Can you tell us something about the Stroopclub?
When I think of Dutch international businesses, I mostly think of water management, ports, marine technology. logistics and engineering. But hey… There’s still nothing more traditionally Dutch than our own authentic stroopwafels right?
And this many Americans all on one continent, should make a huge market for this product. Just remember that about 20 companies in Holland thrive on stroopwafel businesses with only 17 million inhabitants (plus the huge amounts of exported stroopwafels), while we’re the only ones here in Texas, a state with 27 million people!
Having obtained a Greencard through the Lottery, it was relatively easy to just pack our bags and go. So we quit our jobs with the government and in recruitment in Rotterdam, attended a professional stroopwafel baking workshop and bought a stroopwafel iron the day before departure. This machine weighs an impressive 25 kilos (55 lb), but divided into two parts, we could even fit some clothes in there as well. And this is how we arrived at an Airbnb in South Austin September 1st 2015. Now we’re 12 months later and experienced a lot of experimenting with local ingredients, many tastings, tons of organizing, researching and complying to local food laws and regulations and countless mistakes. The Stroop club now caters (corporate) parties and supplies branded corporate gifts. 35 Local coffee shops and grocery stores carry our stroopwafels and we have two pick up locations for our customers. Besides this, we attend two Farmers’ Markets and run an online store. Within one year we grew into a local strong brand and a successful, even profitable company. I still think this would have been a fun item for the Dutch show ‘Ik vertrek’. (I’m leaving)
Why did the Stroopclub choose Texas?
Initially, Texas might not seem the most logic place to start off or move your business to. Being Dutch, we think of Texas as a vast desert-like landscape, draught, tumbleweeds, cowboys and western movies. And although we must say we sometimes feel like we ended up in the middle of a movie set, there’s so much more to it! One of the most important reasons for us to move here is the climate. Basically all year long good weather, who wouldn’t sign up for that? Above this, the tax climate is very attractive. Not only for businesses, but also for employees considering the low income taxes. Also, Austin is growing incredibly fast, but the cost of living is still relatively low, especially compared to states like California and the northern states on the East Coast. Moreover, most people in Austin are new in the city and therefor open to new products and services. Another thing that struck us: Half of the Texans have some relation to The Netherlands, either by heritage, travels or work.
We compare Austin to the city of Rotterdam: dynamic, entrepreneurial, buzzing, multi cultural, growing, a lot of music, arts and culture. We have countless hike and bike trails and State Parks in our own ‘back yard’ and seriously nothing is more exciting and relaxing than taking a road trip through beautiful Texas. We only haven’t spotted tumbleweeds anywhere yet.
What kind of advice can you give to Dutch entrepreneurs who want to do business in Texas?
Even though we look the same, dress the same, watch the same shows and movies and listen to the same music, our cultural differences are significant. Those differences also reflect in doing business in America. I think everyone can agree our Dutch direct ways of communication might not always get the results we’re looking for. The other way around, getting honest feedback from Texans is also not that easy.
Another example, in The Netherlands we’re used to turning to the internet for almost all of the information we’re searching for. This is our ‘mekka’ for all questions, forms and research into rules, regulations, governmental institutions, services comparisons etc. However…. Forget about it. We noticed we could only get further by getting out there, visiting institutions, talking to specialists and government employees directly. Networking, asking your questions literally everywhere. Fortunately, people here are very friendly, they want to help, they want you to succeed. Southern friendliness is truly a sincere friendliness. And this attitude is one of the biggest differences we’ve encountered so far. And our biggest advice we could give? Just do it! Take that step, be an entrepreneur, follow that dream with your heart and senses and just go for it!
Tako and Chantal