Flood in Paris store; In Madrid, an error in the opening system keeps the store closed… The cellphone smokes, but Erik Mayol shows no anger as he presses his smartphone to solve a not exceptional problem in a chain of 117 stores. Moderate, smart, effective, independent… These are adjectives that come to mind when writing about a businessman who, at just 36 years old, runs a promising toy chain, Eurekakids, a project that was born in 2002 as an initiative a then very young entrepreneur and his wife Marta, inspired by the educational and wooden toy shops that so attracted them on their travels through Central Europe: “We believed in the idea because there was a market niche and growth expectations,” he explains today. And he wasn’t wrong.

Eleven years later, it bills around 22 million euros, the result of an effective multi-channel strategy with its own franchise and multi-brand stores in five countries and a powerful e-commerce platform that is already responsible for almost four million euros. This is just the beginning of Mayol’s dream, a businessman who believes that “sacrifice and courage” are two of the values ​​that accompany success in business.

ENTREPRENEUR: How can courage be distinguished from boldness?
ERIK MAYOL: You never know where that limit is, you have to keep trying.

EMP. That’s what you did when you decided to open a toy store at the age of 25…
MRS Educational and ecological, a concept for which time played and plays. More and more people are aware that toys should be used for learning.
EMP. Is the children’s market a good haven during these times?
MRS. Toys are suffering less from the crisis, just as they didn’t grow much in the boom years. It’s an area that’s being nurtured and from there we’re delivering a product that seeks an important market niche.
EMP. Eurekakids was born in the glamor of electronic toys, do you like to swim against the current?
MRS The end customer is the child, but the buyers are the parents. All parents want our children to be the smartest, and we also know that electronic toys do not contribute to that goal, at least not in its highest percentage.
EMP. Electronics and education don’t seem to be incompatible: another niche for Eurekakids!
MRS If we go there, it is because we have found a software or application according to our philosophy, which is both educational and ecological. In fact, we work with apps designed to stimulate the child, but there is nothing advanced.
EMP. Doesn’t the fact that children are giving up toys at an earlier age limit your market?
MRS We have a product that is up to 12 years old, but it’s not the one with the highest sales. There is no need to fight against the natural. Our mass is from 0 to 9, from there they want to discover technology.
EMP. Another Achilles heel is the dependency on the holiday season…
MRS Product and concept aside, one of our achievements is the reduction in Christmas seasonality, which now weighs just 35%. We achieved this by creating different campaigns like Carnival; spring, closely linked to the discovery of nature; summer, with outdoor and beach toys; and September’s, which focused on school.
EMP. It seems Eurekakids are growing outside of media or business recognition, are they discreet of their own choosing?
MRS We devote ourselves to the work we have enough but also like to be discreet. It is the chosen philosophy: to grow our way.
EMP. But brand awareness is very important these days.
MRS Instead of spending time and money on marketing, we focus all our energy and spending on locations. To have a well functioning store I prefer to make less noise and be on Fuencarral street so people know us.
EMP. On the contrary, you are pioneers in e-commerce, how did your platform come about?
MRS It’s a different business, technologically, but a different one. We are young and we wanted to be on the internet, although when you open it you never know what the result will be. So in 2005 we set up an online store and sales started to come in. We even thought it was a joke – “that must be something my friends did, they gave them a lot of trouble,” he said – and by the end you see that no, that tickets are coming in. If something works, you have to invest interest and resources. Finally, in 2006 we inaugurated a very powerful platform.
EMP. What percentage of sales do you channel?
MRS 18%. We sell all over the world and particularly in Southern Europe where we are best known.
EMP. Do you fear competition from the North?
MRS We walk like little ants. We gradually climbed the ranks, which has taken us to Belgium for the moment.
EMP. Is the online shop a good cover letter to open up new markets?
MRS It definitely helps. When you travel you find that in some places they only know you from the internet and you are surprised that there is a powerful chain of stores. It’s funny, but I think we’re more popular online than in traditional retail.
EMP. What is the secret of success?
MRS Find out how it works first, but then, as always, the most important thing is location. Ultimately, there is only one street on the Internet, namely Google, and you have to be well located there. From here you must have good marketing, platform, service. All these components allow you to grow.
EMP. Online strategy was one of the key factors behind Nazca’s decision to take a majority stake.
MRS Our current partners liked the online topic because it is very relevant in the company, but also because we are present in the other possible channels: our own stores, franchisees and multibrand.

EMP. What does venture capital add and subtract?
MRS The contribution to a company always depends on the nature of your partner, whether it is venture capital or another. Venture capital should not be judged positively or negatively, it is a partner and as such one must judge whether it is good or not.

EMP. Venture capital is accused of overheating accounts, seeking short-term profit…
MRS Its presence forces you to have up-to-the-minute information about income, expenses or debt, which is especially beneficial for smaller companies that tend to loosen their controlling bodies. In the end they become more professional, although in my case we have already worked that way because I come from a multinational company. Venture capital, like the manager, wants to make money, and if it puts it up for sale, then at the highest possible price. It is important that the company has a direction.

EMP. Aren’t companies borrowing to keep up this growing trend?
MRS That changed with the crisis. Before debt didn’t weigh so heavily, companies were rated more on growth, revenue, and Ebitda. Today the debt remains. It’s now clear that nobody cares.
EMP. Is the franchise a good tool?
MRS It helps a lot because it allows you to open outlets without having to invest, which is good business for us.
EMP. What do you look for in the franchisee?
MRS We have some partners with different shops. Our goal is to find franchisees who will open several because it makes the job a lot easier. We are looking for commitment, dedication and a little sensitivity to the product.
EMP. Are you very wrong with this assessment?
MRS I think we made a small mistake; Since its inception, Eurekakids has not closed more than three stores. The idea is that 60% of the franchise network will keep the current positions. Ultimately, between the online platform and the 40% of our own stores, we can keep a good control of the store.
EMP. And now the focus is in Spain or abroad?
MRS This question is fashionable because a lot of people think that Spain is very touched, but for us it’s not like that. We are growing in like-for-like sales by between 5% and 6% and reacting to the opportunities that come our way, we do not have a predominant foreign orientation. Finally we go to demand, in Spain and in all markets.
EMP. Will you open new countries?
MRS We have just signed for Sweden to develop the Scandinavian markets from there. Each time we open a country we hire a Country Manager who is responsible for developing our own businesses and also for selling franchises. Also, this year there is a very good possibility that we will cross the Atlantic and go to an American market like Colombia. In 2012 we will open around 34 branches.