Annemarie van Gaal tells how a fruit & veg entrepreneur is providing some green shoots for the economy.
Last month I came across two great examples of entrepreneurship, proof that Dutch entrepreneurs are getting more creative. They are moving the goal posts and exploring new markets.
First up, Johan van Marle. Twelve years ago he took over his father’s fruit and veg shop in Kampen and opened another shop in Nunspeet. This type of shop is usually static in nature: people buy their fruit and veg and off they go. Van Marle decided to turn his shop into an experience.
He fitted his shop with a state-of-the art kitchen and hired a professional chef who produced delicious meals using Van Marle’s vegetables. Customers spent more time in the shop, to watch the chef in action and to purchase the result. People came from far and wide to buy the freshly made meals or simply for inspiration. ‘People like ease,’ van Marle says. He moved the goal posts even further and decided to make fresh daily meals for pensioners delivered by his own delivery service.
At the moment he is delivering three fresh ready-made meals a week to over a thousand pensioners in Kampen. His catering services also include parties and events. The turnover from both activities is three times higher than that of the shop. But if every greengrocer were to become a caterer, catering companies would quickly go out of business. Which brings me to my second example.
Bob Hutten, of Hutten catering in Veghel, has broadened his scope by moving into the care market. He employed specialised diet chefs who can cater for every illness. Hutten knows exactly which ingredients will help a speedier recovery. He works with the care institutions and is able to deliver – far more cheaply and efficiently than the institutions can – meals with exactly the right nutrient composition.
His company delivers hundreds of meals a day to care institutions and hospitals. Patients who are too weak to be operated on used to be admitted to hospital for a couple of days to gain strength. Now they stay at home and eat Hutten’s specially prepared meals. After treatment, patients can leave the hospital sooner, courtesy of a deal between the hospital and Hutten to deliver the appropriate meals to their homes.
This benefits the patients and makes healthcare more efficient and cheaper. The stories of how a greengrocer became a caterer and how a caterer made healthcare more affordable gladden my heart. These are imaginative and creative entrepreneurs, exactly the sort of people who will pull the country out of recession.
Annemarie van Gaal is an entrepreneur. She is the head of AM Media and is also a writer and television personality.
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