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Urban Property Development Brand Blok’s Niche Designs For The Urban Dweller In Mind

The Blok development brand has grown extremely quickly over the last two years by positioning its offering very carefully. Blok doesn’t just sell you a property, it curates an experience for you.

GG van Rooyen

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  • 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.

Related: How To Start A Property Development Business

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.”

Related: Want To Start A Property Business That Buys Property And Rents It Out?

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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.”

Related: How The Property Brothers Built Up A Real-Estate And Entertainment Empire One Brick At A Time

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.”

Remember this

Customers don’t want to be ‘sold to’. They want to be offered a great experience that they can’t find anywhere else.

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“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

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Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.

CEOwise

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Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

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The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect

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It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

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From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.

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“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

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Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

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Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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