Despite the coronavirus, 106,788 new Belgian businesses started in 2020, three of them being Brandsome Projects, Buna and Fabrique Françios & Vintage Vonk.
Max (23) studied International Entrepreneurship, but started as student-entrepreneur in September 2020 with Brandsome Projects, his own marketing agency.
“Although I was still a student in the past academic year, I have almost exclusively done work for Brandsome Projects. I was already working for a multinational, so I told them I wanted to be an entrepreneur. They were enthusiastic to become my client, that’s how I got the ball rolling.”
“I haven’t noticed issues when the second lockdown in Belgium started. It’s the opposite, since many companies decided to save money by cutting marketing budgets. When a student-entrepreneur tells you that he can achieve the same results as big marketing companies at the moment, then that step is easily taken. I was able to compete with the bigger marketing players.”
Maxime (30) opened a Coffee Bar named Buna in Lier, a municipality in the Antwerp province. The actual opening would have been in April 2020, but was postponed to June 2020.
“A positive thing about the coronavirus measures for the hospitality industry is that it was easier for me to settle in, due to only half of the bar being occupied. I did everything by myself back then, but I could start slowly and get the hang of working at my own bar, especially because I didn’t have a lot of experience when I started. I must say that I underestimated that, so that was actually a huge benefit.”
“I learned a lot about how I want to be an entrepreneur because of the pandemic, and how I want to take care of myself. Especially after the second lockdown, I’m thinking about Buna in a totally different way. I was too harsh on myself back then, working 7/7 on take-away orders. I wanted to go all-in, my business was a priority for me. After a while, I felt overworked and I made the common mistake of not listening to myself and my body. I was constantly checking my email to see whether I had a new order coming in, which is quite heavy to keep up with.”
“It just has to be attainable for myself too. Now, I feel good about my business. I learned that a proper goal, preparation and motivation are really important, especially when you start something during the pandemic.”
Kaat (26), Margo (28), and Bo (31) started their own pop-up concept store in the city of Mechelen, consisting of Fabrique François & Vintage Vonk: a mix of clothing and vintage furniture.
Kaat: “For me, the pandemic gave me time to think, take a step back from life and evaluate. I was talking about this with my sister Margo, and I told her that I missed some creativity in my job. I knew that Margo already wanted to be an entrepreneur for a little longer.”
Margo: “Yes, indeed, I just had a regular job, and I was too scared to make the jump. I was unemployed for three months due to the first lockdown, so there was no option for me other than to look at new opportunities. I thought I should finally go for a job I truly love, especially after the first lockdown when I lost my job. This was the ultimate sign to take a leap.”
Bo: “I also lost my job because of Covid-19, I worked at a small boutique. Losing my job took away a barrier for me. Vintage furniture was already a hobby for me, and I already had an online shop called Vintage Vonk. I think you always dream about your hobby becoming your job? However, actually quitting your job to be an entrepreneur felt like a bigger step to me. When you lose it, you need to ask yourself what is getting in your way now."
Kaat: “Margo and I already started online with Fabrique François, and we did that as our side job. Then we combined forces with Bo and created a total package of what we were already doing, resulting in a concept store here in Mechelen.”
Margo: “Another benefit of the pandemic is that we found that particularly young people wanted to shop locally, since it was generally known that big companies were in less danger. Besides, online on Instagram, we noticed solidarity during the lockdown. Other start-ups or small businesses supported us by sharing content, since they also believe that we have to help each other during uncertain times.”