Having recently taken over Baby Sensory Nederland, Natalie van Gelder has had to learn how to juggle a business focused on children while still keeping a focus on her own children.
Tell us a little about your business.
As a mother of two young kids, I decided to quit my job as Head of Research and Development at IMC Weekendschool. As a pedagoog (child developmentalist), I wanted to spend more time with my kids. But I also wanted to follow my ambition and start my own business. I was looking for a way to combine my passion for children and parenting and my drive to run my own business, in my own time so I could be there with my kids. Then I discovered Baby Sensory and fell in love on the spot. What an amazing program. It is positive, preventive (not problem driven), and is a great inspiration for parents. At the course, parents learn all about children's developmental phases and how parents can stimulate their development through play, communication, games, and music. And most of all it is just a lot of fun.
I discovered Baby Sensory and fell in love on the spot. What an amazing program.
Nearly two years later, I took over Baby Sensory Nederland. We just opened our own venue in Amsterdam Zuid and launched Toddler Sense. Busy but exciting times! My goal is to further roll out the concept throughout Holland so all parents can participate in these lovely classes. Most expats already know the benefit of early years education, but for a lot of Dutch people this still seems odd. I hope to achieve more awareness of the great possibilities and opportunities for early years learning. For our venue in Amsterdam Zuid, we are searching for other businesses to run other inspiring classes for pregnant moms, babies or kids.
Describe a typical working day.
My 'working' day starts at 8:15 when my husband takes the kids to school. I then start with my impossible race against the clock. Between 8:15 and 11:45 when I pick up my youngest child from peuterschool, I try to schedule most of my meetings. Between 12:00 and 15:00 I try to spend some quality time with her, eat lunch together and play outside.
I try to combine going to the park or playground and doing my PR, handing out flyers and talking to other parents about Baby Sensory and Toddler Sense. At 15:00 I pick up my oldest kid from school and all the clubs start (swimming, soccer, judo, playdates). And then dinner, bath, and bed.
For me, it is very important to spend a lot of time with my kids. It would be strange for me to work with other parents and kids and then not see my own kids. But that means for me, part two of my working day starts at 20:00 when the kids are in bed. Most days I continue working from 20:00 until midnight.
How do you manage childcare?
I'm very lucky to have my parents around to look after the kids whenever I have a meeting or appointment. But it works quite well to plan most meetings in the mornings or evenings. I've always had a babysitter or grandparents looking after my kids, mostly in our own home. At age 2 I enrolled them in peuterspeelzaal.
How do you balance work commitments with family time?
I try to be with my kids during the time I am actually with them. It is frustrating to both my family and work to try to do both at the same time. I have found (some) peace of mind with designating blocks of time for family and work and not trying to mix both.
What do you like best about running your own business?
The flexibility of running my own hours and being able to make my own decisions. I still have to get used to the idea that if I have a new plan, I can implement it right away and do not have to wait for answers and decisions from managers, board members, etc.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced?
Opening our own venue in Amsterdam Zuid this September. It was a lot of work, stress, energy, frustration, and a big investment. However, it was a necessary step to move forward in my business. In order to market and brand Baby Sensory in Amsterdam, we needed our own place.
And most important, in order to start running Toddler Sense classes (the follow-up program for toddlers and preschoolers aged 15 months to 5 years) we needed a bigger room. I am still very excited every time I enter our own venue. It is still unreal, but we did it! We have started running Baby Sensory and Toddler Sense classes there and have hosted our first birthday parties.
How do you find time for yourself and what do you like to do with that time?
I'm still working on that... I love to take long walks.
Where does your support come from? Do you have a business mamas network?
Friends, family, and online groups such as Amsterdam Mama's business network.
What is the most important piece of advice you would pass on to a parent planning to start their own business?
If you are thinking of starting your own business, do not hesitate too long. If you have a good plan and a good feeling about it, give it a go!
Natalie van Gelder is Director of Baby Sensory Nederland. She is also responsible for Baby Sensory and Toddler Sense Amsterdam, running classes for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, both in Dutch and English. For more information, please visit Baby Sensory Nederland's website or on Facebook.
Images used with permission.