Distributors: Our Extended SparkFun Family


Here at SparkFun, we’re a hodgepodge crew from all different walks of life. Some of us are working in the field we planned to work in, while others, like myself, never envisioned working for a company like SparkFun. But now that I’ve been with SparkFun for a few years, I can’t imagine working anywhere else. A big element to that is that we’re like a misfit family. We work hard together and we play hard together too.

Recently, it occurred to me that we don’t talk about our extended SparkFun family all that often. Our distributors are an extension of our misfit family! SparkFun distributors deserve a shout-out too, because they rock! I can say this with utter certainty because I was a distributor service representative here for two years. Yes, we have a customer service team specifically to help out our distributors!

Take it straight from one of our current Distributor Service Representatives, Fran.

“One of the reasons I like working with the distributors is that we get to build a relationship with them. We interact with many distributors on a weekly (and sometimes even daily) basis, so we get to know a little more about them as people, rather than just as customers, and it can be a lot like working with a friend to get a problem resolved. For example, when I got married, and when Kris had her baby, a lot of our distributors worldwide wrote in with congratulatory notes.”

Back in 2006, Nathan brought on a handful of distributors. They worked out well, so in 2008 the Sales Department was born, with Devin taking on the role of seeking out and managing distributor accounts.

I've been asked why we bring on distributors instead of selling to those potential customers ourselves. It's simple, and our Sales Manager, Devin, put it well, "There are many, many different niches of people and companies who use SFE products all around the world. Working with distributors allows us to get our product some good face time in many different parts of the world and in front of many different end users that we may not have been able to reach by ourselves."

Some stats:

  • 332 distributors worldwide
  • 42 different countries
  • 26 have hackerspaces
  • 43 offer educational classes
  • 65 have physical retail storefronts

A couple of weeks ago, Marcus from Little Bird Electronics in Australia came to visit us. Back in 2007, a friend suggested that Marcus sell Arduinos and Little Bird Electronics was born soon after. Today, Little Bird Electronics has a large electronics catalog and is one of SparkFun's biggest distributors. It was great to finally meet him in person after years of emails and phone calls. I picked his brain about how we can serve our distributors better. I wanted to know why he decided to be a SparkFun Distributor, and his answer was simple, "The people want SparkFun products." I was shocked to find out that Little Bird Electronics is a two person operation: Marcus and Maddy Schappi. It doesn’t get more "family business" than that! Thanks for stopping by and seeing us, Marcus!

This week, I was emailing with MindKits Chief Ninja, Tim Carr of New Zealand. I wanted to know why he started selling electronics. He had this to say, “Three years ago after catching up with friends and not being able to tell them about my automated lawn mower that vectors out my lawn and figures out where it can mow. I decided that I wanted to build a community of like minded people who I could talk to about stuff like this. Funnily enough, now my old friends love what we do with electronics.”

I also wanted to know if there was one SparkFun product he or his customers couldn't live without. "My ethernet shield - when my little girl was born and we were terribly green and inexperienced. We didn't know if she was too warm at night, too cold or just right so I built a baby monitor that graphed the temperature, noise level and light in her room using Pachube.com and it would text me if we needed to help her. Mrs MindKits thought it was pretty cool too.” As a mother of an 11 month old, I am really wishing I had asked this question pre-maternity leave! Thanks for answering all my questions, Tim!

What it all boils down to, is that we love all of our distributors. I wish there were enough space in this blog post to talk about each one! Thanks for being part of the SparkFun family.


Comments 22 comments

  • As a distributor, we work with dozen of vendors, in USA, in China and in Europe. Sparkfun is definitly our preferred one’s. Don’t tell them too loud ! No bullshit, no blink-blink. Just professionnal, nice and efficient people. We love you. Kisses of AlphaCrucis from France and from Switzerland. Marie

  • We are glad to be a part of SparkFun Family.

  • Tim from MindKits here. For what it’s worth, that photo was taken at 4:30am after doing an all nighter to get a robotic helium blimp finished (Uber Blimp). I look tired and the beer on my desk wasn’t helping. Those are the thrusters I was working on btw @tiagofumo. :)

    • Just want to say, Tim is doing an amazing job selling SparkFun stuff in NZ. Most of the things I make would not exist without him!

      Cheers Tim

  • Vive l'Open Hardware ! Vive SparkFun !! :)

  • roboweb.net is here. We love you too! We are proud to be a member of SFE family. When we will have our way to States, we will definitely visit you. Thanks for all your efforts

  • We became distributors of SparkFun Electronics as SparkFun inspires us to keep innovating, improving and to keep our customers satisfied.

    Love to be a part of SFE Family! Cheers!!

  • woot! www.learn.sparkfun.com is now up and running!

  • Fran. You work so hard you’ve melted your keyboard ;-). Keep innovating guys, we love your products.

    • Haha, if you noticed, I have a nifty new ergo keyboard so I can type twice as fast now! :)

  • Hi Fran/Devin !

    It is truly delightful to see how Sparkfun maintains a great relationship with distributors !

    Fran : Wanted to acknowledge how you have supported Tenet Technetronics all these years ! We enjoyed working with you !

    http://tenettech.com

    Ram

  • So proud of Mads & Marcus! Especiallywith their kickstarter… shows that Innovation isn’t dead in Oz. Want to put out a shout to the guys at Freetronics also in melbourne- this band of academics-turned manufacturers put an incredible amount of attention in their products taking the original Arduino systems and then improving and integrating features. Be wonderful if sparkfun could take on their designs and distribute Aussie innovation to the World.

  • Having distributors means you’re a booming company. Do you guys at SFE think that you will always be as customer oriented? I would hate to see you lose your heart when you hit 1 billion dollars, and forget where you come from.

  • speaking of the jet on desk, where/how can we buy/make that? An aircraft of that size might just be conducive to indoor (or other small area) testing so i don’t have to find a park every time I want to fly a new program. — combustible lemon anyone?

  • that RC little plane/jet on the guys desk looks really nice =)

  • oh, that girl is so cute.

  • What about the suppliers? Can we learn about them? And is there by chance a list of them so we can thank them?

    • Some of our suppliers are steady, and some of them are regularly changing. Instead of thanking them, maybe thank our Purchasing team and Parts Hunter who are always on top of their game? That’s just my measly two cents.


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