We are celebrating our 75th anniversary as British Council in the Netherlands in 2020-21 by sharing 75 personal stories from people who have a special connection to both the UK and the Netherlands. Read the 75 NL-UK stories and join us in celebrating our 75th anniversary. Expand the boxes below to read the full stories by Yvonne Thompson, Anton Valk, Ronald Ligtenberg, and Jennie Monon. New stories will be added in the months to come.
75 UK-NL Stories - Entrepreneurship
Dr Yvonne Thompson CBE
Nurturing and sustaining international relationships are essential to me as a founder of a global women’s network. While the bond with every country is rewarding and valuable, there is something special about our connection with The Netherlands.
Apart from nurturing a relationship with the British Embassy in the Netherlands, contributing to various events, delegations and three Apeldoorn conferences in Norfolk, Eindhoven and London, which all proved to be informative, invigorating and fostered international relations, it was my women in business network that really made the difference and lasting relationships from 1997 to now.
We also have grown a relationship with the Dutch Embassy in London who has hosted receptions for us to engage, network and celebrate Dutch Business Women who visit London during our annual Global Summit and Awards Celebration.
It was late 1990s with the dynamic Maritza Russell from Rotterdam. Motivated and inspired by winning an award at the UK's first network for Black Women in business and forerunner of WinTrade Global, the European Federation of Black Women’s Business Owners, Maritza went back to the Netherlands and started her chapter ZZVN, which changed its name to EZVN in 2009. Today Maritza is the President and Founder of EZVN who has provided countless opportunities to other black businesswomen in the Netherlands. Maritza continues to soar in whatever she does and remains one of my dearest friends.
My association with Maritza introduced me to the Dutch entrepreneurial spirit, exemplified by the impressive individuals and their stories that followed Maritza's footsteps.
Four Dutch women epitomise the special relationship between our two countries. Claudia Berghout is not only a successful lawyer, but she is also the CEO of her law firm, situated on the outskirts of The Hague, specialising in ‘David and Goliath’ cases and for those most in need.
Based in Rijswijk, Herma Kluin is a tough, dedicated private detective working tirelessly to help keep children and young people safe. Both these women are stars in their field and grounded by a philosophy about helping others.
In Eindhoven, we revel in the work that Margareth Maduro is doing as an NLP expert practitioner. Margareth is a natural-born entrepreneur. She is charismatic and boasts a great personality.
Finally is the effervescent Nancy Poleon of Branded Personalities. Based in Amsterdam Nancy is a 'super connector' when it comes to networking, knowing the media, how to grow and nurture contacts and connect women world wide. A must know personality when it comes to networking.
No mention of our relationship would be complete without mentioning the two Dutch photographers and videographer, we have come to admire, just outside Amsterdam. Desiree Hofland, from Hoofddorp, has been a consistent companion and supporter, along with Leon Wodtke. A model and photographer who is now a contributor in one of your top photographic magazines.
Even during lockdown, we engage, even more online, and this year we have several Dutch women in business being recognised in our Summit and Awards in July this year.
There is something special about the Netherlands. We continue to look forward to your eagerness to engage, inspiration, determination and friendship, for years to come.
Dr Yvonne Thompson CBE
Founder, WinTRADE Global
I came to London as the founding CEO and Chairman of Abellio, a subsidiary of NS (Netherlands Railways). I stepped down from Abellio in 2012. Since then I have built up a broad non-executive and advisory portfolio in which I always aim to connect the UK and the Netherlands. What I love most in the United Kingdom is the opportunity I have had to engage in British culture: it’s open for business, traditional and welcoming.
Railways in Britain are special. A social service which matters to everyone, which is highly political requiring huge public funding, and which operates since liberalisation in a complex industry structure. A daunting challenge for all involved. What surprised me coming from abroad was the camaraderie and pride of the people in the Railways and even more the feeling after some years that I too had become part of it. Cherries on the cake were becoming a member of the British Transport Police Authority and a trustee of the Science Museum Group and the Railway Museum in York. A boy’s dream, I pinch myself sometimes to see if it is real.
After 20 years the culture of the Railways has become an integral part of my being, even though I am less operational and spend my time on many different subjects. My Dutch grandchildren call me “grandpa train” which is for me a tribute to an unbelievable time. What did I learn in the United Kingdom that is still valuable? My choice out of many is that innovation and entrepreneurship will lead to success if you seize the opportunity. And that lesson I am now passing on to young generations both in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
In 2010, the British Council invited me a few times to give presentations about multi-sensory music events for and with deaf people. The response was so overwhelming that I moved to London to establish new partnerships. Before arriving, I had already scheduled several meetings with potential business partners. The meetings looked promising to me at first as they all elicited positive responses like “Your proposal sounds very interesting’’. Of course I took this literally (I am a Dutch man after all!) and was enthusiastic that it was going to lead to fruition. However, after a few months passed, and I did not hear back from those meetings, I realised what the Brit meaning of 'interesting' really is.
After these initial disappointments, I was inspired to transform my approach completely to make headway. I’m glad to say that in the end I managed to organise a couple of wonderful festivals having ‘the senses’ as the main theme. The United Kingdom being one of the most accessible countries of Europe taught me so much about how to make a society inclusive to a whole new level that it turned out to be a challenging but enlivening experience for me. I have to add that the bonus of my stint in London was that I met my exotic future wife, and we were blessed with our wonderful son soon after.
So all I have to say to you London is that you did not make it easy for me but you gave me back more than I imagined and hoped for! So thank you :)
I am Jennie Monon, and I am the current Chair (since January 2021) of the Commercial Anglo Dutch Society (a.k.a. CADS). The objective of our society is to promote the interests of and mutual business relationship and friendship between nationals of The Netherlands and nationals of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth of Nations, wherever they may reside. What I love about our society is that it is not about 'being British' in the Netherlands; but aims to build friendships and promote networking between the two countries, respecting the culture and traditions of both. The main way that we fulfil our objectives is through monthly lunch meetings at locations such as the K.I.G.C in Amsterdam or at one of the Hotel Schools, where we always enjoy wonderful Dutch hospitality with great company, excellent food, and a very decent wine list. Our membership is an eclectic mix of professional people, young and old, both British and Dutch; some retired, others still deep in the corporate world, and the odd entrepreneur. At these meetings we have such amazing camaraderie amongst our members, and I really believe it is because of the special relationship between our two countries. Our British members are sticklers for tradition and are always so polite, desperate never to offend; and the Dutch members are very gracious in that they always allow us to host our meetings in English while at the same time stating with typical directness – “You’ve been here how long? and you still don’t speak Dutch!" We were all so disappointed over the UK decision to leave Europe but since then our society has nurtured our ‘special relationship’ and long may this continue.