On 15th January 2003, Toni Sonn and his partner Kay, opened a tiny little web site in Germany called CaseKing. Like thousands of budding businessmen across the globe, their dream was a simple one. To sell tons of components, build a serious brand and reap the enormous benefits that would follow. Unlike thousands of businessmen across the globe, Tony and Kay did exactly that. KitGuru caught up with the worryingly young entrepreneur.
If you build PCs, then you buy cases. The average person probably upgrades their desktop PC every 3 years or so. Technically competent KitGuru readers do this much more often than the man in the street, but anyway you look at it – it's still a lot of cases. In the 8 years that have passed since founding CaseKing, Toni Sonn has bought and sold over 1 million chassis.
We'll say that again. On a new line. For added impact.
Toni Sonn has bought and sold over 1 million cases.
Not only that, but his business is expanding. New customers, both at home and abroad, are flocking to CaseKing – drawn in by the way this Teutonic company does business.
“Can you imagine, that a British or French customer would choose to buy from a German?”, asks Toni. “Do you know how hard we must try and how much better we must be for this to happen”.
KitGuru can imagine. Quite easily. Buying from a German supplier would not seem to be the logical choice – and yet everyone of his UK customers speaks about CaseKing in glowing terms. So, let's go back to the start. whose idea was CaseKing in the first place?
“My partner Kay and me were both hardware enthusiasts before we founded Caseking”, he replied. “I was more interested in the technical hardware side, Kay was more interested in gaming and designs. Because computers in that time were looking boring, we decided to found Caseking – to provide a one-stop-shop for everything you need to make your computer run faster and look better. To let you express your own character and individuality”.
In a tough economic environment, KitGuru wanted to know how Toni has been able to carry on growing as fast as it has?
“No matter how much product you want, technical purchasers want to speak with technical sellers. The key reason behind CaseKing's success is our awesome team”, said Toni. “We are all young, passionate and enthusiastic people, who really know about the products we are offering and we always do our best to guarantee a stressless purchase experience to our customers.”
“When I place an order online, I want to get the stuff immediately and if there is a problem, I don't want to call an expensive hotline to beg for support from somebody who has no idea about what I am talking about”, he explained. “At Caseking there is always a capable person available, who wants to take your question and give you a complete and honest answer – before, during and after you make your purchase”.
Toni added, “Anyone who orders from CaseKing for the first time will be impressed with our staff and procedures. I'm sure of it”.
While the market overall is slow, it is still enormous. We wanted Toni to take a little look into his crystal ball. How far can CaseKing grow?
“You'd be surprised how much time we spend listening to the community, speaking with customers and trying to understand what will be the most popular products in the future”, said Toni. “We are very confident that CaseKing will influence more and more markets. At the same time, we have powerful and open dialogues with suppliers to source and force the development of innovative new products which will fit the demands of the enthusiast community”.
Looking around the massive CaseKing stand at GamesCom 2011, there is very little emphasis on budget. All of the sections within the CaseKing stand were hosted by top brands, and the products on display were high-end. We think we already know the answer, but KitGuru wanted to hear from Toni, when the recession hit the world in 2008, did CaseKing focus on (a) internal cost cutting, (b) low end plastic chassis or (c) high-end products?
“When the financial crisis broke out in 2008, CaseKing had a very clear strategy not to jump on the cut-down-cost-train like most companies did”, he replied. “Historically, the name CaseKing has been synonymous with high-end, high-quality products so we concentrated on that segment, instead of cutting costs or focusing on low-end/volume products”.
Did it work? Again, we're sure we know the answer already.
“The development of many companies suffered during the economic crisis, while CaseKing continued to grow”, said Toni. “We believe that our policy of focusing on quality back then, has been a key factor in the speed at which CaseKing is continuing to grow today”.
KitGuru asked Toni which of the major UK resellers are his customer today. He smiled and replied, “Yes, we are working with some of the biggest UK brands, but it's not important for us to work with as many companies as possible. What is important is the quality of the relationship. CaseKing is only looking for long-term, sustainable relationships where the business of both partners flourishes”.
So should all of the UK's stores consider working with CaseKing?
“Well, from a business perspective, it's smart to consider everything”, with a smile. “What you do after you finish considering is another story”.
On a more personal note, KitGuru wanted to know a bit more about the man behind the million-chassis supplying enterprise. For example, what was his first PC?
“Wow, that was a long time ago. It was an Amiga with upgraded memory kit”. Hmmm, even at that age, this guy could not resist a modification.
When he's relaxing with friends, Toni prefers to show off his BBQ black-belt skills while listening to “Das Beste” from Culcha Candela – a German band which includes a friend he was at school with all those years ago. Again, we're seeing a theme in terms of relationships and long-term, mutual support.
OK, now that food has been mentioned, KitGuru pushes Toni to know what's best to order when you're in a restaurant. Also, we want to know which actress he's most like to star with in a film. The answers “Seafood” and “Monica Bellucci” have been used by a famous (but apparently un-named) marketing guru from across the ocean – but maybe these guys won't not mind sharing Monica and the fruit of the sea with Toni. It's about partnership, right?
KitGuru says: After spending time listening to Toni, you're left with the impression that he's a smart, driven, honest young man with a genuine passion for the enthusiast market. Along with his business partner, Kay, he has built a massive distribution empire – and their ambition has not been satisfied yet. If you're in the chassis business, in a country that's within striking distance of German logistics, then it's clearly time to step-up or step-out.
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