From expat to entrepreneur; the story of Jennifer Roger
Jennifer Roger moved to the Netherlands because she wanted to know what it was like to live abroad. “A holiday is pretty short and I’d lived in France all my life. I visited the Netherlands a couple of times, which made me curious.” Going to a new country, a new city, and a new job was challenging, but Jennifer was prepared.
When Jennifer moved to the Netherlands, she was still working in human resources. “I’d been working in HR for over 10 years and really liked the field, especially interacting with other people. What do they want and how can you combine that with the company’s wishes? I realized that I wanted to keep those interactions, but take a new approach to them.” That new approach turned into interior design. She’d been interested in the field in high school, but there were not many interior design schools and it wasn’t a developed job or business at the time.
A completely different world?
At first glance, HR and interior design have nothing in common. Jennifer, however, believes they do: “Interior design might be more creative than HR, but the two share a lot of similarities – I’m still building relationships with people, for example. HR was about the relationships between me, employees, and managers; for interior design, my relationships with my clients are even more important.”
Jennifer uses a lot of her HR experience at her new job. “I know exactly what kinds of questions I can ask and how I can start discussions. It’s very important that clients are confident enough to talk openly and honestly with me about what their perfect interior looks like.” Jennifer feels like her experience in HR helps her steer conversations in the right direction without her clients realizing it.
By the book
Before Jennifer founded her own company, she attended training courses. She quit her old job in October of 2020 and registered her company with the Chamber of Commerce in March 2021. In the meantime, she did research into starting a business in the Netherlands. “Everything’s quite different when you don’t speak Dutch. I had to translate a lot of documents and articles; I really didn’t want to make any mistakes with my tax returns, which means they take more time. Fortunately, the process itself is relatively smooth here, so I didn’t lose a lot of time.”
When starting her company, Jennifer didn’t run into any unexpected problems, but that’s something she worked very hard for. “I wanted to do everything by the book. I didn’t go into anything without knowing how to do it and whether or not it was allowed. I always check things like insurance policies far in advance.” Jennifer noticed that the Netherlands is pretty well organized in terms of administration: “Everything here is very well planned. Starting a company would’ve taken more time in France; that’s why I’m glad I chose to found my business in the Netherlands.”
Jennifer’s biggest problem when starting out was finding clients. “That’s a common issue – I’m pretty sure every entrepreneur runs into this. I started by making a website, but those don’t immediately show up in search results. That’s why I joined a lot of expat groups on social media to spread the word.”
An entrepreneur shouldn’t give up
The most important lesson Jennifer learned in her first two years as a business owner is that perseverance is key. “No matter what you do, you’ll run into a lot of setbacks if you’re an entrepreneur. You have to push past that, even if it’s very difficult to be motivated and positive every day. If you have less clients one month, you’ll immediately start noticing it in your wallet. However, I never lost confidence in my company and just kept working hard.”
Jennifer has a tip for other expat entrepreneurs: “I was very excited about my new job and had made a comprehensive and, in retrospect, long-winded website. Then I discovered that potential clients had trouble figuring out what exactly I was offering them. If your clients don’t understand your services, they don’t start mailing you their questions, but just go look for a different designer. It’s better to keep everything simple and obvious – your clients will discover your enthusiasm when you talk to them.”
Jennifer concludes: “If you want to become an entrepreneur, come to the Netherlands! It’s a great country to start a business. People want to help you and you can build a business here without hurting your career. I’m really glad I picked the Netherlands.”