Flemish entrepreneur Mathias Teuwen, 27 years old, is currently launching ‘What’s In A Box’ with two co-partners. What’s In A Box is a startup that will upgrade the draining Zoom meetings through a workshop using a food box. Today, he talks about what it takes to be an entrepreneur and the importance of a broad network.
How many businesses have you started up already?
‘I have worked at different startups with a more commercial/marketing touch. The startup I liked the most, was Wolk, a men’s brand that produces shirts. This was not my own startup, but I was there when it got launched. Together with my two co-partners, I am starting a business called ‘What’s In A Box’. We’re going live next week, so this will be very exciting!
We noticed that a lot of people are getting tired of all the Zoom meetings, as they are draining and exhausting. Usually, you bump into each other at work, and ask about each other’s weekends and families. Right now, you don’t feel like you’re a team anymore, because you’re constantly working at your home desk. It’s very demotivating.
With What’s In A Box, we want to create an exciting team-moment. You just log in on Zoom. Not for work, but for a workshop with a local chef. The great thing is that the people working from home don’t have to go to the supermarket or a specialty shop to get the ingredients. What’s In A Box will send this food box to their addresses. The key thing is that colleagues have a moment to unwind and take some time off of work. Unboxing this with everyone is a great moment of togetherness.
You based your idea on market research and are confident about the concept. But not all startups are successful. What is the number one reason that businesses fail?
Entrepreneurship is very difficult. It’s not because you’re good at something, that you’re automatically a good entrepreneur. When people are very experienced in a particular industry, they want to make a business out of it. But some people just dislike selling things. You can’t ignore this part of entrepreneurship. Trying to get your services or products to the audience, is something that you eventually will have to do as an entrepreneur. People tend to spend a lot of time on an appealing Instagram, website, and newsletter. But it’s more important to primarily focus on selling your product.’
Entrepreneurs with innovative ideas should spend time and money on market research first. And some people don’t know, neither understand, their statistics. Again, people might be very good at what they do. If you can’t work with your own figures, it will be over real quick. Even when you are a lucrative business in theory, you can go bankrupt because you will have to pay the big costs first. Otherwise, the story ends, unfortunately.’
‘Lastly, you will have to be very confident and handle the insecurities that come with entrepreneurship. This is definitely not meant for everyone.’
Belgium is also notorious for its bureaucracy
‘Good news: this isn’t as bad as people think. Years ago, you had to show a business certificate to start a business. Today, everyone can basically start their own company without special education.’
First of all, you have to go to a social secretary, like Xerius or Acerta, and request a business number. Secondly, you will have to indicate which activities you will be active in. Lastly, when you decide you will be charging VAT for your products or services, you will have to request a number for that as well. Summed up, this will cost you 150 up to 200 euros. When you have followed these steps, you have started up your business.’
‘It’s also helpful to take out insurances, and to open a bank account especially for your business. When you’re a student, it’s also beneficial to request a certificate of student-entrepreneur. This will benefit you with social contributions.’
Do you think that all these documents and requests can be a daunting task for people to startup?
‘If this is a threshold, you just don’t have to start a business. I can assure you that you will have to complete a lot more challenging things than just requesting some documents. Entrepreneurship is exciting but scary, so it’s beneficial to make sure you’re informed, social secretaries gladly help you with that.’
Is it important to have an already existing network when you start as an entrepreneur?
If you want to work with the best of the best, you need a good network. For What’s In A Box, we wanted to have a B2B influencer, someone that is considered trustworthy by other companies. I had a very important meeting yesterday with one of the best entrepreneurs in Belgium. I could only have arranged this appointment if I knew someone who works at the same company. I also found the photographer and videographer for our What’s In A Box promo material through a colleague. I don’t have to tell you that I found all these people because of my strong network, right? The key things for a good network are the following: be active on LinkedIn, plan a moment of networking once in a while, step outside, and tell people what your business is all about. If you put time and energy into your network, this effort will eventually be beneficial for you and your business. Keep involving people in your story.
Have you ever been afraid to fail?
‘Yes, for example, last week, I posted about What’s In A Box for the first time on LinkedIn. This message got shared and I received a lot of lovely comments on this. But then I sat on the couch and I realized that there was no way back, and that feels scary. Fortunately, my girlfriend and co-partner can put things in perspective, and bring me the calmness I need sometimes. Feeling scared is part of entrepreneurship, but you have to learn to overcome these feelings.’
Do you have some more tips to turn a creative idea in your own business?
‘It’s extremely important to come out with your story. People often think: what if others will steal my idea? In my opinion, this is completely unimportant. Everyone can create tons of ideas, but it’s the person who tackles this idea and does something with it who earns the money. I would really recommend talking about your idea with other entrepreneurs. Being surrounded by other entrepreneurs will benefit the process of translating your creative idea into a business.
Are there other things that you want to achieve in the near future?
‘Last Saturday, we organized an online network event for 80 people. These people had the opportunity to choose with which expert or experienced entrepreneur they wanted to have a one-to-one conversation with. We secondly divided them into break-out rooms, where they could speak personally. We received loads of good feedback on this event. I aim to keep this quality by constantly thinking about what we can do more to support startup entrepreneurs.’
Text: Jilke Tielemans, photos: © Jelle Jansegers