First published in Velvet Platform
De Kamer is a network of coworking spaces in the Netherlands, offering  businesses, nonprofits, and independent workers a home for their work in the Netherlands. De Kamer offers a home base from registered business addresses to private rentals and everything in between.

Jeannine van der Linden, founder of De Kamer shares the ups and downs of being a founder of a business. She speaks about what drove her to be an entrepreneur and why she is still doing what she loves. Jeannine also gives some insight on her experience as a business owner in a foreign country and how cultural differences can sometimes get in the way.  

A third generation entrepreneur

The main motivation behind starting De Kamer was quite mundane: Jeannine immigrated to the Netherlands, and she realised that she needed extra funds to be able to make ends meet. She said that “it was difficult as I had two small children and a sick mother-in-law to look after, which means that I would not realistically be able to work full time nor have a long commute.” What made it more difficult was that Jeannine has a law degree, with a former practice specializing in High Conflict Litigation , which is a field not terribly accommodating of part time work.

Both her grandmother and mother started their own businesses. Which means that she grew up around entrepreneurs and had the opportunity to learn from them. Which eliminated some initial struggles, like pricing, for her.

Her grandmother has the classic immigrant story. “She went to city hall in San Francisco and tried to apply for a work permit, but no work meant no work permit. She then sat outside of city hall devastated, when a man walked by. Lucky enough he was looking for people to employ and he offered her a job in a canning factory in Cannery Row in San Francisco, and then helped her apply for a work permit.”

In her mother’s teenage years, her grandmother had three residential rental properties. She would go around each weekend to go and collect the rent that was due for that week. “My grandparents were a typical portugese family, wherein the husband came back with a paycheck each week and the wife would give him his beer money.” Therefore her grandfather was clueless about the business that her grandmother ran. Then, her grandmother passed away and her grandfather was shocked to find out that he was an owner of real estate. But, because he had an education only until 6th grade he had to hire someone to look after the finances and do what her grandmother did: “give grandpa his beer money”.

Jeannine’s mother divorced after 13 years of marriage and had three children and struggled to find a job. “My mother then started working  for our next door neighbour who was in construction. After some time she saw a gap in the market and informed her boss about the opportunities that they are missing out on. He agreed and was fully on board.” She started her own business where she entered a niche and specific market — Agricultural Irrigation.

Jeanine realised that her situation was similar and thought that, “if two generations before me could do it so could I. So, I started De Kamer.”  

The challenges of a business owner in a foreign country

The initial challenge that Jeanine faced was that she could speak Dutch, but she could not read or write it. When she started De Kamer, she had lived in the Netherlands for around 5 years. “A lot of Dutch companies prefer to communicate in English, to me it was clear that the Dutch prefer to do searches and business in Dutch.” She did exactly that and ensured that all of her communication and websites were in Dutch.

She wanted other business owners to know that De Kamer is a home for their business. “Therefore, I wanted Dutch people to be able to speak their language. If I were inviting people home, then at the very least we have to let them speak their native language. You are not at home when you are speaking your second language.”

Some other hurdles she came across was the difference in culture. When having a business in a foreign country, one will be met with some difficulties which are not necessarily a language barrier. “Even the law enforcement is different in the Netherlands from the United States, and I feel like there is room for interpretation in the Dutch Law.” She has had an incident where she had to directly communicate with the Dutch Government, “none of us were speaking our native languages which made communication difficult”. After some time the situation got resolved, but she believes it took much longer just because of the lack of understanding.  

Why she loves being an entrepreneur

Now that De Kamer is a well established organisation, Jeannine continues to do what she loves. “I believe that more people should realise that coworking is a fundamental factor of working.” According to her, having a working space is just as important for a business as having internet connection. She hopes that in the future more people will become aware of this.

Jeannine van der Linden is able to help business owners who don’t have the need for an office. “People like taxi drivers, painters, or even contractors don’t need an office.” Unfortunately, due to the rules and regulations in the Netherlands, every business must have a registered office address at the Chamber of Commerce. She saw the gap in the market and continues to cater for these types of business owners. The best part is that renting a space from De Kamer means that the space is theirs, she is merely there to manage the space for them. “In De Kamer, it’s not someone else’s space which you use: it is your space which serves your business in exactly and only the ways you want,” Jeannine concludes.

It is exactly like renting an office in the Netherlands — and that’s because that is exactly what it is. The renter is even able to pay on a basis of what they use, which makes it more affordable. To find out how De Kamer is able to assist your business contact De Kamer to find out how they can be of assistance to you to ensure that your business has a registered address.   Also published in De Kamer Website.

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