Please take into consideration that the recommendations shared in this post are based on my very own experience and therefore I cannot guarantee any success in your own endeavours. This is not a post with business or financial advice, but merely my story of how I became an entrepreneur while living in the Netherlands.
On September 1st 2018 I officially started my journey as an entrepreneur and handmade business owner. I remember I went to the Chamber of Commerce in Groningen (Netherlands) a few days before that and registered my company, Indigo Craft Room.
This is serious, I thought back at that moment. Oh, girl, you are about to be your own boss! With all the positive and negative sides it comes with.
I tested the market beforehand joining a few small flea markets in the city and promoting my artwork on Instagram. But till I launched my website and online shop, it didn’t feel “real”.
Almost two years after that I am about to sign out from the Chamber of Commerce in the Netherlands and starting a new entrepreneurial adventure in Germany, my next destination. I have to admit, this is pretty scary! Starting over again, almost from zero… but when I look back and see the incredible things I have achieved in the past two years, I’m confident that I will succeed doing it again, no matter where I land.
On my way to becoming a #girlboss in the Netherlands, lots of amazing people and organizations crossed my way. And I am so thankful for each of these connections: for the coffees, talks and collaborations. Without this supportive community, it wouldn’t have been possible to establish my handmade business in the Netherlands. And if you are an entrepreneur reading this right now, I encourage you to build up a community around your business: go out there, exchange knowledge, support other creators and enjoy this amazing and life-enhancing experience.
Knowing how to create a business plan, how to price your products and set up an online shop isn’t enough to build and establish a handmade business. Especially when you are in a new country, where you have zero contacts, family or friends supporting you, and where you don’t know exactly how things work or even how to speak the language.
Me and my friend Jennifer from Handcraeft during the event Girls Night: Crafts & Tasting (Inspiratiecafé OSO, Groningen). Picture by Tim van der Kuip.
One of the first things I did when I arrived in the Netherlands and decided to be my own boss, was to search for other artists, makers and small business owners in and around Groningen, where I was living.
Social Media is key when doing market research and connecting with other entrepreneurs in your area, so don’t hesitate and create an Instagram account right away. You don’t need to have an awesome feed, just create an account to connect with other people. You can and will work hard in creating your amazing feed and an unforgettable bio later.
There are dozens of entrepreneurs willing to help you and exchange knowledge with you. So, connect with them. Ask them if they want to have a coffee with you, chat about being an entrepreneur and who knows, maybe you end up being #bestfriendsforever.
But, be honest and respectful: this is not about asking all kinds of personal business stuff or having a free business consultancy. Small business owners are usually pretty busy trying to run their businesses while keeping up with life. And there is nothing more discouraging than open your heart and your business to someone who just wants to profit from free information. This is about connecting, exchanging and building community. Use your and their time wisely, because yes, girl: time is money!
If you have a handmade business and you are (or plan on) selling products, or maybe you are an artist or a maker willing to offer your services e.g. as a workshop or creative class, you may want to go out and check out the hotspots of your new city.
Walk around, visit and take note of possible shops, concept stores, cafés or any other organization that could become a partner, retailer or co-host.
If you want to sell your hand-illustrated cards in the cutest stores in the city centre, then you want to go there first and have a look around. What kind of audience do they have? What’s their price range? Do they have other similar products in their offer?
The same applies for say a possible venue for a creative workshop. Do they have friendly staff? Are their toilettes clean? Do they serve tasty food and drinks?
Once you have your favourite spots you can decide to introduce yourself in person and talk to them about a possible collaboration. Or if you are a little bit shy or they seem to be always too busy during opening hours, you can get a business card and send them an email with your proposal later.
What’s going on in your city? Nowadays it’s pretty easy to know what’s going on in your city, just check the cultural agenda or Facebook events in your area.
Visit the markets, shows, exhibitions or workshops that match your business category or audience. This way you can get a better impression of your competitors in the city, their offer, but also get a feel of what people are looking for.
This is also a great way to connect with other entrepreneurs. It’s how I got to know some of my best friends and fellow creators in Groningen.
I know, if you are a little bit introvert you probably won’t feel in the mood for talking to a stranger on a market. But if you don’t make the first move, how do you expect to make new friends and connections in a place where you are totally new?
Building a strong community was fundamental for me and my business. From the beginning, my goal was to connect with other entrepreneurs and look for support from other women that had built their own businesses already or were in the process of building it, like me.
I guess you can limit your interactions as a business to a certain point, but sooner or later, you will need to get in touch with other entrepreneurs and business owners, either as partners or retailers. So, make the best out of the situation and see if you both can profit from that connection in an extended way!
In the second part of this post I will share my top locations, entrepreneurs and business owners I got in touch with while being a #girlboss in the Netherlands. Can’t wait to tell you more and introduce you to the amazing community I’ve got to know here!
Your crafty fellow,