WeParc

Name: Tim Wanders
Startup: WeParc

Tim, one of the founders of WeParc, started his carreer as business consultant after a bachelor in International Business Administration and a master in Financial Management. In 2016 he started WeParc, together with two co-founders.

Hi Tim, your startup WeParc is in short a valet parking service via your smartphone. Can you tell us how you came up with this idea?

I started the company nine months ago with two co-founders. Two of us live in the centre of Amsterdam and have to deal with the struggle of finding a parking spot on a daily basis. Besides the difficulty in parking my own car, when my friends come over for dinner they always complain about having to pay 20-25 euros to park their car for the evening.
At the same time, I noticed that most commercial parking lots in the city are never fully booked, leaving a lot of empty spots. So I started thinking about the possibilities of better matching supply and demand in the parking sector. We decided technology (in the form of an app) was the way to go and named our solution WeParc: a smartphone app which allows you to let your car be picked up, parked and returned to you at any given location and time.

Alright, that sounds great. But where did you start? What was the first step to take?

I started by analyzing the market and doing some desk research. Was I the only one experiencing the problem? How big is the market? What should be the focus? Then, I started thinking about how technology could be used to solve it. I couldn’t code myself so looked for solid partners who shared my vision and wanted to join the project. From there on we made our first version of the app and tested intensively with our launching customers.

In what stage is the company now?

At the moment we are live in the whole city of Amsterdam on iOS. Together with our solid partner network, we target daily commuters, tourists and daily visitors of the city. One of our new features are subscriptions that allow users to park 5 days a week for a pre-determined monthly price. With this product, we now mainly target corporates and SME’s in the business districts in Amsterdam. Android will follow soon.

What was the biggest challenge so far?

Our biggest challenge so far has been to nail our three-sided marketplace perfectly. We continuously need to find an optimal balance between parking spots, employees, and customer requests. It turned out to be way more complex than I initially thought.

Did you make some bloopers in this startup adventure?

You learn a lot along the way. For example, I’ve been naïve a couple of times when it came to talks with potential launching customers. I thought we were very close to making a deal with one of them, but it the processes ended up taking forever and we ended up nowhere. So lesson number one is that you shouldn’t expect a deal until the ink is dry!

Why did you want to participate in the Get Started programme?

I wanted to join Get Started particularly for the network. The moment I joined the program I realized I was a bit further than some other participants because I was working on my idea some longer than others. Nevertheless, I really liked being part of a group of like-minded people with an entrepreneurial mentality. Meeting them gave a boost to my network.

What is the best advice you’ve got during the programme?

That technology isn’t everything. I was so thrilled to put AI processes in the technology of the app but reaching out to peers I realized that fully automate everything wasn’t possible at this stage. It simply can’t be perfect at the beginning so it was better to find temporary solutions for some things instead. As long as you have a clear vision regarding what direction you want to go.

What is your advice to others who want to start their startup?

It might be a cliché, but I’ve definitely found it do be true: just do it. Also, don’t forget there are many different ways to get to where you want to be. You have more than one shot to make something happen, so don’t give up too easily.

Zerah

Name: Eliane de Vries & Kirsten Lamberink
Startup: Zerah

Zerah started in 2013 as Zuivere Zeep, a company that produces ecological detergents and care products. Eliane and Kirsten participated in the Get Started programme in 2016.

Hi Kirsten and Eliane, you are working on a startup in ecological detergents and care products. How did you come up with the idea to start a business like this?

Eliane: A few years ago I lost my job. I had two young children and used cloth diapers when changing them. I bought lovely scented cloth diaper detergent from a WAHM (Working At Home Mom) in America to wash the nappies with. At one point I figured: if she can do it, I can also make detergent myself instead of shipping it to the Netherlands! I received unemployment benefits and they had a regulation in which you got a chance to start up a business instead of finding a new job. I discovered that home-made cloth detergents was not sold in the Netherlands and made a business plan that was accepted. I figured out via some research online how to make ecological soap for laundry and then started selling it on my webshop! Via Facebook many eco-mama’s discovered the webshop and this is how Zerah grew.

And how did Kirsten join the company?

Kirsten: I was working as a soil consultant, but after two years I found out that it wasn’t something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I discovered that I liked enterpreneurship. I knew Eliane from church and knew she was working on her own business in ecological products. I simply asked her ‘How did you do it and is it something I can do as well?’ From then on we started to work together and I never left, haha.

Why did you want to participate in the Get Started Programme?

Neither of us had any prior entrepreneurial or business experience. So we didn’t know anything about business or management. In the way we ran the business, the revenue wasn’t enough to live from, so we needed some expertise and advice to figure out how we could bring the business to the next level and to develop our entrepreneurial skills.

What is your dream for Zerah?

We want to build a company with a large selection of ecological care products with clear ingredients. We want Zerah to become an established brand. It is a company with a personal touch and we want to keep it that way, but at the same time we want the company to grow and become a sustainable business.

What is the best advice you got from the Get Started Programme?

Kirsten: What was really an eye opener for me was to focus on the question: ‘What problem are you solving for your customer?’ It really helped me to think about how can we improve our products.
Eliane: One coach told me: “Don’t try to figure everything out by yourself, (almost) everything has been invented before. Let others help you or figure out where to get the right information you need.”

What is the advice you have for other ecological entrepreneurs?

Kirsten: Most ecological and sustainable entrepreneurs are doing it because of idealism but it is really important to find a good balance between idealism and business.
Eliane: Have the courage to try out new things. If a product is not so popular as you might have expected it doesn’t matter. Via trial and error you’ll figure out what works and what doesn’t.

IkCirculeer

Name: Liedewij de Graaf
Startup: IKcircuLEER

In 2014, Liedewij started the initiative of IKcircuLEER. With IKcircuLEER, she develops teaching methods to educate VMBO pupils about sustainability and circular economy, in an inspiring and practical way. She has been participating in the Get Business programme since 2015.

IkCirculeer

IKcircuLEER started a few years ago. How did you start?

Since 2014 I have been working accelerating on the transition to a circular economy through education. As a former project manager in an educational publishing company, developing teaching methods and material was a logical next step for me to take. Next to developing these methods and materials we also organise meetings for teachers. The idea of IKcircuLEER won the ASN Bank Wereldprijs in 2014, and afterwards the project has turned into reality.

So what does IKcircuLEER do today?

With IKcircuLEER we develop teaching methods, in which cases of sustainable entrepreneurs are key. By this, we create a from practice originating knowledge base about the circular economy for VMBO pupils (in English: pre-vocational secondary education pupils). These modules are developed in cooperation with a platform to which 180 schools are linked. We also built a new version of the project 100-100-100.nl, especially for schools, which is a project that is focussed on ‘A school without waste: is that possible?’.

In what way does IKcircuLEER contribute a better world?

I think our most important contribution is that we operationalize wider issues, such as sustainability and circular economy, in education for VMBO high school pupils. In sustainability education, lower education levels are often overlooked, while this is a very important target group. Most teachers in these levels want, and have to, pay attention to sustainable entrepreneurship, but they experience difficulties in doing this. In our teaching methods, we combine different case stories from sustainable entrepreneurs in a coherent method. We try to make it easy for teachers to pay attention to this theme in an up to date, inspiring and effective way. Hereby, we invite pupils to share their sustainable ideas and actions, to learn them that little daily actions can change more than they think.

We heard that there are many things going on around IKcircuLEER recently. Can you tell us something about that?

In a few weeks IKcircuLEER is starting a crowdfunding campaign to further develop our teaching methods and to implement our methods faster in education. This campaign starts on the 14th of April, via LovetoFund and CrowdaboutNow. Related to this, we have an event on the 11th of May, where Mr. Jan Terlouw will be our speaker. We like to welcome everyone who is interested to join!

What is your dream for the development of the ‘Next Economy’ and IKcircuLEER?

My dream is realizing an economy of love. To do this, I have to work very hard every day, and dare to be an entrepreneur. I am working for an economy that doesn’t cause damage to people, the environment and an economy that takes children into account. An economy in which ecology and economy strengthen each other, that is based on the UN Global Sustainable Development Goals to generate win-win situations for business and society. The recent convention of political youth organizations and Jan Terlouw gives direction for both society as a whole, and as a point on the horizon for all political parties to work on. IKcircuLEER will grow further in facilitating knowledge sharing and collaboration between pupils, teachers and businesses for the next twenty years. Until this economy of love has grown up.

What is the most important lesson you learned from the Get Business programme?

The Get Business programme encouraged me to go on with my ideas, to be disciplined, to dare to try new things, to test my concept and in particular: to just do it. The accountability sessions on the other hand gave me a lot of practical advices and encouragement. Overall, the Get Business programme challenged me to formulate my goals as precise as possible, and preferably: as ambitious as possible. This really gave me the courage to go out and experience what it’s like to be an entrepreneur!

Do you want to know more about Liedewij and IKcircuLEER?

Take a look at www.ikcirculeer.nl. Are you interested in the crowdfunding campaign? Look at lovetofund.com/projecten/ikcirculeer.