“Chemistry, it’s all about chemistry you know. Molecules are everywhere: nature, the animals, the body: it’s life.”
There was no stopping now. I’m not talking about the taxi that we were riding with. Unstoppable was our cab driver Dimitri once he got talking about chemistry. He was attending college in America and dreamt of becoming a chemistry teacher in his homeland.
America: the land of ‘to go’, of big trucks and yellow marks on the tarmac. Also, the land of ‘the dream’, where you can become anything you want with hard work and a dash of luck.
From Wednesday April 11th until Sunday April 15th I was given the opportunity to join Elske Doets on her business trip. The experience of a lifetime.
It was my first time flying. And how! At Schiphol Airport we had access to an exclusive lounge and we flew business class. Of course I don’t have any experience to compare it with, but it sure felt like the pinnacle of luxuriance and comfort. On board we were served a three course dinner and I had an adjustable chair that I tried every position of (luckily there was a privacy screen).
Upon arrival in Washington DC there was the moment of truth: a TSA officer was going to decide whether I was allowed to enter America. After a short conversation (in which the officer was mostly interested in when I was planning to leave the country), a fingerprint scan and an iris scan there was that magic sound of the first stamp ever inking my passport. Now I was set to enter America!
Our first meeting was the very same day. I met Letizia Sirtori, who taught me never to wait for a ‘clear sky’. There is no perfect moment to start your business, you just have to do it.
With every meeting I got more enthusiast and more fond of American positivism. I had the honor of meeting General Managers, Sales Directors and even a lobbyist. They all shared their advice on how I could reach my goal: to become a successful entrepreneur.
I learned that you sell an experience, not a product, that I am allowed to dream big and that I need to work hard, that I should appreciate every employer and that I should show people what they need. I also learned that failure is the way to grow and that I should do what makes me happy.
On Thursday we went on a bicycle tour. With a group of 15 Americans we cycled from monument to monument in Washington DC. It was an incredible experience. I certainly felt the pressure of being from the bicycle country, as everyone kept watching how I pedaled along (with an helmet strapped to my head).
After the bicycle tour Elske and I got in a cab to go to the gala dinner of the Netherlands-America Foundation. The gala was held at the Willard InterContinental: the hotel where Martin Luther King wrote his speech ‘I have a dream’. That night we celebrated The Netherlands and America working together, and there was an award ceremony. A new world opened up for me.
This business trip also turned out to be a culinary adventure: I had never had oysters nor escargots, foie gras, crab or calamari. Observing me contending with oysters for the first time surely had Elske entertained. I was trying real hard not to think of the clip of Mr. Bean doing oysters in a French restaurant (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCJcxb_RtII).
Our night in Japanese restaurant Morimoto was also memorable: Elske gave me a quick ‘masterclass’ on how to use chopsticks while the place was packed with Japanese clientele.
The Steven Starr restaurant tour on Friday made the biggest impression of all on me. Steven Starr is a restaurant chain with over thirty restaurants, twenty of them in Philadelphia. I was honored to meet Randi Sirkin, Vice President Creative Services at Steven Starr. She toured seven restaurants with us and had plenty of advice for my new business ‘Aan tafel’ (‘At the table’). She taught me to love difficult customers, to always top your guests’ expectations and to have eye for detail. It was amazing, during the restaurant visits I felt like a kid in a candy store.
Elske, I was only allowed to bring a carry on on the trip, and luckily all the impressions, experiences and advice luckily don’t have to fit in it. Would the weight of what I’m bringing back translate to luggage, we had never made it through customs and we would have had to get a private jet to fly back.
I’d like to thank you so very much. You are my inspiration and role model. You founded the Young Lady Business Academy to inspire girls with a dream to go for it and make it happen. I certainly am doing just that. In the future I hope to be a similar role model for girls with a dream. This was an experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life.