Q&A with Gradpreneur Roel Sprangers, Co-Founder of ‘About Asia Business Consulting'’
Roel Sprangers is a recent graduate who studied International tourism management & consultancy at the Breda University (Holland), from which he got a taste of the consulting industry. He also did an internship in a medium sized company in Thailand that got him to learn about practical business operations. Roel comes from a working class family in Holland but gained an interest for the developments in Asia during his studies and work (partly in Asia). After 3 years of working for the International tourism department of Breda university, Roel decided to pursue a Masters degree (in Contemporary Asian Studies) in Amsterdam.
1) What inspired you to start your own business
During my studies my flatmate (studying economics) went to Argentina on a market research project and talked about it very enthusiastically. At that time I was starting up the Coffee career project (http://www.sife-uva.nl/?post_type=portfolio&p=36) with SIFE University of Amsterdam (in that year our team also won the national competition), here I learned a lot about starting an enterprise or project. This project was really learning-by-doing, and we also got consult from the local rotary club. I discussed with my flatmate how we could combine his and my own experience and our interest of Asia. This is how the idea for About Asia Business Consulting developed. All the people involved with this start up, are recent graduates. When we registered the company everyone had graduated less than 1 year before. After half a year we realised that help from seniors could be useful, so we appointed 2 ambassadors, but they are not officially involved in our company (more like voluntary advisors).
2) Tell us a little bit about your new business venture
We stated our company 3 years ago (while I was still studying). We do market research and business matching for European companies in China. We look for companies that are leading in their sector in Europe and introduce them in the Chinese market through our Prepare-Position-Connect model. This requires a strong acquisition effort in the Netherlands, and a strong network in Asia (which we have partly built by hosting a lot of Couch Surfers in Amsterdam :) see (www.couchsurfing.org).
3) What steps did you take, when you decided to set up a business
Wrote a plan. Analysed resources. Consulted our network. Designed a main service. Discussed the company name. Registered at the Chamber of Commerce. Started acquisition! From that time onwards it was learning-by-doing.
4) Can anyone become an entrepreneur?
You need to be willing to take the risks and live in uncertainty for a while when you are starting up. Also in our business you have to be quite extravert as a personality, because you have to promote your business through growing your network. You need to have your pitch ready, anywhere at any time. So your business idea has to fit your personal skills, then anything is possible.
5) What have been your greatest problems and successes with the business?
A main problem was during the first year that revenues were low and we had limited funding. Because of this I had to get a job on the side to be able to cover all my basic expenses and could not put as much time in our business as I would have liked to.
Because we spot chances ourselves and actively approach established companies and organisations with our ideas, we are able to pick sectors that we really like to work in. We have started projects in the Music industry, sports and architecture. Our personal interests in these sectors make work fun, this helps us to put in the extra effort to reach excellent results for our clients. A real highlight was that we got to meet the Governor of Guangdong province in China for a football project that we set up with a Dutch premier league club. The start of this project was a pitch of our idea for the main stakeholder of the football club, who's a multi millionaire.
6) What advice do you have for other aspiring entrepreneurs
Just do it. If you have an idea or plan, test it by consulting your network and then just go for it. Also appoint an experienced entrepreneur as you advisor/ambassador to regularly discuss your plans and progression, this help you to avoid mistakes and you get free advice!
You can find out more about the team at http://www.aboutasia.nl/