It came as something of a surprise to quite a few in the industry when highly regarded materials supplier Soyang Europe announced a partnership with Fujifilm that would see Soyang sell the Acuity Ultra R2 superwide printers into the UK market.
The following announcement that Soyang Europe had then subsequently acquired UK hardware reseller Josero added an additional wow factor, as it then became increasingly obvious that Soyang Europe’s pivot into the provision and service of superwide digital printing hardware was part of a cohesive business strategy.
We felt it was important to speak to the key people involved, dig deeper and find out more. Below you will find the transcript of an informal Q&A session with Soyang Europe owner Mark Mashiter, his Product Director Andrew Simmons, former Josero owner Loïc Delor and Josero Managing Director, Sarah Winterbottom.
The first and most obvious question to Mark Mashiter is why? Soyang Europe is a highly regarded and successful supplier of superwide materials to many of the UK's leading PSPs, and it's a business that works well. We only hear good things from customers, so why the move into hardware?
Mark Mashiter says:
“It wasn't a plan of any kind initially. However, it was always in the background. In fact, we've been fielding requests from customers for many years to buy their hardware through us. We of course take it as a huge compliment that our customers hold us in high enough regard that they want to extend the range of products they could potentially buy from us, but it was something we always shrugged off with a casual ‘maybe one day, but for now we're busy enough….’
“There's a saying in business that ‘When opportunity presents itself, don't be afraid to go after it,’ and that was what happened here really.
“We heard from a business associate that hardware reseller Josero was for sale, and as we already enjoy strong relationships with a number of hardware manufacturers – primarily because Soyang materials are often one of the go-to products that they recommend to their customers – we spoke with the ones that already work with Josero. All of them were clear they'd relish the opportunity to collaborate with us if the acquisition went ahead.
“Further conversations were struck up – initially putting out feelers– and the one that really grabbed my attention was the news that Fujifilm was adapting its business model to accommodate channel partners.
“We already know and admire Fujifilm products. On top of the opportunity to acquire Josero, it just made such sound commercial sense. From there, things snowballed, and here we are now; owners of Josero, partner to existing Josero suppliers, and the first UK supply partner for Fujifilm superwide format print systems.
“We’re a grand-format materials specialist and hardware is a new venture for us, but we know the market better than most. Our materials are used on almost every superwide printer out there. We are already working closely with a vast number of the biggest print businesses in the grand-format sector, selling material up to 5m wide. Our clients already trust us for media, and we’ll do our utmost to earn their trust in dealing in hardware with them as well.
“We hope that having a brand as well-respected as Fujifilm alongside the established Josero product lines will clearly show our commitment to this sector of the market and further open doors for a business model based on dealing in both media and hardware. It's just an incredibly exciting time for Soyang Europe, and of course for our customers.”
Product Director Andrew Simmons adds: “With this new business model, Existing Soyang customers can help grow their business with the support and technology from the partners of the Josero brand backed by the expertise knowledge and dedication from the Josero technical team.”
Loic Delor says:
“After 18 years this was the perfect move to continue Josero's development. We had come a long way from the little spare bedroom venture it was at the beginning, to become the thriving business it became, but we needed a strong partner to move on to the next level.
“Soyang Europe and Josero bring a high level of expertise to each other, as well as sharing business values. Mark and I have both started businesses from very little. This common ground certainly helped the acquisition process and the establishment of a business vision going forward.
“Both companies just got better and stronger and we can't wait for all our customers, suppliers and partners to benefit and join us in this new chapter.
“Josero needed to get to the next level and integrating into Soyang Europe made business sense to continue our growth. Similarly, Soyang Europe needed a foot in the hardware segment and Josero was the ideal candidate. I am staying within the group for the foreseeable future to help with the integration and the development of the business.”
Sarah Winterbottom says:
“I joined Josero in October 2019 and became Managing Director in January 2021 as part of the bigger plan to move the business forward.
“During my time at Josero, my main focus initially was to raise the company profile in the market, and we have successfully done this via social media and marketing activity. This has helped us to increase our presence in the market and to show off our expertise in technical support and customer service. We have also grown the team to meet our increased levels of activity, taking on more salespeople and engineers - effectively growing the team to grow the business.
“This is now a perfect time to take Josero to the next level with Soyang. Working together to add more value for our customers, Soyang has the know-how and expertise in textiles and media, while Josero has the knowledge and experience in supplying and installing hardware and software.
“The team at Josero has many years of experience in the market. Established in 2004 predominately as a second user reseller in the market to what we are today, Josero is already a partner to major brands such as Mimaki and Agfa.
“Our experience with Agfa gives us the capability to prove our existing pedigree in wide-format and superwide-format aligns well with Soyang’s new relationship with Fujifilm. All in all, it is a fantastic opportunity for us as a business and the market and I am excited to bring both sales teams together to maximise our opportunities and be leaders in our field.”