Smyczomat.pl platform we have created is a response to the needs of our customers, who very often have irregular working hours. The advertising industry is very dynamic and the availability of information is crucial. We gave our clients the opportunity to check prices, lead times and place orders every day and at every hour. They are independent of our working hours. The platform is very intuitive and gives many options for configuring the ordered products.
What are your plans for the future? How do you want to develop?
It's hard to make plans for the future when the world is so unstable. First a pandemic, now the war in Ukraine, we are facing more and more difficult tests.
We will definitely not slow down! We will continue to do our job to the best of our ability, deriving joy and satisfaction from it. One thing is for sure, you will be able to meet us at the next edition of the Marketing Festival and Promo Show, welcome!
Interviewed by Katarzyna Lipska-Konieczko