Hatch Tribe Hero | Willemijn Laan
As though Amsterdam wasn’t already cool enough, the city has enjoyed a surge of female-led entrepreneurship in the past decade. That’s thanks largely to women like Willemijn Laan.
Laan hears one observation about business in Amsterdam—her home base—often: “Amsterdam is a place where success if more often looked at as something more than just making a lot of money.” She has come to embody that idea, launching a buzzing ladies’ entrepreneurship collective that values soul, spunk and whip-smart ideas alongside a good paycheck.
We wanted to hear what a women’s business group across the Atlantic is like, so we reached out to Laan for her best advice and biggest lessons.
What is your favorite part of being an entrepreneur?
My favorite part of being an entrepreneur is definitely to create. To make something that wasn't there before, and that people love.
What keeps you up at night?
The fear to fail or to disappoint is probably the thing that can keep me up at night. As well as the feeling of injustice.
What ignited the spark in you to start your business?
The spark to start my first (and still is my business) business @rasalila (insta: rasalilastudio) actually came from the passion of my sister and our long term wish to work together some day. She was a yoga and dance teacher in Amsterdam and didn't like to teach at all different locations. One day we sat in the park, both in between jobs and decided that with my marketing and practical skills together we could open a studio where she could teach and I would do the business side. This was back in 2009. After some years I found out that I LOVE to be an entrepreneur and that I love to talk about entrepreneurship and the possibilities of it. This actual insight ignited the spark in me to start House of Ladypreneurs. I started to read and study the art of coaching, mindset and combined it with my own knowledge about owning a business.
What personality trait are you most proud of?
Being able to keep going, finding new ways to approach a problem or challenge. And the ability to quickly see the bigger picture.
In one word characterize your life as an entrepreneur. #TallOrder
Dynamic (two: exciting, three: the feeling of being alive)
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
To not take things personally. If you can not relate or understand someone's reaction there is usually something more going on in their life than you can see. If a client stops coming to you it is possible that there is something that you did wrong or that doesn't fit them, but usually it has nothing to do with you (they move city, they get new jobs, children, change their hobby, etc).
What sacrifices have you made to be a successful entrepreneur?
It almost never feels like sacrifices to me, but of course sometimes I have to suddenly work on my, supposed to be family Sunday, because a colleague got sick. I often choose to not watch a movie and 'chill' on the couch in the evening, but open my laptop to work on something I love to work on that moment. I work on Saturdays to have a mama day on Monday, but that means we only have one day a week (Sunday) with all four of us at home.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
To be more bold, less shy to express what I want or need.
Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere I believe. New ideas just pop-up in my head at random moments. But more when I feel relaxed than stressed.
What would you do with one extra hour in the day?
Sleep. I have two young children, so that can be exhausting sometimes.
Name a women entrepreneur past or present you admire, and tell us why.
Not sure if you can call her an entrepreneur, but I admire Beyonce for her activism, her ways to empower women, her music and her aesthetics.
What would you say are the top 3 skills needed to be a successful business owner?
Resilient, creative, willing to learn
What book has inspired you the most?
The Firestarter Sessions by Danielle LaPort.
In your opinion, what does it take to be a great boss?
Empathy to understand the desires and struggles of your employees. Clarity to be clear on why you are making the decisions that are needed for your business.
What lessons did you learn from your best & worst boss?
From my best boss: To give responsibility to your employees and therefor 'power' to operate autonomous.
From my worst boss: To feel threatened by your employees when they are working autonomous or when they do something you don't understand.
When you’re not working, what is your favorite way to spend your free time?
I love to spend time with my kids, I have a 2,5 year old son and a 6 year old daughter, and friends. I love watching documentaries and eat cake (my husband made)... :-) I read books, enjoy making stuff, be creative working with my hands.
What’s your take on entrepreneurship in your community specifically. Do you feel like it is different from other places around the world in any distinct way?
Of course, this is a difficult question, because I mainly work in The Netherlands and more specifically in Amsterdam. But I do hear from entrepreneurs that come from other countries that Amsterdam is a place where success is often looked at as something more than just making a lot of money. People tend to understand (bold, life changing) decisions just because it feels better, because it gives more joy of life and happiness than staying in a job or business that is (making a lot of money, but is) draining energy.
About Willemijn Laan
Willemijn Laan is the Creator of House of Ladypreneurs and also a total sucker for everything that has to do with having a business, women empowerment and mindset. She is a mother of two amazing children and a late night cake eater while watching documentaries. And she loves to celebrate anything! “Feel, Love & Create” is Laan’s credo. She’s owned her businesses since 2010 and knows all the ups and downs of having a business, being a mother, and trying to figure out a lot of stuff that comes with owning a business (or two). She’s worked as a freelance marketer in large corporate companies and started her own movement studio rasalila with no budget whatsoever. Rasalila has now grown into a 6-figure business and keeps growing. In between all of that, she opened a DIY shop but had to decide to end that adventure after two years. It was a great lesson, though; “in feeling what was best for my business, but also to find out what I REALLY wanted.” For House of Ladypreneurs, Laan offers business coaching for women that follows HEART and PASSION. She can give you super practical tips and is a big lover of finding out what makes you feel awesome and fired up, and how you can create a business that you LOVE.