We interviewed Elizabeth Bethlehem about her corporate training business in the Netherlands. Here’s her story.
What is the official name of your business (as registered at the Dutch Chamber of Commerce)?
What services/products does your business provide?
I run corporate training programmes (online and offline) in the field of copywriting, online marketing, and public relations – from an English language perspective. My training programmes are mostly geared towards those whose mother tongue is not English.
I also consult companies on their online marketing activities, do professional editing of documents (CVs/cover letters etc.), and a range of other English-language related services (I mostly outsource the editing to South Africans based in SA itself but I do the training programmes myself).
When did you start your business?
I started English Communication in 2010 (in SA), 2013 (in NL)
Why did you start your business in the Netherlands? How did your business come into existence?
I originally started my business in South Africa but continued this when I arrived in the Netherlands. I saw a need to offer mother-tongue English language services within the marketing/comms fields. I started off offering basic social media management services for small to medium-sized companies. Eventually, I found a gap in doing corporate/in-house training for companies (which I absolutely love!), designed all my own training programmes, and have been training different types of companies in the Benelux Region ever since. I’ve been lucky enough to merge my background in tertiary education together with my marketing/communication experience in the corporate world.
What have been some of the challenges of doing business in the Netherlands?
Educating the market is a challenge. The Dutch believe they have the best English language skills in Europe! Hence, most of my business comes from outside of the Netherlands – from other European countries.
I found that I also had to educate people about what copywriting actually is and why it’s important for international marketing teams. Most think I’m training folk on the English language exclusively and don’t understand that copywriting is about persuasion (in various forms online) and getting one’s audience to do something (buy a product, click a link, sign up to an event etc. etc.). This is a writing skill that most people don’t have and it goes far beyond having basic English language writing skills!
Corporate training is also seen as a luxury, although many international companies find this a necessity nowadays. I enjoy serving my non-Dutch clients but also hope to show Dutch companies the relevance of proper copywriting training for their marketing teams.
What advice can you give to fellow South African business owners wishing to start their businesses in the Netherlands?
- Bring a unique product/service to the Netherlands. It’s easy to find something totally unique that can work here. But keep in mind that people here shop around for the best prices so your product/service needs to be really interesting AND really competitively priced.
- Invest in a proper website (SEO optimized!) and ensure you have regular news articles (if you can’t write, get someone to do it for you otherwise you’ll not be found in Google). A powerful web presence is crucial.
- Write a great and professional Linkedin profile. A lot of my business comes from Linkedin. The Dutch are huge fans of the platform. If you don’t have a profile on there they find it a bit strange and may be more sceptical of you!
Can you provide some words of inspiration to help your fellow South African business owners living in the Netherlands?
There are so many wonderful opportunities here for those who work hard. But note that good things take time. You need to be persistent with your product and educate yourself in online/content marketing if you aim to sell your products online (especially if you’re a one-(wo)man show (like me!).
The city/town/province in the Netherlands where you’re located:
How can we get in touch with you?