2nd Interview in Global Connection
Shipping a business overseas
By Connla Stokes, 30/01/2020
HEINEKEN expat partner Ilse Dijkstra had just gotten her innovative footwear brand up and running in Mauritius when she relocated to Nairoibi, Kenya. Would she bring the business, too.
Lock, stock and barrel
The last time Global Connection caught up with Ilse she was relishing the challenge of launching Owniez, her customized Flip Flop business in Mauritius. But when she and her husband Marc relocated to Kenya in August 2019, did she hesitate over whether she could (and would) try to relocate it all – lock, stock and barrel? “No I didn’t think twice. It was just a question of figuring out how I could do it” says Ilse, who looks on the bright side of starting all over again. “I like being busy and between shipping the raw materials, trying to establish the company in Kenya, updating my website, researching, networking, strategising, well, I have plenty to be doing!”
Tying up loose ends
“At first it was hard to find solutions. Still I have now incorporated the company and received my business code. I can’t say it’s been easy, but I am definitely on the way!” says Ilse, who has learned that a mixture of perseverance and patience is the key. “Even tying up loose ends in Mauritius presents challenges. It feels like closing a business there is harder than setting one up!”
“But ultimately I am excited to explore new opportunities, starting new sales channels in Kenya, give workshops and doing online business worldwide. Compared to Mauritius, the tourism market is quite different.
Tourists visiting Nairobi spend most of their short stays on safari trips. So I had to come up with a strategy for that. Basically, they send me their favourite safari pictures and we will print it on a pair of Flip Flops, which will be waiting for them in the hotel when they back. A Unique souvenir from Kenya!”
“Relocation will always throw up challenges, even if you’re not a business owner. Getting a cellphone, finding a house, meeting new people and making friends, “says Ilse. “Sometimes I think we have to forget where we’re from, or where we were before, and how things worked there. It’s better to think: here I am in a new country and I’m ready to figure this all out.” And so a new adventure for Ilse and Owniez is already underway…..
Interview in Global Connection
How to do business in flip flops
By Connla Stokes, 30/07/2018
Heineken expat partner Ilse Dijkstra has launched an innovative fashion business in Mauritius. It hasn’t been plain sailing setting it up but she has relished the challenge.
Making it happen
On her Twitter account, Ilse’s motto is ‘opportunities don’t happen, we create them’. Before moving to Mauritius on her first overseas assignment, she’d worked as a fashion consultant, helping others to create opportunities. Now, you might say, she’s making it happen for herself, developing her own brand.
“My brand Owniez is a completely unique concept. The customer can choose their own design and I will print immediately the flip-flops for them. I have an old cargo bike, so I can attend festivals or events, visit hotels and resorts, or just cycle to the beach, play some music and attract people’s attention. It’s lots of fun.”
Out of the box
“Mauritius is a small country but there’s a huge garments and textiles sector. There were opportunities to connect manufacturers to the market in Europe. But I wanted to do my own business, something out of the box, and also something I could also potentially take with me when we relocate.”
A short window
“An assignment normally only lasts three years, and I have already been here for 10 months,” adds Ilse. “I thought, everybody wears flip flops.Young, old, rich, poor. There aren’t too many countries in the world, where people don’t wear flip-flops, so wherever we go next, I hope I can transfer the business, too.”
Where there is a will…
To register a business, a trademark, and procure a work permit, I have had to jump through a lot of bureaucratic hoops. When I first asked how I could set up a business, if I asked 20 people, I must have got 20 different answers! Even opening a bank account for a business proved to be a laborious process. People had warned me it would be a struggle, but that only motivated me!”
“I’ve nearly finalised everything and I’m ready to put all of my energy into this. I really believe in tailor-made flip-flops as a product. I love meeting people at the beach and introducing my concept. When I see the twinkle in their eye after I give them a pair of personalised of flip-flops, I still get goosebumps. To be honest, if I didn’t, I’d do something else!”