Student interview: Maurits (29) left the Netherlands to start a business in Russia
Maurits is a 29-year-old Dutchman who decided to quit a job in a big company, move to Russia and start one on his own. Straight after graduating business school in 2014, he started working for a well-renowned company in the Netherlands, but the 9-to-5 lifestyle did not suit him and eventually he did what most people do not do – he left. Add a Russian girlfriend to the equation and fast-forward to 2017, he is currently in the start-up phase of his new company in Saint Petersburg.
Starting a new business
“I wanted to try something new, so I went to an old professor of mine in International Business. He told me ‘you should be an entrepreneur, Maurits’ and put me in contact with a fellow Dutch who resides in Saint Petersburg”, Maurits tells us. After some meetings and about six months of preparations, they are now set to sell diesel generators from their offices south of Saint Petersburg. “We had some good conversations and he had the experience needed to start a company in Russia. Additionally, his wife is a lawyer so that hopefully spares us some complications”.
The lean, tall Dutchman (he definitely lives up to the cliché of Dutch people being tall) is enthusiastic about his new project, but clearly a little uncertain about what he has gotten himself into. Leaving a stable job in a well-renowned company to start a business in Russia without knowing much more than the basics of the language is, needless to say, not something that everyone would do. However, the 29-year-old focuses on the positives of his new adventure: “The worst-case scenario is that the business does not work out and I have to go back to Holland, having experienced a new culture and learned Russian. The best-case would of course be that the business becomes successful and I am able to stay and continue expanding”, he says with a smile around his face. Thus far, he seems to have settled in nicely in the cultural capital of Russia.
Learning Russian at Liden & Denz
Aware that many Russians do not speak English (and certainly not Dutch), he decided to start learning Russian. First in Amsterdam, then in Saint Petersburg at Liden & Denz. “They were the one who gave the best overall impression and their references were good”. Having spent two weeks in an intensive course, he has decided on continuing with evening classes alongside work. “It was a really great place for me to start, as I improved my Russian and met a lot of people – some who are staying here long-term and some only for a few weeks.”.
A week ago, Maurits left Liden & Denz’ daily language courses to focus on his business. We meet him straight after a long day at the office for some mexican food, near Sennaya Ploschad. He tells us it has been going well: “I was not sure how much I would have to do, but luckily there is quite a bit to do in the start”. He will travel back to the Netherlands for a business meeting later this month, but first he needs to focus on developing the market plan. “I hope to resume Russian classes very soon”, he tells us and adds “but meanwhile my girlfriend is of great help when it comes to words and phrases used in everyday life”.