“Student days are the best time to start your business”

Saxion has produced no fewer than 1,200 spin-offs and dozens of new businesses are added each year. Student entrepreneurship co-ordinator Yvonne Kholmy-de Jong advises Saxion students and tutors on their business concepts. Roos Herder, winner of the EW/Saxion Entrepreneurship Award 2017, also approached Yvonne for advice earlier this year.

Yvonne Kholmy-de Jong has big plans for an event venue herself, she says. “During my ‘entrepreneurship’ minor at Saxion I pitched my business idea, it was accepted and I was offered a job at the same time. I chose to take the job at the Saxion Centre for Entrepreneurship and put my business plan on the shelf for a while.” Since then, Yvonne has been organising events to acquaint students with entrepreneurship and increase their skills. In addition, she coaches students and tutors in the realisation of their business plans. “Your student days are the ideal time to start a business,” she says. “You are flexible, receive plenty of support and getting over setbacks is a little easier. Once you finish studying, other things require your attention.”

Support in starting your own business

The Saxion Centre for Entrepreneurship encourages entrepreneurial students and tutors to make the most out of themselves and supports them in setting up their own businesses. It does this by organising events, providing advice and offering assistance in the form of pre-seed financing and business coaching, for example. It also brings together entrepreneurship and education by making it possible to write your thesis within your own company. The centre works in close co-operation with Novel-T to stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship.

Eighth edition of EW/Saxion Entrepreneurship Award

The EW/Saxion Entrepreneurship Award is one of the events that co-ordinator Yvonne organises annually. “With 62 registrations, there were fewer participants in the eighth edition than in previous years, but the quality was surprisingly good,” Yvonne enthuses. “More than half were already registered with the Chamber of Commerce and had concrete plans.” During the competition, participants can make giant steps forward with their business ideas in a short time. The award is made possible by Eric Wentink, a former student and founder of the spin-off EW Facility Services.

Standing out during power pitch

New to the award this year was a kick-off session with business coaches from the Centre for Entrepreneurship, Novel-T and successful entrepreneurs from the region. This provided a first boost to the ideas and helped to tighten up the business plans. This was followed by workshops for the various candidates. The 15 best entrepreneurs went to a two-day business boot camp. After three elimination rounds, only five finalists remained. On Thursday 1 June 2017 they presented their power pitches to a hall full of students, entrepreneurs and supporters. Roos Herder proved most convincing to the five-person jury with her extremely promising COVERAGE business concept and won the € 5,000 start-up capital and guidance.

Differentiating yourself

“COVERAGE allows the modern Muslim woman to show who she is. It is a headscarf that fits within the faith but also provides an identity,” Roos explained in her pitch. The young entrepreneur experimented with cool caps, beanies and chic hats made from comfortable, innovative and sustainable materials. “Roos Herder developed the idea during her graduation studies and approached us for assistance in realising her business concept,” Yvonne explains. “I advised her to take part in the competition.” During the competition, Roos paid close attention to the feedback from the coaches and her potential customers. She used this to continuously develop and make a giant leap forward with her business. “She can use the prize money to further develop the prototypes and produce her fashion-conscious headscarves,” says Yvonne.

Perseverance essential

Alongside well-known names, such as Voortman Steel Machinery and Zuivelhoeve, the list of 1,200 spin-offs also includes fledgling companies. Yvonne cites the start-up company Monbeki as an example. Four years ago, students Kiki Jaspers and Jasper van den Brink won the entrepreneurship award but for a long time afterwards nothing happened with the backpack brand. “Setbacks in production and the purchasing of materials held back progress. But thanks to their perseverance they recently launched the first range of bags. It’s wonderful that they’ve finally succeeded and I’m proud that we were able to contribute to this.”

Entrepreneurship and business instinct

Saxion has its own valorisation programme, called SAVaE. “We are using this to bring SaxCell onto the market, for example, which is an innovative cellulose fibre made from waste cotton.” As well as innovative, high-tech spin-offs, Saxion also produces trading companies. “I recently talked to two students who were itching to start a business but did not have a concrete business plan. Together, we produced a Business Model Canvas, which led to an idea and they are flying to Turkey in the near future to test the market potential of their idea. That’s what I call entrepreneurial students.”

Yvonne still has no idea when she will be able to realise her own dream. “I’m currently prioritising other people’s dreams but my own event venue will definitely happen one day.”

Questions? Visit the entrepreneurs points

Saxion has special entrepreneurs points in Enschede and Deventer for students and tutors. “You can simply walk in and ask a question,” says Yvonne. “Or call or e-mail for an appointment. We would be happy to help you.” Contact details are available at: www.saxion.nl/cvo

Roos Herder on winning the EW/Saxion Entrepreneurship Award 2017

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