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Serial Column (HOPE) – Sander Waterval Part 1

a young Sander WatervalThe rise of the entrepreneurial spirit

After mutual greetings are exchanged, we figure out Sander knows the former owners of the cafe and I the new. One of those co-incidences that proves it truly is a small world, especially in the West of Holland.

But our happy crowded Randstad is not where Sander was born.  He hearkens from those fine cultured, yet devious environs, below the rivers. A slightly soft ‘G’ and a mantel of bon-viveur give this away.

Today he has a multi-million Euro turn-over, a successful group of companies, employees enough and more on the way.  How did this all start? As with most things it started with good intentions, noble intentions – those intentions that make one break into an altrustic smile.

Sander heard of a blind Polish guy who required money to get his eyesight restored.  He jumped to organise a lawn sale that could help raise monies. Paper collections followed.  All these efforts charitable. Local news.  Indeed, Sander thought so, he even edited a paper about his charitable actions.  This, he states proudly, was where his first subscription sales took place.  Five Guilders annually. A bargain!

He got a taste for ‘organising things’ and became rather good at it. The familygarden providing the setting for many of these events.  His father was supportive. His mother a little less so, but I guess she was the one serving coffee and orange squash for all the visitors. Sanders mom: “At that time we always confronted Sander with the question about the progress of his study – get that certificate; it was the main reason to leave for Rotterdam…ánd the way to get success much easier…we really were afraid he wouldn’t make it without a certificate and it would be a waste not to finish his study!”

After a bit of summer work at the age of 15 he decided to concentrate more on making a bit of money for himself.  Business acumen kicked in.  He became a car washer.

Armed with a fire hose, some soap and buckets he installed himself in the car park of the local arbeidsinspectie in Kerkrade. The employees bought into the service, as did passing clients.  But the family holiday was going to eat into his profits. Nooo!  He made his first executive decision, he brought on a business partner and his first employee to continue the service while he was away. MauSan Carwash was born.  It never quite made it into the books of the chamber of commerce, but Sander smiles and proudly announces, it was my first real venture.

A career as an entrepreneur might seem inevitable.  Not so it seems.  This was rural Limburg; where one grows up to be a civil servant or work on the land. Mother Waterval, a civil servant, said, Study hard, get qualifications and find a good job.  No succour there; but a common reaction of one trying to protect their brood.

Father Waterval, former director of a school, was warmer to a business future for his son.  He had developed some creative learning systems in his spare time, but had never fully commercialised them. He saw this passion in his progeny.

Was there a business hero?  Someone in the neighbourhood that he could follow in the footsteps of.  He ponders slightly.  Thinks aloud.  And says no, he was inspired by Ciske the Rat.

Maybe it was this icon of the Randstad that drew Sander from libatious Limburg to the sobriety of South Holland’s Rotterdam.  He again is direct in his answer.  Erasmus was the best business school at  the time; I made the right decision. Rotterdam made me – it was there I learned the tricks of the trade.

Serial Column written for HOPE by Keith Wallace, also to be read here.