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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?

blok-urban-living

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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Learn the secrets of SA’s most successful business people, here is the list of the 27 richest people in South Africa:

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From the individuals that made the 27 of the richest people in South Africa list, actual entrepreneurs and self-made business people dominate the list; while those who inherited their fortunes have gone on to do even bigger and better things with their wealth. Over the years, some have slipped off the list, while others continue to climb higher and higher each year.

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  20. Stephen Saad
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  26. Johann Rupert
  27. Nicky Oppenheimer
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Early-stage South African entrepreneurial activity is at an all-time high of 11%, according to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, and entrepreneurial intentions have also increased to 11.7%. With both activity and intentions growing significantly year-on-year, there are more businesses opening up around South Africa than ever before.

The increase in entrepreneurship has seen the rise of more black entrepreneurs across numerous sectors. From beauty brands to legal services and even tech start-ups, these are 50 top black entrepreneurs to watch:

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Keep your finger on the pulse of the start-up space by using our comprehensive list of SA small business to watch.

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Entrepreneurship in South Africa is at an all-time high. According to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), total early-stage entrepreneurial activity has increased by 4.1% to 11% in 2017/2018. This means numerous new, exciting and promising small businesses are launching and growing.

To ensure you know who the innovative trailblazers are in the start-up and small business space, here are 50 of South Africa’s top establishing companies to watch, in no particular order:

  1. Livestock Wealth
  2. The Lazy Makoti
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  4. Mimi Women
  5. i-Pay
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  14. VA Virtual Assistant
  15. Famram Solutions and Famram Foundation
  16. BioTech Africa
  17. Brand LAIKI
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  19. LifeQ
  20. Organico
  21. 10dot
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  44. KHULA
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  46. Pimp my Book
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