How to startup directly after University – the real story of Bricola

How to startup directly after University – the real story of Bricola

Who I am…

My name is Thijs de Jonge and I started to study entrepreneurship (yes you can really study that topic) at the VU University Amsterdam. It was here that I decided that I had learned enough about entrepreneurship, it was time to start doing it! Together with a fellow student (Hendrik Vlaanderen) we started to collect the building blocks we thought we needed. It has been six months ago since we started but I think it is amazing what we already achieved. And still we are building with passion and enthusiasm.

Finding the problem

I started off in 2011 working on a foundation which is focused on improving the transferability of knowledge between the Netherlands and Lombok (Indonesia). This foundation was already founded by three others and I joined in. We found that a lot of people get the chance to learn how to use a sewing machine. The problem is that there are just not enough jobs for them and so we decided to help them. Knowledge and assistance about marketing, entrepreneurship, design and different cultures is being transferred to them and we help them to sell the products that they produce.

How we founded Bricola

Since March 2013 I made the decision to start Bricola. The Dutch economy is still in “crisis” and this forces many organisations to reinvent themselves. Especially non-profit organisations who have been relying on subsidies and have no commercial strategy whatsoever, are forced to find ways to make profit. Also the fast paced technological developments make it necessary for all businesses to be on their feet. The world can look totally different in a blink of an eye, which is why organisations and entrepreneurs have to be flexible and adaptive. At the same time we were surrounded by many students that had jobs unrelated to their field of study, including myself. I wanted to gain practical experience but this was not easy to find. Students have to rely increasingly on their practical experience and their network in order to get a job.

How to start?

We do this by setting up small brainstorm sessions for companies that require fresh insights into their organisation whether it be strategy, marketing or internal processes. By connecting these two parties (students & organisations) together they can both enjoy a lot of advantages. While organisations get fresh insights from outside of their existing framework they also get in touch with ambitious students, who can be evaluated in an inexpensive manner. Students have the opportunity to work on abilities that will be required later on in their job. Also they get in touch with a variety of organisations and by doing so they can get a feeling of what sector is suitable for them and where they would like to work.

Diverse backgrounds

Depending on the needs of our client, we will bring together students from different fields and work on getting new ideas and insights. We use different methods of brainstorming suited for the needs of the organisation. This way a session can be about generating as many ideas as possible (for a new logo, brand name or marketing campaign) or it can be about solving a specific problem (how can we reduce the amount of cars in the Netherlands?).

It’s the team that makes the dream

Maybe the most important lesson that I have learned is about the importance of the team around you. After I had the initial idea the first thing I did was meet up with a few people of which I knew I could collaborate with. By explaining the idea to them I could see whether or not they got inspired and enthused by it, and I think that is very important. After day one we already reached things that I could never do on my own. And almost every day we build on each other and reach things that we couldn’t individually, that’s the power of having a good team!

Open to critics

Another thing I have learned is that an entrepreneur should position themselves vulnerable and open for critics, whoever they may be. The business is a part of you, your thoughts went into it, beliefs, time and money. At times it can be difficult getting feedback: “it is not going to work!” or: “why the hell did you do it like this?”. This feedback is a very important source of information so try to be humble but fierce about it. Why is somebody thinking that your idea is not going to work? From which point of view is that person looking at the situation? Finally compare this with your own perspective and your vision of the idea. Sometimes it will cause you to change your perspective or adapt a little. But even if it has no consequences for your concept it does force you to think about your idea from different points of view.


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Written by Thijs de Jonge

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