To show that Make it in Tilburg supports entrepreneurs 'all the way', we launched in June - together with Station88, Ondernemersadvies, HLB Van Daal, PEP and IT Support Group - the 'Master in Entrepreneurship' competition. All participants who registered in the past two months were in the race for that coveted prize: 6 months of free advice and guidance in the field of acquisition, finance, online marketing and IT. The International Center Tilburg, which was founded in 2018 and supports the international residents of Tilburg in all areas, has been chosen as the winner of this campaign! Time for an introduction to co-owner and founder Thom Engelhart.
ON WHAT BASIS WAS INTERNATIONAL CENTER TILBURG FOUNDED?
"Zoë-Joan Franz and I started our company from the idea that internationalisation is growing in Tilburg. This is visible not only in the student group, but also in the number of labour migrants and expats. These target groups face many challenges: they do not speak the language, letters from the municipality are in Dutch, they have to arrange health insurance. All very complicated. That is why we have set up a service and information point for them. We like a personal approach. So there's more to it than information. We give internationals a warm welcome. Our goal is to build a bridge between international and local. Whatever kind of international you are, thanks to us you get a place to participate in local life."
HOW DO YOU LOOK BACK ON THE FIRST YEAR OF YOUR COMPANY?
"It was hectic because we were just leaving the university. We did have some practical experience thanks to internships, but that's different from starting a business and trying to set up something you can put your heart into. But above all, the year was a great one. For example, we officially became a social enterprise for a foundation in March. We support the international residents in the city in various ways: integration, language, courses, (secondary) jobs and social connection. In addition, we sell coffee, rent out our event space and offer workplaces."
WHAT DO YOU EXPECT FROM THE SUPPORT PROCESS THAT YOU HAVE WON?
"There is still a lot of room for improvement for our social enterprise and we won't waste such an opportunity! We believe in our concept, in what it can do for the city. But of course we need help with this: from other entrepreneurs and possible partners. Our biggest challenge is to maintain the balance between making money and having a social heart. We want to use the 6 months of support to expand our business faster and keep it in balance. We also want to increase awareness among the Dutch group of people from Tilburg. This is the only way we will get even more connection between local and international."
DO YOU HAVE A MESSAGE FOR OTHER (PROSPECTIVE) ENTREPRENEURS?
"Zoe and I do business according to the motto 'the keeper wins'. It takes a lot of time and energy to build a company, but as long as you follow your heart, you'll be fine."