Entrepreneurial Krommenie

September 16, 2012 Krommenie. Krommenie has a very new initiative for the business community,  Ondernemend Krommenie (OK for short and Entrepreneurial Krommenie in English) and so far we have been meeting every four of five weeks since the Spring of this year.

For people outside the Netherlands you are forgiven for not knowing where Krommenie is. It is a small town 25 minutes by train north west of Amsterdam, bordering on the industrial city of Zaandam and in the middle of a vast wetlands and farming area. My wife and I moved here 9 months ago. We are delighted to live in a community and still easily access our work and clients.

Tech school students built this aviary in a park in Krommenie
60 people have showed interest in OK and at the end of the summer we had 10 people around the table at our most recent gathering.  A dynamic group, very diverse, and very open to communication. The founders posed the question: what do you want this group to be for you? 

It is a good question to reflect on.

The first meeting I attended was impressive. A teacher who runs the Business Point at the local technical school, TRIAS VMBO, described a project in which the school, a local entrepreneur and the local council cooperated. The woodwork teacher wanted a work experience project for the students, the council wanted to give the aviary in the park a makeover and a local entrepreneur recognized the importance of giving young people a chance to learn the profession he is in. This gives him hope in the future that he will find the staff he needs as he develops his business into the next decade. An unexpected by-product of the project is perhaps one of the most important elements of all: the students feel a proud ownership of what they have achieved and they protect their project against vandalism. They have become part of and not ancillary to the community.

As someone who is excited by the power of connections,  I was delighted by this story. It acknowledges the power of locality and of people working together to produce results that are intended and to be willing to produce great results they could not even imagine being possible. The story gives access to the potential of OK as a network.

As I mingled and met my fellow local entrepreneurs I met a graphic designer, Renée Vrijman, who is passionate about communication. I was touched, moved and inspired by her story and invited her to make my new business card. I shared with her and her business partner (who is also her father) what my business is, and she translated that story into a logo. It represents diversity, networks, connectedness, the world, and bright futures for those who choose to work with the people around them.

Because she was local, I felt an extra layer of trust in the partnership. 

At our end of summer OK discussion, a woman shared some of the dilemmas she is facing with her newly opened Clothing Bank that was set up to cater to the same clientele as the food bank. Many of the clothes are new, from outlets, and the fashions are modern. When the shop opened earlier this year there was a lot of local media interest. Yet many people have not yet found their way to the shop, As she shared the story with the group, many good questions were asked and useful suggestions made. The owner later posted on the group's LinkedIn site that she was already benefiting from the results of this conversation.

Many of the customers of the Clothing Bank come for the social contacts. From the perspective of network theory, this is great news - and one of the unintended benefits of the shop. Very poor people have very limited social circles, and the more weak ties - or connections to people outside the inner circle of family - poor people have, the greater their access to resources that can take them out of poverty.

In a nutshell, the OK network already provides a number of benefits to its members.
  • OK has brought new business to some of the members, and new business contacts to all of us. 
  • In our discussions, we share knowledge and in this way even small businesses get access to diverse professional input.
  • We hear about the latest developments in the community.
  • By talking together, we create community. 
So what could we be doing in the future?

First, keep doing what we already do.
A characteristic house on main street

The entrepreneurs in OK could also explore whether we want to promote Krommenie as a tourist destination. 

OK can see if it wants to play a role in promoting local businesses, or take up issues like parking, or look from a business perspective at what facilities the people in the town need.

NETSHEILA has many examples to share when looking for inspiration in developing OK as a networking group for local business people. If you have ideas or would like to discuss potential partnerships with Ondernemend Krommenie, feel free to get in touch.

Lin McDevitt-Pugh is director of NETSHEILA and her business is working with people to access the contacts and people around them. She can be reached on +31-75-6152295, or via the contact form.

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