Maartje van Wijk on taking control of your life
Maartje van Wijk is the Founder and Managing Partner at Wenneker Group. Maartje worked for some of the biggest production companies in Holland like Endemol and IDTV and boasts over 20 years experience in television production and branded content. She redefined her goals in producing while producing the by Heineken funded show ‘6Pack’, a show that straddles the border between online and television. Here she saw her entrepreneurial skills had grown enough to make a significant difference during a production and a new adventure was born.
Maartje subsequently joined Swynk and CCCP, building a production team that contributed to the growth and profitability of the business, before becoming Managing Partner at Wenneker. Maartje has been a driving force behind Wenneker Group’s growth and has overseen international expansion since joining in 2009.
How long have you been an entrepreneur – I always had an entrepreneurial way of working. I set up my own projects in the companies I’ve worked for. Probably because my character could be described partly as lazy and partly as curiosity. So it’s in my nature to look for solutions that make my life easier and ones which engage me.
I’ve always wanted to make the best out of my work. Sometimes it’s a struggle within a company – for instance, in an early job I had, the branding was not visible in the working environment. So, to make the branding more visible, I suggested we could make a change. Everyone loved it! What do you need to make your work better? It’s a sign of how things could be different.
What motivated you to become an entrepreneur? I was always comfortable motivating myself but I really find having someone else to challenge you forces the best out of you. When I found that person (my associate) it was a match made in heaven.
What is Wenneker?
Wenneker Group is an international symbiotic group of companies that creates intelligent content for brands and agencies. Content that is engineered to create maximum impact across any consumer decision journey. Driven by data the Wenneker group delivers strategy, execution and distribution across all major channels.
How long has it been in operation? Wenneker has been around since 2005 but I joined the company in 2009.
What do you do? My role at this point is to turn ideas into reality when it comes to our growth strategy and international expansion. In 2009, Wenneker consisted of just 1 company producing online content for youtube and tv commercials. Because of the crisis, budgets decreased and we needed to make more content for the same amount of money. Thanks to my background as a TV producer I was able to be the ‘problem solver’ — I could do things in a different way. Clients understood they could get more out of their budget when they came to us. Now we have 4 companies, 2 in NL and 2 in Belgium – boutique style. Our continued growth strategy includes NL, global and niche films, TVC’s and (online)video.
What does a typical day look like? Most days I’m busy working with my management teams. I used to to do their job so my role is to lead them around pitfalls and challenges. I’m also busy in the market looking for acquisition opportunities and add-on services to those we already offer.
How have you funded your business?
Until 2017 we financed the whole business /growing strategy ourselves. In 2018 we have found an investor to help with our growth strategy.
How big is your company? In terms of employees we have ± 40 on a daily contract and ± 150 freelancers in a direct circle around us. In terms of turn-over ± 10 million.
What do you consider the biggest factor in your success?
The biggest factor has been the choice we made a few years ago to split the company in different entities with their own clients and way of working. This led to new clients, a greater turn-over and better services than we could manage from one location. Today we are made up of four distinct companies and are planning to add more with new capabilities and services.
What’s the best part about running your own company?
I’m accountable for my decisions and get to enjoy the success!
What’s the worst?
Of course the failures and it’s impossible to avoid them. But also knowing that I always have to look for balance in dilemmas and hopefully I choose the right ones at the right time.
Tell me more about failure:
Making mistakes isn’t a mistake in itself as long as you learn from it. Once, early in my career, I was working on a film that involved an actor walking up to a car and waiting for the car window to come down. I had arranged for the car, the actors, etc. and learned in the middle of filming that the back car window wouldn’t go down. I ruined the shoot. In that moment I learned it’s important to check EVERY SINGLE DETAIL. A simple window but the difference between success and failure.
That said, I firmly believe it’s better to make a wrong decision then to make no decision. And this is a fundamental part of leadership.
When did you become involved with TheNextWomen?
A friend of mine told me about it and I began reading the newsletters about a year ago.
I think it’s important for women to unite and share knowledge. I think it’s in our nature that if we spend time it needs to be time well spent. Not that we want something in return in a financial way but to share what we know is incredibly rewarding, particularly among your peers.
Why do you think TheNextWomen is important for female entrepreneurs?
I believe we’re still short of truly great role-models. Young girls are still under the spell of what I call ‘Snow White Syndrome’: passively waiting for the prince to come and save her with a kiss. To these girls I say: stop waiting and take ownership of your own life.
Any words of wisdom for new female entrepreneurs?
If you have a job that really suits you, it’s a no brainer that you will go far and succeed. And if you hate your job, stop complaining and quit. Make yourself visible, be proactive, be a pain and be heard. That’s the only way to let other people know what your ambitions are.