10 Professional Rebels from L-R: Melinda Jacobs, Casper Arboll, Jasper Gabriëlse, Mourad Saber, Freke van Nimwegen, Sebastian Kellner, Jasper Mutsaerts, Silke Tijkotte, Jean-Richard Witteveen and Ovi Negrean. Portraits by Simone Schoutens, and courtesy of Veloyo and Capdesk.

How to become a Professional Rebel in 10 steps

It all starts with not being an asshole

Professional rebels are what we call the pioneers of the changing world. Big dreamers who aren’t afraid of getting their hands dirty. People who don’t just ‘think different’, they actually do different. In short, BAMFs, professionally speaking.

But how can you work towards becoming one yourself? We furiously wrote down the hard-earned lessons of 10 intra- and entrepreneurs and figured out the steps you need to follow to be a professional rebel.

The 10 step plan:

1. Don’t be an asshole

As Melinda Jacobs, founder of Subatomic explains: “You don’t have to be an asshole, if you’re comfortable with who you are.” As an entrepreneur she’s struggled with social anxiety and Asperger’s syndrome, but still believes it’s important to be open about your issues. Everyone has their challenges and unique struggles, so no need to be an asshole about it to yourself, or anyone else.

So if you want to be a professional rebel, own up to who you are and don’t be an asshole.

2. Question the status quo

When Casper Arboll took on the Danish business authority, he was told that if he kept throwing rocks, he risked getting a mountain back at his head. But that hasn’t stopped him. With his finance startup Capdesk he’s still shaking things up and even plans to put up a poster of a mountain in his office as a gentle reminder of what he’s doing it for: “We’re still trying to poke the authority with a stick and say, ‘You need to move forward’.”

Inherently, a professional rebel doesn’t just blindly follow the rules, when they know it can be done better.

3. Be stubborn

People might call you crazy, naive or out of your depth, but if you really want to know if something works, you have to tune that out and test your idea.

So go be nice and stubborn, to a certain degree of course, and make plenty of mistakes. As Mourad Saber of creative agency Gr8things says: “You have to be a little crazy now and again to make beautiful things.”

4. Think about timing

An often repeated mantra for entrepreneurs is, “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” Perfection is overrated, not to mention impossible. Timing is the key, whether that means coming out faster, or waiting till the market is ready.

Just ask Jasper Gabriëlse, co-founder of Seepje — a startup in the detergent industry with their product in over 300 stores: “If the timing is right then everything can fall into place and become a success.”

5. Search for what makes you happy

Freke van Nimwegen from food waste restaurant Instock describes herself as “a happyholic — someone looking for happiness in the workplace and who wants to feels energized by their work”.

Professional rebels need to challenge themselves and find what makes them happy. It doesn’t have to be a lifelong goal or burning passion — although those are great too. Finding what makes your heart beat just that bit faster is an essential part of your own journey.

6. Run with the group

You might be tempted to take your magical ideas or revolutionary strategies and fulfil them on your own. Most of us however need some help, and being a professional rebel means getting people on board with your wild ideas.

This was a big lesson for Silke Tijkotte from FloraHolland - the world’s largest marketplace for plants and flowers: “You would have a group of people and I was running ahead of them. No, you have to run with the group.”

7. Go all in

Say no to doing things half assed, whether you’re starting something on your own or becoming part of a new team.

As Sebastian Kellner, CEO of Veloyo explains about being an entrepreneur or professional rebel of any kind: “It’s not a miracle, it’s not a dream, it’s not a side project. Either you’re in it or you’re not, but it’s not something you can just do in between.”

8. Think win-win

In the words of Jasper Mutsaerts, founder of Bohemian Birds: “The only way to work with others is by seriously thinking, what can you offer them? People aren’t stupid either and they’re not going to fall for it if you think up a bunch of crap.”

So stop thinking only about yourself and make sure everyone comes out a winner.

9. Care about people

On your way to world domination you might think you need a cold veneer and a heart fiercely guarded from compassion. But as international businessman Jean-Richard Witteveen from Eccentrade explains: “You should be about the business and you should care about people. People are the most important part of your business.”

So go on, be a professional rebel and dare to care.

10. Do

Finally, don’t overthink it. “Just do stuff” as Ovi Negrean, founder of book app nugget would say. You don’t have to change the world this week or become the greatest by 6pm, but you do have to start making the steps to reach your goals.

Ultimately, being a professional rebel is all about doing, just start small and we know you’ll get there.

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Words by Chief Reporter Roald Tjon. Roald speaks to professional rebels and shares their stories.