The Women’s Business Initiative International* (WBII) and Webster Leiden campus again joined together to host the autumn 2021 ‘Start Your Own Business’ seminar. Held online on Thursday, 11 November 2021, this year’s seminar was also registered as an official event with the Global Entrepreneurship Week, a worldwide platform supporting small business startups. Moderated by Charlene Lambert, President and Founding Board Member of the WBII, Raphael Ashaley, Webster Leiden Business Club President and current MBA student and Dr. Yang Fan, Head of the Webster Leiden Business & Management Department, the seminar kicked off in great fashion. Figures from both organisations as well as other guest speakers shared their experience and insight into what it’s like to start and operate a business in the Netherlands; if you weren’t in attendance, let’s go over what it covered.

Speaker Presentations

Nira Satguru is a WBII board member, real estate entrepreneur and Founder & Director of the Future of Learning Centre in nearby Voorschoten. Nira dove into the importance of having an entrepreneurial mindset, shortly defining it as “a desire to succeed in whatever venture you take” and suggests that entrepreneurship is a viable alternative to today’s job market. Throughout her wonderful presentation, she detailed the importance of having a mission and a vision, developing financial acumen and surrounding yourself with like-minded people by attending seminars, joining networks, listening to podcasts and more.

Following the importance of the entrepreneurial mindset, Sinead Hewson, a start-up mentor at World Start-up Factory, Webster Adjunct Professor and Advisory Board Member of the WBII, shared her expertise on the requirements for setting up a business in the Netherlands. Sinead relayed that the process of starting a business in the Netherlands is quite transparent, and walked attendees through the requirements such as bank information, tax ID and more. She also expressed the significance of other non-requirements, such as insurance, and stressed the importance of finding business networks related to your business and being selective of the groups you choose.

The next concerns for any entrepreneur are the legal, administrative and tax considerations – a topic tackled by Caroline Orthlieb who is a WBII member and a business and tax consultant specialised in supporting expats. Caroline shared her extensive experience on the steps needed to start a business, including how to set up your administration and understanding and filing tax declarations. She walked guests through the types of businesses, like an ‘eenmanszaak’ (sole proprietorship), entrepreneurial discounts available and which type of VAT to charge depending on the type of product/service your business provides.

Besides the bureaucratic and personal requirements, there is another issue constantly on the mind of most entrepreneurs – obtaining access to finance for their businesses. Steven Carnes, an independent consultant and serial entrepreneur, and Webster Adjunct Professor, began addressing this issue by stating that it is critical to have a clear business plan, to know how much capital is needed for the business and to have an exit strategy. When looking to raise capital, Steven mentioned that the Dutch government is typically quite responsive and encourages entrepreneurs to seek alternative funding opportunities like crowdsourcing or raising cash with considerably low risk through franchising. Steven noted that an entrepreneur must learn the rules before playing the game, and among these are 3 major finance rules which include: understanding net present value (NPV), equity vs. debt and risk vs. return.

In an impromptu presentation, Beth Farris, a business clarity mentor and brand strategist for starting solopreneurs, shared her experience on the transition from employee to entrepreneur. She stressed that, typically, you cannot always translate what you learn in the corporate world into entrepreneurship and that success in entrepreneurship comes from business clarity. Elaborating a bit further, Beth suggested to start with one business idea and niche, or focus on solving one problem for one type of person. In her closing remarks, Beth encouraged entrepreneurs to believe in what they do and be authentic in their business.

Attention on Attendees

Throughout all the presentations, attendees were encouraged to ask questions and seek advice from the speakers. Here are a few questions asked by the guests and answered by the speakers:

Q: What advice is there when looking for finance?

A: Talk to people, ask questions and investigate before you invest; 90% of life is simply showing up.

Q: Do you have any examples of grants for women entrepreneurs in the Netherlands?

A: Startups are always risky, but the Dutch government can fund up to €300k in high-risk capital for an idea – usually products. The government has many programmes for different startups, these government links should prove helpful:

Supporting ambitious entrepreneurs and startups
Financing your business
Netherlands Enterprise Agency (help depends on the sector but it usually provides helpful information)

During the most engaging part of the seminar, there was time allocated for attendees to pitch their own business ideas and obtain feedback and advice. Towards the end, attendees were able to join breakout rooms that focused on different topics – finance, business ideas and legal & tax – each room with dedicated speakers from the seminar available to network, chat with and help aspiring entrepreneurs.

Looking to attend future events like these?

Charlene closed the session by stressing that entrepreneurs bring innovative solutions to the market and that the world needs their expertise to solve the problems we are facing. This is the 10th year that the SYOB seminar is being offered and it is always open to everyone in the international community who may wish to consider the possibility of being their own boss. Internationals may be looking for employment, and have knowledge, expertise and skills that they would like to use. Entrepreneurship may also be an excellent way to get involved in Dutch society and realize their dreams. The WBII and Webster Leiden Campus both offer additional support for starters – the WBII through its network supporting women entrepreneurs and Webster through its business and management programmes and, in particular, the Certificate in Entrepreneurship.

Webster is constantly hosting events with its partners, educators, alumni and student club members with the aim to educate, entertain and create networking opportunities. If you’d like to stay up to date on future events, you can view and register for events through our Webster Canal Event Calendar or follow on Instagram at WebsterLeiden. WBII also has an active events calendar; for more information, please visit

By Jaume Molins, Webster MBA student


Cover Photo credit: Christin Hume