Behind the Business
In our Behind the Business series, we interview entrepreneurs from all over the world. From copywriting freelancers to the founder of the new Facebook, we’ll talk to them all.
In this week’s article, we are interviewing Berend van Grootel who is the founder and owner of several E-Commerce businesses in the Netherlands. See how Berend turned an idea from his university days into a full-time career while continuing to follow his passion!
Story of Berend van Grootel’s Ventures
Who are you?
Hi, I am Berend Van Grootel. I am a 29-year-old entrepreneur from the Netherlands, and currently occupied working for multiple companies of mine. I like to invest my time in things I believe in and that’s probably the reason why you can find me starting a new business almost every month.
Almost every month! Wow, great introduction! What are your businesses?
My businesses range from commercial services to retail businesses. It often includes me purchasing goods from some part of the world and making them easily accessible for the people around me. Mattresses, electric fireplaces and phone covers are just a few examples of products my companies have sold.
The unique part about all of this is that I use the revenue generated from my businesses to invest in things that make an impact. Recently, I have been investing in and learning about tree planting and urban farming. This is just my small attempt at making a positive impact on the world.
Wow, that is indeed something unique and unheard of. While we are on that, how did you start your business?
When I was in university, I bought an iPad. I was looking for a nice leather-like cover for my new device. The father of one of my friends had a beautiful vintage leather cover for his iPad and it was the exact item I was looking for. Unfortunately, it was too expensive for my college student budget.
So I started to think about this, and looked for the cover online. I came across Alibaba.com and to my surprise, I found a brand that had exactly what I wanted. I ended up ordering the product and when it arrived I was surprised at how good the quality was. I understood how people like me were in need of these products but were financially constrained. So, I messaged the seller and told them that I could sell their products in the Netherlands and gave them a quick run-through of my idea. I convinced them of my plan and they were onboard. That’s how I started my first business in college.
Let’s go back to how it all began
Quite a story Berend! So, were you employed at all before becoming an entrepreneur?
After I graduated from college, I wanted to get a job. I did the entire process and sat for over eight interviews. This was right after the recession and I kept facing rejections which were very taxing and demotivating.
Then I had a conversation with my father, who is also a business owner, who advised me to start my own business. Since I had already done it earlier in college, I also had some experience going into the world of business. With my father’s encouragement and advice, I fully immersed myself into starting my own business and as a result.
That sounds like everything went super smoothly. But did you fuck up really bad at some point? Tell us that story!
Haha, yes I did. Just like the highs, I also had my lows. My first company right after college was a mattress company. The first 3 years of my company went very well and I saw my sales skyrocketing. At one point, I had made enough revenue to satisfy all my materialistic needs — a car or even a house!
But here, I made the mistake of getting too comfortable with my work and saw the growth of my company stagnating. I was in an extremely competitive market and my competitors could overtake my growth at any point. This was enough for a wake-up call and I quickly reached out to a marketing company. We worked together on marketing my business and putting the name of my company out to a larger population. At this point, I really learned that you should focus on what gives you the most energy because that’s the place where you create the most value. My strength was not the marketing, it was connecting (and networking) with others!
Woah, you really turned your mistakes around. Let’s talk more about the present now. Do you already have one or more employees?
So, I have a different philosophy for my businesses. I understand that for every entrepreneur, there are only one or two things about doing business that truly excites them. Usually, people start their business because of those few things they are truly passionate about.
Only later, they realize that running a company requires them to look at sales, marketing, websites, accounts, administration and so on. People often end up frustrated or lose interest in their passion because of these added responsibilities. I knew I would face this problem and in order to not face a similar fate, I made a different plan.
So, what I do now is I work with people who are extremely passionate about what they do, while I focus on my areas of interest and strengths! I outsource my needs for marketing, website, accounts etc., and turn my sole focus to connect and network with other people and companies, which is what I am truly passionate about! Because of this, I have seen immense success because of the energy, happiness (and money)!
That is an interesting strategy. So in this time, did you have any entrepreneur/mentor who you learned the most from?
There hasn’t been anyone like that particularly, however, as I mentioned before, my father is a business owner. While my father is great at sales, he is not exactly an entrepreneur. He often made mistakes with his business and I used his mistakes and learned from them. Through the years, I employed my learnings from his mistakes to my own business. So, I can say that in this sense, my father taught me quite a lot.
Well, that’s one way to look at it. For the last question, is there any advice you have for young entrepreneurs out there?
Yeah definitely. I would advise everyone to just focus on what makes them happy and what they are truly passionate about. If you know what you love to do, there is a big chance you are good at it and you will create the best value out of things that truly make you happy.
Sure, there will be bumps along the way, but it is very important to remember why you started with your journey in the first place!
Wow, you are indeed on quite a journey. We wish the very best with your endeavours, and thanks Berend for sharing!
If you want to read more articles like these, check out our blog!
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