Growing in America: ‘The right connections are worth their weight in gold’ | Ministries

Growing in America: 'The right connections are worth their weight in gold' |  Ministries

Blog Post | 23-05-2023 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Around 150 Dutch representatives worldwide are ready to help Dutch entrepreneurs abroad. For example in San Francisco. Consul General Dirk Janssen talks to Sifra Kijdenbeek of Ukje, a company that sells covers for children’s furniture, about growth opportunities in the US.

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Consul General Dirk Janssen talks to Sifra Kijdenbeek.

The US is our most important trading partner outside the EU. So the Netherlands is huge Representative network in the United States: Embassy in Washington, embassies in Atlanta, Chicago, Miami, New York and San Francisco, more than twenty honorary embassies and two Netherlands business support offices. As Consul General in San Francisco, Dirk Janssen is responsible for thirteen states in the western United States, including Hawaii and Alaska.

Business questions and assignments

The Consulate General helps Dutch entrepreneurs get a foothold in the US market and succeed there. For example, via webinars, trade missions and one-on-one conversations. “Communication often starts with a phone call or email from an entrepreneur with a question,” says Dirk. ‘These could be all kinds of questions: What’s the market like? What about taxes?’

The embassy also organizes trade and innovation missions, during which entrepreneurs travel to the United States. ‘This is the best way to get a good first impression of the market and potential partners. For example, during the matchmaking session, we connect entrepreneurs with interested parties such as potential customers, but also advisors and investors,’ explains Dirk.

For happy families

Sifra Geijtenbeek is one of the entrepreneurs Dirk supports in the future. In 2011 he founded Ukje, a company that designs and manufactures covers for children’s furniture. For example, car seats and high chairs last longer and second-hand furniture is easier to refresh, says Sifra. ‘That thought came to me only when I became a mother. I bought a comfortable bouncer, but it was a third-hand wash. Not so good anymore… so I sewed myself a new cover.’

For more than 10 years, many families in Europe and America are already using Ukje cards. ‘We are working hard on our goal of “happy families”, not only in the Netherlands but also internationally,’ says Sifra. ‘Not only with our clients but also with families who are going through a difficult time. That’s why we donate twenty percent of our profits to charities like the Ronald McDonald Children’s Fund and Mercy.’

Orange Trade Mission Fund

By 2022, almost half of Ukje’s total revenue will come from the US. ‘Two years ago we started our own in the US,’ explains Sifra. ‘We already generate a lot of revenue through Amazon and, but we hope to continue to grow in the US with a bigger network and new partners.’

Sifra abandoned Ugje and so abandoned Orange Trade Mission Fund, he was selected as one of ten winners to receive additional support in building an international network. Ministry of External Affairs is the initiator of this fund. ‘It’s great that so many embassies see your name and know your story. Doors are opening fast for us now.’

Local production

Turk was pleasantly surprised to hear that Ukje was already selling a lot in the US and wanted to think about how to further help Cifra along the way. ‘Ukje now manufactures in Eastern Europe, but if you start serving the US market on a large scale, it becomes very expensive. For example, a production location in Mexico might be an option.

Cifra is interested in a manufacturing facility in the Americas. The United States has free trade agreements with Mexico and Canada. This would allow them to easily produce in Mexico without paying additional import duties. Manufacturing closer to the US customer is also good for our CO2 emissions. Glad to hear that Turk can help us make first contacts there.

Golden links

Dirk also gave tips on investors and marketing in the US to help the company grow. For these types of products, marketing often goes through social media and celebrities. You see that a lot in California,’ he says. ‘We want to think about this and connect her with other Dutch entrepreneurs who can help with this.’

Sifra hopes that Ukje will become an increasingly well-known brand through social media. ‘Los Angeles is home to a lot of influencers. If one or two of them pick up a Ukje product, it will attract more attention. The right links really are worth their weight in gold.’

An entrepreneur with international ambitions? Here you can find more information.

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