Female Heroes Interview: Marianne Baars
Every week we will be publishing an interview with one of our female internet heroes in order for you to MEET interesting women. READ about their WORK, THINK about how they PLAY the internet industry and see how you MATCH them. Be inspired! Marianne Baars is this week's interviewee.
Hotels are what Marianne Baars has always been passionate about. They are "in my system," she says. That is why she studied at the hotel college in the Hague and went on to work for a company specialising in hotel loyalty schemes. In 1997, she joined Bookit, arranging meeting spaces for companies. A year later she became its Managing Director. Seeing the business opportunities in online booking of hotels, she used the Bookit database to set up weekendjeweg.nl in 2000; a leading booking site for short holiday brakes. After selling weekendjeweg.nl to UK company Holidaybreak, she moved into the online business again with Propertytraders, an online auction for commercial property.
What made you move from weekendjeweg.nl?
Weekendjeweg reached a point where it was of such a size and had such a turnover that we became a candidate for takeover. I was not the only shareholders and so when ‘the offer we could not refuse' came along it was sold. That is when I started looking for new internet formula's. Propertytraders does have a parallel with weekendjeweg. Both were completely new projects. Also, I had been at weekendjeweg.nl for ten years. I still enjoyed it, but I did think it was good to get in new management.
Why did you set up propertytraders?
The market for commercial properties is dominated by real estate companies, who mainly work offline. A good platform to buy and sell property online, didn't exist yet. While there is a need for more transparency and efficiency.
How did you arrange financing for it?
Propertytraders is financed by a couple of informal investors.
How do you see the future for the (internet) business you are in?
Very positive. The online business for commercial real estate is a new development. Because this branch has a need for more transparency and more efficient ways to do business internet will become a new way to do business. This business is very traditional, it is conducted mainly through real estate agents, so there have not been initiatives to do this online. There is however a demand to do so as the market is so traditional and inaccessible. Setting up this online forum will make it more accessible and transparent. Then, once the system is introduced and successfully running in the Netherlands, we want to set up the system in other countries in Europe.
What explains your success?
Throughout the years a lot of difficult decisions had to be made for Weekendjeweg.nl. I learnt to trust on my instincts and not always choose the safe way. I have learned to that over the years. When you start out it is really hard to convince people that you want to do business a certain way because you feel it that way. But as time goes on you learn you often do have to do that. When I started out I was often conducting business too rational, When I looked back I often realised I should have stayed with my first idea. Of course when you see an opportunity, you do have to check whether the circumstances are there to succeed, Moreover, there is never a garantuee that something will succeed. If you are looking for that you will never succeed in being an entrepreneur.
Who inspired you?
A couple of people inspired me. Mainly female businesswoman, Like Sylvia Toth. She set up Content. She is retired now but she was one of the Netherlands' known businesswomen. I have always followed her career. She inspires me because of her ambition. The way she conducts business is very straight forward, focused on a goal. A ‘get out of my way' woman. It was not easy for her, she fought hard for it though. Also, the former founder of Weekendjeweg.nl was my mentor. He is a true visionair and not afraid to do things differently.
What is a female entrepreneur to you?
A women with passion and ambition that has a great amount of perseverance. I see no difference with male entrepreneurs. Building a business takes hard work, guts and perseverance.
I do think women can be more emotionally involved in their business. Men tend to pitch their company in a more rational way.
What advise would you give to young aspiring women?
Find the right people around you and do not be afraid to make mistakes.
Would you ever consider mentoring male or female entrepreneurs?
Yes, I believe that a mentor can make a difference for your career. Sharing your experience is nice to do and can be very helpfully to others.
FACTBOXWhat does web 2.0 mean to you?
Interactivity is not an important issues on our site right now. Of course it is build with the latest technique. We will keep a close watch on new techniques and customers wishes.
What do you know about web technology?
We have outsourced the technical side of our website to a company called APM interactive. I know enough about it to understand the different techniques and to have discussions with the technicians.
How do people find you on the internet?
I work with a company who optimize the search results for the site.
How many people visit your website?
Because we just started we only have a couple of hundred visitors a day. But it is rapidly growing!
Does your company have an online community ?
No, but we are planning to have it in the future.
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