Expat Entrepreneur: Francesca Polo helps minds keep healthy in the Netherlands
Italian expat Francesca Polo appreciates the Dutch culture "for the sober yet creative attitude when it comes down to business," and advises expats to take advantage of training at the Dutch Chamber of Commerce.
Name: Francesca Polo
City of residence: Amsterdam
Name of company: Yogatha / Office Oasis
Date of company launch: Yogatha, August 2004 / Office Oasis, January 2005
Can you give us a brief description of your business and how it is going?
I run two businesses: Yogatha and Office Oasis. Both stand for: Yoga Management, where ‘management’ refers to ‘handling’ and yoga refers to ‘unifying what is separate’ or ‘becoming whole or healthy’.Yogatha and Office Oasis aim to reach individuals in different settings, like in the yoga studio or at work, and soon just anywhere, as a yoga book by Yogatha is ‘in the making’! The offer varies from weekly yoga classes and yoga retreats and workshops to coaching through cranio-sacral therapy and healing massage (Yogatha); and from regular yoga classes at work to a team-building laughter yoga session, chair massage or lecture at the office or anywhere else (Office Oasis).
How it is going: considering that I’m mother of two young children, a role which still takes a great deal of my attention and energy, I am very satisfied with where I am with my ‘work’. In many ways though, I could not do it without the (financial) support of my husband.
What do you like about doing business in your country of residence?
Coming from Italy, I’ve appreciated the Dutch culture for the sober yet creative attitude when it comes down to business. The regulations are such, that setting up your own company is not only possible, but made attractive.
What do you find most frustrating about doing business in the Netherlands?
The money/business-related events everywhere and, sometimes, the superficiality or the lack of a humanistic mentality. To keep up with Dutch competitors and a commercially aggressive market, there is little time or attention left to feed family life. I need to regularly remind myself of where I come from, literally and figuratively.
What hurdles did you encounter when setting up?
Certainly not objective ones: my own insecurity!
How has the economic crisis affected your business?
The rising of ever cheaper possibilities to practice yoga has led me to a crossroads and has forced me to sharpen my offer and my niche. As to my practice for coaching through cranio-sacral therapy and healing massage, I had to make sure I was put on two professional registers so that my clients could get reimbursements from their insurance companies.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs setting up business in the Netherlands?
Make use of the many possibilities this country has to offer, like (almost) free courses at the Chamber of Commerce or offered by the ‘Ondernemershuis’. If you network, visit a couple of different environments first and finally choose the one where you feel most at ease and feel you can be just yourself.
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