Strategy, Innovation & Leadership LAB

"Successful entrepreneurship can be based on talent and experience”

June 8, 2015

The option of starting a business is not available to women from shelters or former prisoners, while these groups would benefit greatly from having their own company, says social entrepreneur Josette Dijkhuizen. She is the founder of Krachtbedrijf, an organization that helps vulnerable groups start their own business.

“Krachtbedrijf is a social enterprise that helps vulnerable groups in society to start their own business. Vulnerable groups include women who end up in a shelter because of domestic violence or former detainees. This group of men and women is not recognized by society as potential entrepreneurs, while self-employment would work well for them as a source of income. Think of businesses such as hairdressing, dog grooming, or photography."

Confidence is low

Why is setting up a business difficult for these people?
"Society always regards women who have had to deal with domestic violence as victims, not as survivors. These women end up on welfare, and local authorities want them to find paid employment. They have debts and the authorities would like them to pay them off. They are not able to get funding to start their own business, but that is not even the biggest problem. These women had their confidence literally beaten out of them over the years. To set up a successful business, you have to create a distinct profile for yourself. You must dare approach people. These women have lived in social isolation for years. It is difficult to reverse that."

Why does entrepreneurship fit this vulnerable group?
"The women who have experienced domestic violence are often poorly educated and have no qualifications or social network yet. Some of them also have children. Having left their partner, they often live somewhere else. Because of their past, they want to keep on caring for their children themselves and they also don’t have any alternative because of the lack of a social network. As independent entrepreneurs, they would be more flexible to combine their work with the care for their children. 
You do not need any qualifications to be a successful entrepreneur. Successful entrepreneurship can be based on talent and experience. It is still possible for them to make a decent living by working fewer hours."

No need to become rich

“These women do not really have to become rich, they just want to get off welfare. They want to be a role model for their children, to prove to themselves that they can do it. An entrepreneur does not measure the success of their business by the money that comes in. This conclusion is also supported by my research, which forms the basis of my doctorate thesis which I will be defending on June 25."

What do you teach these women?
“Krachtbedrijf wants to help these women become stronger. We are not psychologists, we just create conditions for them to learn from each other and develop a business plan to develop more confidence in their own abilities. I apply to local authorities for permission to take them off welfare. And that is not an easy thing to do. Whether the local authorities agree, which financial resources are available and which route should be taken, varies for each local authority. It is incomprehensible. It takes a year and a half of negotiating with the local authority. It is impossible and that is why I also started this initiative in other countries, such as South Africa, Macedonia, or Pakistan."

Josette Dijkhuizen will speak during an information session on June 23 about Krachtbedrijf, the initiatives she is launching abroad and her PhD research on the success and happiness of entrepreneurs in the Netherlands. Please register if you want to attend this session.

Register for this information session

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