Expat Entrepreneur: Laurie Villarreal in the Netherlands
Expat Laurie Villarreal keeps her clients running through a six-month marathon training programme for all fitness levels.
Name: Laurie Villarreal
Country of residence: The Netherlands
Name of company: Amsterdam Fit
Date of company launch: 2011-11-10
Can you give us a brief description of your business and how it is going?
We organize a 6-month marathon and half marathon training programme for all fitness levels, from complete beginners to experienced runners. We create a training community that is non-intimidating, motivating, educational, and fun. Our aim is to make the training experience enjoyable, and to grow runners by introducing them to a healthy lifestyle sport and give them the tools and knowledge to stay active for years to come.
Our first season starts in April 2012. So far I've been able to make some great connections and partnerships that make me confident our membership base will be off to a thriving start.
What do you like about doing business in the Netherlands?
There are many free services to help entrepreneurs and all have been available in English, which makes it especially helpful in getting the right information. It's also much easier to build professional relationships when you can approach other businesses in English.
What do you find most frustrating about doing business in the Netherlands?
I wanted to sign up for a course with the Dutch Athletic Union that would help me develop my business and they only offer it in Dutch. I've also encountered a few other occasions where knowing more Dutch would have been helpful.
What hurdles did you encounter when setting up?
Applying for a residence permit is a lengthy process, and there is no guarantee that you will get it. You just have to apply and hope for the best -- and have a source of income from outside of Holland or savings, as they won't allow you to work while you wait for the response.
How has the economic crisis affected your business?
I imagine less people are spending money on health and fitness. However, as the program is quite inexpensive compared to a gym or personal training, it's a great solution for those who are a bit more frugal with their spending.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs setting up business in the Netherlands?
Contact an accountant right away. I found one who gave valuable free advice before I was even their client.
How does running a business in your current country of residence compare to running a business in other countries that you have lived in?
This has been far easier than in France. For one, I can do most everything in English. The information in easily accessible and there are numerous free resources. The tax system also seems a bit more easy to understand and if you have questions, they are incredibly helpful. France was a very different story.
Would you like to add anything that we haven't addressed in the questionnaire?
Amsterdam Fit's first 6-month training season starts in April to prepare for the Amsterdam marathon and half marathon. Registration opens 1 March 2012. The early registration fees is EUR 99. After 7 April, the fee is EUR 115. The fee includes group runs, trained coaches, educational seminars, a training shirt, and more.
Find more information at www.amsterdamfit.com.
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