ALL IN FOR ENTREPRENEURSHIP: ANDREA ROZEMEIJER

MEET ANDREA ROZEMEIJER

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Our hero of this month is now 26 year old Andrea, born in Aalsmeer, the Netherlands. She has one older brother, situated in Stockholm, Sweden where he works as a pilot. Her mother is a real-estate agent and her dad runs a compressed air company. Due to her father’s job, the family had to move a couple of times; once to the south of the Netherlands and another time to a different part of the world; Thailand. She was only 11 years old when she was taken away from everything and everyone she knew and had to adapt to new cultures and identities. She has always been conscious about our crucial part as individuals towards society, thanks to her parents’ teachings and encouragements, however, the true realization that we should do more started whilst living in Thailand. More particularly, close to Pattaya, a town known for its relentless prostitution. She became very aware of all the different situations people are living in, ones that she never witnessed in her previous very secure environment in the Netherlands.

Consequently, she started getting involved in social work at her international school in Thailand. Some of them including charity work from beach clean ups to raising money for HIV care centers and orphanages. Upon her return to the Netherlands and concluding high school, she started her Bachelor’s at 17 years old in European Studies at Maastricht University. After doing ERASMUS for a semester in the arts faculty in Madrid and graduating, she perused a Master’s degree in Corporate Entrepreneurship & Innovation at Lund University in Sweden. However, in between degree studies she moved to Barcelona, where she worked, studied the Spanish language and tried to figure out which path to follow in life. Hereupon, she figured her two biggest passions were women’s rights and sustainability, and she decided to do her best to contribute to them both.

SOCIAL START

After completing her studies and setting her future goals of working in the social entrepreneurship sector, Andrea began searching for work. She has always wanted to have a job which does not only focus on commercial value but also creates value for society. However, after graduation, due to a lack of relevant work experience, a very broad study background and a relatively small local Dutch network, she was unable to find a paid job which fit her criteria. Consequently, she ended up working commercially focused jobs. She believes these were jobs which taught her a lot, but were not her desired passion.

March 2017 she came across Social Start; Social Start is an organization which connects social entrepreneurs together with social companies or organizations, who have a project that they want to carry out. They help you through providing weekly courses, guidance and a network. The social entrepreneurs have 6 months to execute the project. After these 6 months are over, you and the organization that you worked for decide on how and if you are going to continue together. Andrea then made the decision to finally take the plunge, as she thought to herself: ‘’it is only me who can make the change, no one will drag me off my couch and if I don’t, I will regret it.’’

She applied to the Social Start program, quit her job, was accepted to the program, registered in the Chamber of Commerce and became a freelancer starting on her first social project. Unfortunately, this project did not work out. However, this was the push Andrea was always in need of. She turned the hardship into motivation as she has continued ever since as a freelancer. Currently, she is working on 3 different projects; her own company called Hart Voor De Baan, helping startups get EU funding at a funds company and the HeForShe Arts Week Amsterdam.

HART VOOR DE BAAN

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The idea of this company leads back to Andrea’s initial frustration of not finding a job which had societal impact. There were no vacancy sites where these specific job openings were all grouped together. There were a few platforms geared towards this direction but usually only had openings for large NGOs. However, there usually wasn’t any focus on openings at smaller NGOs, nonprofit organizations & for profit companies. That’s when she started googling and found out there are so many financially healthy social companies which you would not find on regular job posting sites. Every couple of weeks she would go through extremely long lists of companies and check their job listings, it took an immense amount of time. At the end she bundled her frustrations and turned them into action, which eventually lead to Hart voor de Baan.

Hart voor de Baan (Heart for the job) is a play on words from the Dutch saying “Hart voor de zaak” (Heart for the business), which means that someone is extremely devoted to what they are working on. It is a job platform which solely places paid job openings from companies which are committed to a social or sustainable goal. The goal of this platform is to give every company and organization, no matter its size, the opportunity to gain access to a big network of professionals and get the best possible match for its job opening. This is done through asking minimal costs instead of the usual high contract or one-time fees. On the other side its goals is to provide all those people who are, similarly to Andrea, looking for a job with impact, an easy-to-use and up to date job platform.

HeForShe Artsweek Amsterdam

HeForShe is a solidarity campaign started by the UN Women department in 2014. Its goal is to achieve equality for all by encouraging men and boys to get involved and take action against inequalities faced by women and girls. You might know Emma Watson’s speech about the campaign which went viral. Andrea feels very strongly about women’s rights, especially after witnessing first-hand the intense prostitution sector of Thailand’s Pattaya. She thinks that if only 50% of the global population is fighting for equality, it will not happen. We need to invite the men to the discussion and get them on board to help make changes.

The HeForShe Arts Week was an initiative started on the account of this campaign and first launched in New York. It’s a full week and starts on international women’s day, 8th of March till the 15th of March. The idea is that art reflects and influences culture and through using art we make the topic that HeForShe is dealing with visible and a topic of discussion and action. This Arts Week has since been launched in cities all over the world but not yet in Amsterdam. One of the members from UN Women NL initiated the idea to set it up in Amsterdam and that is what Andrea is working on now. She is working as a project manager for the campaign, setting up collaborations, partnerships and events.

CHALLENGES ALONG THE WAY

Andrea perceives her biggest professional challenge to definitely be doubts about ‘where to go’. She always struggled on the path she wanted to take and what she wanted to do with her life whilst earning a living. As a person she has incredibly broad interests in so many, sometimes too many topics. This does not make focus and direction any easier. However, she is definitely not the only one, as so many others around her had and still have the same problem. Although since giving up her last commercial job and taking on these projects it has given her the opportunity to try out different things. This has given her the opportunity to discover and get to know ‘how’ she wants to work, with who and what she finds important.

Country wise, the Netherlands is a great space to be a social entrepreneur. There is a lot of traction, interest and support for it. Still, the Dutch government is lacking behind in the regulatory sense regarding social entrepreneurship and treating these initiatives the same as any other entrepreneurial endeavors. If we were to speak about Europe in general, that could be quite difficult, as Andrea has not had the chance to work outside her own borders yet and outlooks on social entrepreneurship are quite locally specific. She does work with EU grants and funding though, and in that regard she sees a lot more focus and funding going towards innovative tech products and hyped topics such as crypto currency versus innovative social services and products. She finds that overlooking more social related services for innovative funding money is a huge shame.

MESSAGE TO OUR READERS from Andrea Rozemeijer

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Currently, Andrea is freelancing for the HeForShe Arts Week and c*funds. Hart voor de Baan is her own company and is still in the process of being set up. It is still a one-woman show. She hopes to be adding more diverse services to Hart voor de Baan through listening to customers and seeing what they need. She has a few ideas already, for these ideas she hopes to be hiring people in the near future to assist her. Additionally she is always on the look-out for inspiring new social projects to get involved with.

“I definitely don’t pretend to think that I am anywhere near my full potential yet regarding the impact I would like to create, I am still so young, learning so much and want to experience and take on many more projects. But from the time that I have been working, what I would like people to learn from my work is that people should know that they can make a change or be the change. Sometimes people think that they are just ‘one’ and cannot or don’t impact their surroundings but imagine if everyone thought like that, nothing would ever change. Of course Rome wasn’t built in one day so whatever you do, it is a process and it takes patience, some missteps, effort and work. However, the most important thing is to not wait for someone else! Trust your ideas & gut feeling, step into the adventure of finding what gives you energy and joy and go for it!”

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