Want to grow your business? Learn from experienced entrepreneurs

About 80% of starting entrepreneurs fail to make ends meet within the first 5 years of their business. 50% quit. Have you also been running your own business for a while, but did not yet earn enough to live of? Do you want to find more new clients and assignments, but are not sure how? You are not alone. Read what you can do as an entrepreneur to increase your chances of success and growth.

50% of all starting business quit within 5 years, 30% earns less than the minimum wage. The rest, 20% of starting businesses, can make a living on their business. How do they do it?

Learn from successful entrepreneurs

Successful entrepreneurs have often had a mentor. Research by Erasmus University Rotterdam shows that coaching and mentoring by other SME entrepreneurs gives new insights and confidence when developing their own business. Are you also running into growth challenges? Then apply for a coaching programme at the Ondernemersklankbord (Entrepreneurs Soundboard) and learn from experienced entrepreneurs.

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Growth challenges

Every entrepreneur has different growth challenges. Think about finding new customers, retaining existing ones, getting more revenue from your business, or developing certain skills as an entrepreneur or employer. 2 entrepreneurs tell how through coaching and advice they learned what to work on to grow their business.

Experiences of entrepreneurs

Thom van den Bossche, Local Taste

"When I approached the Ondernemersklankbord (OKB) for support, I had a difficult period behind me. We had created 3 magazines and cookbooks and those products were running well, but we were not growing. We put a lot of time and money into it, but business did not really take off."

Local Taste is a Burgundian experience wrapped in a magazine that comes with 10 Taste Coins. You can redeem these coins at the 30 participating local restaurants for a free tasting from the kitchen. This year, new cities are also planned.

Main issues and side issues

"As a starting entrepreneur, you have a hundred things to do at once, but what is really important? You cannot distinguish main issues from side issues. We had a lot of passion and experience in the catering industry, but we just lacked important knowledge in business management. In short, our potential was not being realised."

Gather people around you who can advise you on important issues you do not know about.

"Through the coaching of advisor Henk van Ooyen of OKB, I learned to make conscious and strategic choices. To do that, I first had to go back to basics and rebuild my business, as it were. So really put on paper: who are we, what is our mission and vision, why and for whom are we doing this and what are potential markets?"

Defining target group

"One of those important basic things is target group research. No more sending something to 17 million people or making something you find interesting mainly for yourself, but more about: who do I really want to appeal to and why? That takes a lot of time, but you just have to start step by step and experiment: what works and what does not?

We sent surveys to existing customers and asked things like: how do you like our product, what would you like to see different, what could be better and what is very good? But also when I go somewhere for lunch and I see people using our tokens for a tasting, I always ask afterwards how they liked it: 'What do you think about the price, do you like the magazine, or would you prefer an app?' I have found that users really enjoy sharing their experiences with me as the owner. And I use those experiences to constantly improve our products."

Social media research

"I hired my sister to do social media research, because I had no clue about that myself and it takes a lot of time. She looked at which channels our target group is active on and how they respond to messages from businesses with a similar concept. I had never used TikTok but we discovered that it really is the place for our target group.

Target group research allowed us to better specify our customers and adapt our marketing accordingly. I used to post photos and texts on social media, but got few likes. We saw that our target group prefers short videos about good food, drinks and fun. Like you see a lot with influencers. So, we did a complete U-turn. We stopped spending our budget on local newspapers and instead focused on social media, influencers and fun short films. As a result, we got 10 times more visibility, reactions and sales."

Work on your brand and concept

"If you know what your added value for your customer is and you start repeating and communicating that continuously in for example, newsletters and social media,  your customers will know what they can go to you for. I now distinguish myself better from others."

I now achieve better results in less time

"Whether you start sparring with an OKB advisor, with other experienced entrepreneurs or friends: gather people around you who can advise you with important issues you do not know about. This is worth its weight in gold as far as I am concerned. It also feels encouraging, because it no longer feels like you have to do everything alone and that gives peace of mind. I know I can always go to someone with my concerns and dilemmas. And the feedback I get makes me approach things firmly and efficiently. I now achieve better results with less time."


Angelique Dieteren, Zhen Zhu

"By sparring with an experienced entrepreneur from the Ondernemersklankbord, I started working on my brand and learned that in marketing it is all about branding: how do you present yourself. In the beginning, I just improvised. But for an online shop in jewellery, it is important to stand out, because there are many more manufacturers. So how do I distinguish myself and make sure the target audience finds me?"

With her webshop Zhen Zhu, Angelique Dieteren designs and sells jewellery where freshwater pearls are her main source of inspiration. All jewellery is made by hand.

"If you saw where I came from and where I am now, that is a world of difference. I changed everything in my corporate identity. For example, in the beginning, my logo had two Chinese symbols of Zhen Zhu, which stands for precious pearl. Most freshwater pearls come from China, and I thought it would be nice to link to the origin of my product in my corporate identity. Only I gradually found out that my corporate identity evoked very different associations from customers. When I gave them my business card, they sometimes thought I had a Chinese restaurant."

Complete experience

"I wanted to design jewellery for the classic woman. My mission is that by wearing pearls, women exude a timeless and chic elegance that makes them feel confident and empowered. To convey this feeling everywhere, I had to change everything in my operations step by step. I switched to a professional online shop platform, changed my corporate identity, texts, photography, and all the packaging.

Marketing is all about branding: how do you present yourself?

For example, I have the jewellery photographed in a style with strong light-dark contrasts. And when someone orders a piece of jewellery, I package it in beautiful black bags or boxes with gold details. It really has become a complete experience and not without results: I have been a finalist of the Shopping Award twice. In turn that was picked up by well-known women's magazines and so my brand awareness and turnover grew."


"I started looking into my target audience. What do women like to read and what channels are they on. I found out that I also needed to be active on LinkedIn, the business market. I wrote newsletters for years, but hardly got any response to them. Maybe they think it is too much? Then I asked my customers: what do you think of the newsletter, how often do you want to receive it and what do you want to read? It turned out that many customers like to be inspired and actually like reading something new every week.

I now send out a weekly newsletter, but I keep it short and clear. What works really well for me is to use a specific theme each time. Think of a piece of jewellery linked to a star sign, the most beautiful brightly coloured pearl necklaces, or a special promotion around Mother's Day or International Women's Day. See which themes suit your products and target audience. Do not be too cautious, just try it out and keep developing and reading up on marketing yourself."