Get a glimpse behind the business with Annabet van Mameren and her venture, New2nl!
Tell us a little about your business.
My company is called New2nl. I help international families navigate the Netherlands, with a specialist focus on schooling and the Dutch education system. Due to my American husband, our international friends and having lived in Italy myself, I feel very much at ease in the international community. When our children were born, I started seeking connections with other international families in Amsterdam. I wanted our sons to learn at an early age about the multicultural world that we live in, and to give them as much exposure to the English language as possible. I volunteered to organize various events and meetups for international families, and I also helped out with some of the great events organised by the Amsterdam Mamas.
Describe a typical working day.
Every day is different, so it is hard to describe a typical day for me. When I started New2nl, I was still working four days per week for a multinational corporation. I could only occasionally work on my own business in the evenings and sometimes over the weekend. In May 2014 I quit my day job, which gave me more opportunities to expand my business. I now give monthly presentations on the Dutch education system and provide personal assistance through Skype to families who are planning on moving to the Netherlands. Often these sessions take place in the evening when my clients are home from work and their children are in bed. Because of the time difference this could also happen very late at night. I am very flexible in that sense. I mainly work from home, but I also regularly have meetings with people in my network. When I sit on a terrace in the sun with a nice cup of coffee talking about things that truly interest me, I often think “Life’s not bad, having your own business!”
How do you manage childcare?
After I quit my day job we cut back on daycare. My oldest son (4.5 years) goes to school and one day per week to the BSO (after-school care). Luckily our daycare is very flexible and we can bring our youngest son (2 years) for one full day and one other day until 3.30pm. Then I first pick up the oldest from school and after that the youngest from daycare. My husband is often on a business trip, so before I can arrange for a presentation or participation in a fair, I have to run the possible dates by his schedule. While I still had my day job, my mother was so sweet to come every Monday night to our place. She stayed over, took care of our children the next day, cooked dinner for us and went home again after dinner. She happily did this for one year, but now it isn’t needed anymore. She still comes regularly to watch the kids, or to do something fun together with our family. Since our oldest goes to school I find it easier to arrange a playdate with some children from his class. Their parents pick him up from school, so I have some time to work or to spend together with our youngest. Everything changes during the summer, of course, and I struggle to figure out how to get things done with the kids at home.
How do you balance work commitments with family time?
I am still struggling with balancing my new work life and our family. Before I quit my day job I had expected I would have much more time for New2nl. I would assist at all the activities in school which required the help of parents, I could do many more nice things with the kids, I would clean up the house, finally sort out all those papers lying around, get rid of some stuff that we don’t need any more, and I wouldn’t need to work that much in the evenings anymore…. I am still waiting for those days to come.
What do you like best about running your own business?
The freedom and having my own responsibility. In my past jobs I often found myself doing things that I wasn’t really interested in. And I always had to run to be in time for work and back again to pick up the children from daycare. I am definitely not a morning person, so especially the start of the day was really tough. Now everything is more relaxed and I notice that the rest of the family feels the same. I can schedule appointments at a time which is convenient to me and work around the children, my husband’s schedule and the school activities. I also discovered that doing something you really like gives you so much energy.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced?
Giving up my day job. To lose the security of a fixed income and the contacts with colleagues. So far it has worked out well, though.
How do you find time for yourself and what do you like to do with that time?
Ehm, time for myself? I try to regularly see my friends for dinner, in a pub or at a concert. With the friends who also have children we often combine a playdate, after which we call each other by phone to finally finish the stories that we had wanted to tell, but didn’t get a chance to.
Where does your support come from? Do you have a business mamas network?
I am indeed a member of several business networks, like the Amsterdam Business Mamas, and the Amsterdam Small Business Network, and recently I started a Mastermind group with five other business women. When I think back to how many wonderful people I have met in the past year and how much we have helped each other go ahead with our businesses, I feel very grateful.
What is the most important piece of advice you would pass on to a parent planning to start their own business?
You can’t do everything yourself. Things go much faster and in a more professional way when you have them done by experts. Also, carefully watch your time and decide very well what you want to do with it. Before you know it another day has passed and you feel like you haven’t done anything.
New2nl is a network run by Annebet van Mameren, bringing together experts in schooling, housing and taxes to provide services for international families in the Netherlands. Annebet is Dutch, and married to an American. They are based in Amsterdam, and have two sons whom they are raising bilingually; the oldest goes to Dutch school. Annebet has a research background in Intercultural Conflicts at Work, along with many years of experience in the corporate world. She has spent time living abroad, and has a thorough understanding of the issues faced by international families when selecting a school for their children in the Netherlands.
Photo credit: Dave Pelham and Rudi Wells