- Player: Jacques van Embden
- Position: Managing Director
- Company: Blok
- About: Blok is a urban property development brand that sells apartments ‘designed and curated by passionate urban dwellers.’
- Launched: 2014
- Visit: blok.co.za
BLOK has grown quickly. In about two years it has managed to establish itself in the tough development and construction industry, and has become a trend-setter.
How have MD Jacques van Embden and his co-founders managed this rapid success?
1. They found a niche
Blok was founded to offer something unique – and not just be another development company.
“We noticed an uptick in interest when it came to urban apartment living. It was increasingly seen as a viable alternative to buying a property in a suburb and commuting for hours every day. People are tired of wasting their lives in traffic,” says van Embden.
The problem was that there was a lack of quality apartments being built that could cater to the specific needs of urban dwellers.
“We had a vision for a very specific kind of environment that was carefully designed and created to suit the needs of people,” he says.
2. They sell an experience
Key to the quick success of Blok has been a focus on curation, rather than just simple product creation.
“We say that ‘a Blok apartment is designed and curated by passionate urban dwellers’. We create apartments that allow people to live their lives successfully within an urban apartment. We see ourselves as ‘home-makers’.
“For example, when it comes to any specific development, we show prospective owners exactly how many steps they will be away from the local coffee shop, park or bakery. We aren’t just developers. We curate an urban experience. We don’t sell you an apartment. We offer you a fantastic lifestyle.”
3. They live the brand
Jacques van Embden and his co-founders are uniquely qualified to provide this sort of curated experience because they ‘eat their own dogfood’. They are urban dwellers themselves. Van Embden himself lives in an urban apartment, so he knows what owners want and need.
“We aren’t sitting on a wine farm somewhere and selling you an apartment in the city. We live in these apartments ourselves, so we quickly discovered what is needed when it comes to location, common areas, etc.”
4. They know their customers
“We always say that we make our customers do a lot of work,” says Van Embden. “We encourage them to study plans and locations carefully, and we want them to interact with us. We want and need their feedback. We want to create a community.”
Whenever construction starts on a new development, buyers are invited to an event where they can meet the Blok team, as well as other owners. So even if they are buying something that hasn’t actually even been built yet, they are becoming part of a network and community.
5. They admit their mistakes
Few industries are as demanding and unforgiving as construction. When Blok got started, mistakes were made.
“There are always issues and niggles,” says Van Embden.
“Especially when it comes to your first development. But we’ve learnt that clients will forgive a mistake if they can see that you are doing everything in your power for them. The important thing is to be honest and up-front with your client.”
6. They are clever about scaling
Blok is growing quickly, but Van Embden and his team are careful not to lose a grip on what they are creating.
“For now, we are only focusing on the Cape Town area. We don’t want to work on a development that we can’t quickly drive to. We don’t, for instance, feel that we can just hand over a project to a construction company in Johannesburg at this stage. We want to feel as if we have creative control. We’ve had some tempting offers, but we want to focus on what works for us at the moment.”
Customers don’t want to be ‘sold to’. They want to be offered a great experience that they can’t find anywhere else.