Three entrepreneurs from the Netherlands share their thoughts on having their own business. They speak about the challenges, the economic crisis and provide advice for people wanting to become an entrepreneur.

Winanda Maljaars-Riemersma (WM) owns Winiq, a school counselling bureau where parents or schools can go when they have questions concerning gifted children. Mrs Maljaars-Riemersma provides guidance to the children at the school and gives trainings to the school teams.

Her husband Joan Maljaars (JM) runs the one-man business, Jaweb, for designing and installation of websites and graphic designs.

Geert Riemersma (GR) runs, already for thirty years, his own business De Boatte as a goldsmith.

What is your definition of an entrepreneur?

WM: “For me, to be an entrepreneur means taking action for yourself. Customers will come to you through word-of-mouth advertising, but you should ensure that you remain visible to people. So having a good website, social media and networking meetings are important. And make sure that you continue to educate yourself on your topic.”

JM: “An entrepreneur is a person who takes a certain risk, investments, by carrying out work for others or by trading in services or products to achieve profit in the end.”

GR: “An entrepreneur can be described as someone who explores the possibilities of his products at the market.”

What are the challenges of having your own business?

WM: “Making sure that there is a good balance between the work you do for your company and the income you generate. In my case, there are considerable periods when there is no work, but the costs I make should be compensated. Nevertheless, you should ensure that your prices remain affordable for your target group.”

JM: “The challenge is to find enough customers and clients and to deliver quality services and products at a competitive rate.”

GR: “Creating your own schedule to make a profit.”

Did the economic crisis affect your business?

WM: “Yes, nowadays parents much faster say that schools should pay me. However, the schools are not going to seek external assistance if it is not really necessary.”

JM: “Yes, it is clearly noticeable in the turnover. The willingness of customers, both individuals and firms, to invest decreased heavily. The response is finding other ways to earn money, side jobs and adjusting the price setting downwards.”

GR: “Yes, I had to adjust the spending to support the costs I make.”

What has changed in the time you are in business?

WM: “Since 2011, some things have changed in the area of education. Schools were first free to call for help. Now with the law on inclusive education in force, the situation very much depends on the network the school belongs to whether there will be permission for external help from someone like me.”

JM: “I run my business since 2002 and since then the competition has increased considerably. Customers do not come spontaneously anymore. It is now more important that people think you deserve to do the job, than having the lowest price. Finding customers is now being done more through social media and the internet. Presentation is the key factor to win new customers.”

GR: “Indeed, the market has changed in the thirty years I am in business.”

What is your advice for people who want to start their own business?

WM: “That is a good question hahaha. Keep on believing in yourself and your product. People will notice when you do something out of commercial interest or because you have a passion for your work. It is the latter that attracts attention.”

JM: “Do not start too fast. Make sure you have a good business plan with a clear marketing strategy and target group on which you want to focus. Make clear choices so you can tell your customers exactly what you are offering or what you can do for them. Also translate your ambition in figures, budget of income and expenses.”

GR: “It is important to estimate whether it is possible to act in the market. You have to assess where and with what costs you can realise your plan in a responsible way.”

Where do you want to be in ten years?

WM: “In ten years, I would like it to do this work fulltime. I hope to have a complete expertise bureau where a lot is being offered with regard to talent development and giftedness of children. From IQ tests and psychological tests to educational counselling and fear of failure trainings, all under one roof.”

JM: “Enough growth to earn my own income. Further I hope to specialise in specific techniques that are being requested in the market.”

GR: “I would like to have a pension!”