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.