Good Old Student Years
The story began in 1995 as a part-time job during my university studies. I was travelling west of the Czech borders as an interpreter and a fresh manager of craftsmen groups who were performing in historical fencing and other arts and crafts. I assisted the Czech, mostly amateur craftsmen in spreading awareness of Czech arts and crafts. Most of the craftsmen welcomed this opportunity as a chance to earn some additional income to their permanent jobs, and to embark on an adventure and liven up their lives in the post-revolution times. The Czech fencers and swordsmen quickly won over the Western-European audience, even without knowing the local languages. They were excellent mime artists, stuntmen and comedians. It was not unusual that, during the performance, a swordsman snatched away beer from a surprised onlooker and chugged it in one go. It was not only their fencing and acting skills that attracted people’s attention, but also their armour and weapons - the indispensable gear for any authentic performance. Many swordsmen would lose their sword or parts of their armour during the show. But everyone knew where to get the new one. Sometimes, they even created a replacement by themselves! It was hard to believe how easy it was to monetize a piece of shaped metal sheet or grinded spring steel.
And this is where the business idea was born. After some time, the nomadic way of life grew bothersome and I switched my focus from organizing shows to the trade of cold weapons and historical armour. I had the privilege to meet several prominent people from the “rich” western region who excelled not only in history but also in trade and business. What they lacked was the craftsmanship and skills of Czech blacksmiths, locksmiths, armour manufacturers, saddlers, shoemakers, tailors, and so on. And this is where I came in. I did not learn the crafts and skills myself, but I knew people who did.
Crafts on the Decline in Czechia
As could be expected, the production underwent the process of modernization in our country and skilled craftsmen were pushed aside by modern factories who enjoyed the benefits of tax holidays in several industrial zones. The inevitable consequence: crafts and related skills have vanished from the market. This also affected the workshops of our suppliers. Only those offering higher added value survived, only those who can afford to pay highly skilled workers. In addition, vocational education and craft education has collapsed. The future looks bleak. What is the solution? The same as in the Western countries that import goods from countries with cheaper workforce and at affordable price. Pakistan, India and China are important countries in this regard. Today, products from these countries make up more than half of our product range. I am inclined to say that this is unfortunate. However, this is also to the advantage of the customer. The demanded products are available at a favourable price and our task is mainly to monitor their quality - which is often comparable with the "Czech" quality. People in Asia are surprisingly docile!
Time to Change the Way Things Are Done
Studying and doing business never worked well together. However, thanks to my parents' support and lessons learned from the mistakes of my peers, I successfully graduated. My alma mater provided, among other things, fresh knowledge of international trade, commercial law and foreign languages. So that was some qualification for doing business. It was the time to fully commit and do things "for real" now, using the knowledge I had acquired. Unlike my competitors who relied on traveling, booth sale and tax evasion, I founded a trading company and "started" a legitimate online trade. The name of the company (Wellcrafted s.r.o.) is intended to reflect the fact that the crafts at our company meet the requirements of high quality and legitimacy. But name is just the beginning. Business also requires a fair approach to customer, a team of well-organized people and a few key leaders looking to improve customer satisfaction. Which is why the e-shop www.outfit4events.com in two language versions was created. Furthermore, doing business in the Czech Republic is associated with a lot of boring and uncreative paperwork. Today, we do not have to carry the burden of excessive red tape alone, as we employ auxiliary staff and an external tax office. But even with their assistance, we still have a lot on our hands. With the bureaucracy off my shoulders, I could focus on further developing my business. Using my own cameras, I took the vast majority of the thousands of photos shown in the e-shop. These photographs, however amateur, served their purpose at the given time - showing the customer the product as faithfully as possible, from all angles and without trying to conceal deficiencies. I did not want to create a misleading image of the product and deceive the customer.Disappointed customers will not come back and they will not keep the disappointment to themselves.Satisfied customers will come back and possibly recommend our business to others.
Doing Business in the Czech Republic is No Bed of Roses
It is more than clear to all of us at Outfit4Events that the business environment needs to be cultivated and adequately controlled. We agreed to implement the e-shop despite considerable costs connected with it. We also hope that the Czech sales registration system “EET” will continue to be implemented so as to unify conditions for all entrepreneurs and will no longer be so easy to "survive in the loopholes" and evade taxes. We are convinced that, if everyone pays the prescribed taxes, it will be possible to lower the taxes in the future. Another challenge that kept us busy was the GDPR. But even here, we recognize the need for better data protection, which has not been at a good level in the past. Generally speaking, however, it is necessary to realize that one’s own knowledge and skills acquired at a university are not enough do business. It is necessary to hire external specialists, because an audit can come anytime to uncover deficiencies. As a result, the financial burden on entrepreneurs is increasing. We have hired an external company for occupational security, for accounting, for implementing accounting changes in the e-shop software and for communicating with foreign tax authorities. Every external worker demands renumeration, so we must keep busy and running!
Be Fair and Work Towards Growth
Our business model has proved viable. From the very beginning, the company could afford the luxury of doing business in a fair way. When we were just two people living in a small apartment, it was not necessary to earn a lot. There is seven of us today and we give work to approximately 40 craftsmen.
Fair Approach Is Not Enough
It is clear to us that the saying from Czech Cimrmann plays "He who stops for a while, will be standing aside". That is why we are constantly trying to innovate our e-shop and its product range. This is already the fourth generation of the shop. We do a lot of minor innovations every month. It may look easy but believe me when I say that is is a hard work and it costs a lot of effort and money. Even you, our dear customers, say that we are not doing an entirely bad job. Thank you!
For the Outfit4Events team