Expat Entrepreneur: Vivienne McAlister in the Netherlands
British expat Vivienne McAlister advises fellow entrepreneurs not to get discouraged ̶ when one door shuts, start banging on the next.
Name: Vivienne McAlister
Country of residence: The Netherlands
Name of company: Simply Skin
Date of company launch: 2011-12-10
Can you give us a brief description of your business?
Simply Skin sells bath & body products which are made by hand on the shop premises in Weesp. Our mission is to bring the finest handmade bath & body products to our customers. We strive to answer the needs of our customers with an ever-evolving range of products that shall meet their bath-time dreams and aspirations.
As all our products are made by hand, we can create bespoke products to meet a customer's personal needs, e.g. allergen-free or unscented.
We also offer a personal one-to-one favour service, covering a variety of occasions such as weddings, christenings, corporate functions, and dinner parties, to name but a few.
What do you like about doing business in the Netherlands?
The market in the Netherlands for handmade beauty products is still quite a niche market; I can offer customers a personalised and bespoke service which cannot be matched by any of the large cosmetic stores, and I have an intimate knowledge and understanding of the ingredients used in my products.
What do you find most frustrating about doing business in the Netherlands?
Dutch suppliers. I currently source most of my raw ingredients and packaging from outside the Netherlands as I find Dutch suppliers can be incredibly rude and blunt, and offer a poor level of service. I also struggle with finding suppliers due to my poor command of the Dutch language.
What hurdles did you encounter when setting up?
I am still trying to overcome many hurdles as my company is still very new. The most difficult is getting my name and brand known so people know who I am and the high quality of products I produce.
How has the economic crisis affected your business?
Difficult to say as I only started a couple of months ago in the midst of the crisis. But I find that people are treating my products as gifts for friends and family when I would like to see them also treat them as a product they should buy for themselves. So I think people are being very careful with what they spend.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs setting up business in the Netherlands?
- Learn to speak the language fluently so you can better source materials and find suppliers.
- Know the importance of networking.
- Be prepared to give away a lot of products at the start of your business before you see anything in return.
- Be prepared that your business will probably not take off for at least 12 months.
- Never get discouraged ̶ when one door shuts, start banging on the next.
How does running a business in the Netherlands compare to running a business in other countries that you have lived in?
I have never run a business in any other country. However I think I would find it easier to run a business in my home in the UK. I would have better knowledge of suppliers, etc. and an excellent command of the language which would make sourcing materials and suppliers much easier.
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