Kim Hamers & Lot de Pont talk about their platform ZIJ.IS (interview).


In this month's interview we talk to Kim & Lot who are part of the platform ZIJ.IS in Tilburg. The ZIJ.IS creative platform stems from a mutual need to spar with other female entrepreneurs. The goal of ZIJ.IS is to join forces, promote creativity and develop business initiatives, and to let your core business grow. In this interview, they talk about ZIJ.IS, being a (female) entrepreneur and future plans for the company. 

First of all, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. To start, can you tell us a bit about yourself? Hobbies and interests? 
Kim:  I am Kim Hamers, owner of JAxC Trends & Treasures in Interior. Almost three years ago, I started as an independent interior designer. The best choice I could make. For almost 20 years I have worked in permanent employment, in various industries. Though, throughout this period, I have also tried to establish something for myself. 

My hobby has now become my profession, that's as good as it gets, right? I wanted to feel free to divide my time myself, which means spending a lot of time with my family, as I have 3 adolescent children.  Besides, I want to be flexible in when and how much I work.  It’s not my ambition to recruit staff, but since several weeks, a freelancer joined me to relieve the workload so that I can devote my time to the things I’m good at and enjoy doing. I definitely don't want to lose sight of that goal, with which I started.

In addition to my major interest in designing interiors, I enjoy making beautiful trips with my family, playing sports with friends and chatting with them while enjoying a glass of wine.

Lot:  My name is Lot de Pont. With my company 'Lot Fotografie' I help female entrepreneurs to gain more visibility through branding and photography. I enjoy taking on challenges with other female entrepreneurs and I like to see opportunities in everything. Together with my husband and 2 daughters, I like to travel, especially to far places. We also go on hikes in nature a lot. Besides, I like having drinks with friends.

Amazing that you both have your own companies! Could you describe your study- and career path? How did you get to where you are now?
Kim:  After secondary school, I started at St. Lucas in Boxtel. Then, I started following a course to become a management assistant, after which I followed a part-time course in account management, both at Schoevers. 

I had a sales position for almost 20 years, first in the IT sector as an account manager and then I worked for several Dutch and foreign clothing brands, which I sold to retailers. During these busy jobs, I continued following creative courses, among others at the art academy St. Joost. The commercial talent I have developed now helps me greatly alongside all my creative knowledge in running my own growing company.

Lot:  After my studies at the Pabo in Den Bosch, I started working as a teacher at a primary school, which I did for 12 years. Besides, I also followed a track at the photo trade school in Boxtel. Taking pictures made me happy and gave me a feeling of freedom. I got so many photography jobs that I decided to change course and focus on that. I have been an independent entrepreneur for over 2 years now.

Can you tell us about ZIJ.IS? What do you do? What does your average day look like?
Kim & Lot:  ZIJ.IS consists of several female creative entrepreneurs. Jeske van Dorst (Betty Bogaerts jewelry), Margje Woodrow (writer), Rachel Miller (personal stylist), Nicole van Heumen (copywriter), Sophie Makker (freelance marketer), Lot de Pont (photographer), and Kim Hamers (interior designer).

The ZIJ.IS creative platform has been established through a mutual need for sparring with other female entrepreneurs. The objective of ZIJ.IS is to join forces, promote creativity, develop business initiatives and to let your core business grow.

A year ago, we were given the opportunity to acquire a joint office building / creative workplace at Carre in Tilburg through Stichting Atelier. It offers space to makers in Tilburg. We have completely pimped this ultimate creative workplace (a former kitchen of the old Elisabeth Hospital) and provided it with the necessary workspaces for ourselves, flexible workspaces for other creative entrepreneurs, while during the weekends it is an inspiring location for meetings. Now that we share a workplace with 7 entrepreneurs from ZIJ.IS, nice collaborations are established.

"The ultimate goal with which ZIJ.IS once started has more than paid off."

When talking about your own business, what do you think is important when starting your own business? What are some entrepreneurial do’s and don’ts? 
Kim & Lot:  First of all, you must have a dream/passion that will not let you go: "If your dreams don't scare you, they are too small". Fear is never the best indicator, no matter how many doubts you have about your entrepreneurial competencies and whether your business ideas will exploit a gap in the market: if you don't try, you will never know. Don't compare yourself to others, dare to be yourself, stick your neck out, and think outside the box: "Better doesn't win. Different always does ”.

Sounds like you work with many entrepreneurs; What is your experience? A positive and negative side maybe?
Kim & Lot:  
The positive aspect of a lot of collaboration with other entrepreneurs is that you build up a large network in a short time, and you can make use of each other's expertise. The mutual drive of entrepreneurs increases your productivity and job satisfaction. We cannot mention negative aspects in our composition because we all have a different discipline, we can only learn from each other and cannot compete.

Within that large network, what are some challenges women/your colleagues face in creating their own business?
Kim & Lot:  As a female entrepreneur alone, you can run into certain walls, but we have united and feel stronger because we’re in a group of us. Because you can make use of each other's qualities, you have a lot of in-house expertise and the hardships you face aren’t as big.

Looking back on your entrepreneurial journey, what would you have done differently when starting up the company?
Kim & Lot:  In the beginning, we may have tackled it too businesslike, which did create a kind of hierarchy. This was not our intention, we just wanted to form a group in which we could support and meet up with each other. We then switched to a more homely setup through the use of Informal drinks and meetings at home. As a result, we got to know each other much better on a personal level.

These women felt a strong connection with each other because we are all in this together, we have all moved from a permanent job to our own company and we combine work and family life.

Looking at the future, what are your plans?
There are definitely future plans for my company JAxC Trends & Treasures in Interior. I am currently busy collaborating with an interior builder to start selling a self-designed cupboard and perhaps I can take this into production as well. In addition, I am working with a female entrepreneur/artist to develop a tailor-made acoustic artwork for "my customers". Though, I am not the creative brain for this, but rather I am responsible for commercial thinking.

So my ultimate plans for the future are that I will still be developing beautiful interior projects that make people happy. Though I will mainly focus on offering and selling a range of products. 

Lot:  I have just started a new company called the Business boutique together with 2 other female entrepreneurs. I hope that in 5 years, I can say that this has become a successful company. I also hope to still make use of the great workplace of Zij.IS and that more great collaborations have been established.

The last question, say in 5 years, how do you see yourself and Zij.IS?
Kim & Lot:  
We hope within 5 years that our individual core business has grown partly by the help of ZIJ.IS, and that we can enjoy pursuing entrepreneurship just as much as we do now. Then our ultimate goal has been achieved.

Thank you so much for your honest and elaborate answers, we wish you the best of luck in the future!
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