Most students are happy with a part-time job, but Marcel de Haan (fourth-year student of Biology) is aiming higher. This month, he and his housemate Biense Boxhorn (who is doing an applied sciences degree at Stoas) opened an aquarium shop called Aquatic-motion. They plan to sell tropical fish and ornamental shrimps. We talked to Marcel de Haan about his venture into entrepreneurship.
'It all started with a simple aquarium in my room. A friend gave me a couple of ornamental shrimps. They turned out to breed at a phenomenal rate so in no time I had too many. Then I started selling them on Marktplaats. That went so well that I put more and more aquaria in my room, with more and more cherry shrimps. One day the landlord came by and said having that many aquaria in your room wasn't really the idea. That set me thinking and soon my housemate Biense and I decided to think bigger and open an aquarium shop.'
Does that work, opening a shop while you are studying for a degree?
'Your student days are the perfect time of life to start something like this. The biggest advantage is that it is no big deal if we fail. If it doesn't work out, we'll have lost a bit of money, gained a bit of experience, and we'll just carry on with our studies. Another advantage is that you have fewer expenses and you are satisfied with smaller profits. And it gives you a chance to build up a good network. We were able to consult the university on practical matters such as how to 'cycle' the aquaria: which means growing the right bacteria for cleaning up the fishes' waste products. Fantastic to have Wageningen professors as your advisors.'
Will it be very time-consuming?
'Starting up is time-consuming. You have to find cheap premises, establish contacts with wholesalers, and get to know the regulations for importing tropical fish. We knew there would be a lot involved, but we hadn't expected it to take up as much time as it did. We were on the phone to the Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority an awful lot. But once the shop is up and running it won't be as busy. To start with, at least, we are only going to open on Saturdays. And apart from that we only have to feed the fish twice a week. It's good there are two of us and we complement each other well: I am really the theoretical type and Biense is more of a doer.'
Is this the start of a career as an entrepreneur?
'In two years' time maybe we'll hire a couple students to manage the shop. Or we'll expand to other towns, if it takes off. We'll just see. For now, anyway, it is fantastic to start something like this. You learn a lot from it and you put things you study into practice. I can only advise other students to have the nerve to do the same.'