On Monday July 2nd I got on the early morning train from Rotterdam to Heerhugowaard (a Dutch city about 30 miles north of Amsterdam) at 5.30 a.m., carrying a huge suitcase packed with business attire. I had survived the elimination round and was on my way to the Young Lady Business Academy 3.0. Before I joined the contest to earn a spot at the Academy, I frettet for the longest time. I felt my idea wasn’t good enough. Only on the very last day I did sign up, but I didn’t believe that I would be invited to pitch my concept. It turns out I was… I pitched my idea for a travel information app and a special app to find a travel buddy, thinking again that I would never be chosen for the Academy.
That morning, a little nervous I entered the office of the Academy. I recognized some of the other girls from the pitch day and we started talking. All the young ladies were really ambitious and strongly believed in their business concepts. I loved being among like minded people. Then Elske walked in to kick off the day, as she would do every morning of that week. Here we go, I thought. The masterclasses were mightily interesting. Very different from what they teach you in school, with all the teachers being experts from the field. This was truly an unique opportunity. We put in long hours, but it was really worth it. Host families were arranged for the ladies whom, like myself, live far from Heerhugowaard. My family was really friendly and we did multiple excursions during the week. I stayed there with another girl from the Academy, Anne, who quickly became my rock.
Tuesday was all about fashion. The most fascinating anecdotes bubbled up in Elske and teacher Loes brought a lot of energy. That afternoon we went to the gym, which is always good for some group fun and it was a good challenge. Wednesday we went on an outing. Destination: The Hague. We traveled in a yellow American school bus and Elske announced that we were about to meet Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte. WOW! To ask him questions in real life, this VIP that I only had seen on tv, is one of the most special experiences of my life. On top of that we were given the opportunity to meet the speaker of the First Chamber (the Dutch Senate), Ankie Broekers-Knol, and were given a tour of the Chamber.
In hindsight, for me Thursday was the breakthrough day. This was the day that Aukje Kuypers presented the masterclass. She is Business Woman of the Year 2018, just like Elske was in 2017. She took over the high-tech family business from her father, even though she did not have a technical background. My father owns a high-tech company as well, I had just never considered taking over the business one day, because I did not want to be a trained engineer. I thought succeeding him was only attainable for one of my brothers. But Aukje showed me the opposite. Without the engineering background on other levels you can still make a difference. Something clicked inside me. Thanks to this new found ambition combined with the creative and interactive pitch I came up with for my travel app, I won the Elske Doets Young Lady Business Academy 3.0. Again, I had never thought I would win, but I did…
This was one of the most, if not the most, extraordinary week of my life!