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Especially since the beginning of the corona crisis, many young entrepreneurs have questions about the future of their business. Entrepreneurs in the province of Groningen can now turn to GroBusiness, an initiative that offers entrepreneurs an outstretched hand and shows them the possibilities of their company for further development.

How can I refinance my company and what investments are wise for the future? Many entrepreneurs have experienced turbulent times in the past year and have plenty of questions. As of recently, Groningen entrepreneurs can go to a central and independent contact point: GroBusiness, established by the Province of Groningen and the Economic Board of Groningen. Entrepreneurs can schedule an appointment or ask for advice digitally, a service that is already being used extensively. “We have only been operating for three months, but have already spoken to an incredible number of entrepreneurs. There are already dozens of them,” says Akke Groenewoud, director of the Economic Board of Groningen.

A team of 5 people is busy every week offering help with a variety of issues. Groenewoud explains: “Many companies want to know how they can best proceed now that corona is largely behind them. For example, entrepreneurs have questions about how to find staff effectively in these times. Other companies have done very well in times of corona and wonder how they can further scale up their business.” The specialists at GroBusiness offer help through coaching, guidance and advice. The portal also refers entrepreneurs to relevant parties in their network.

Both Friesland and Drenthe provinces already have a central point where entrepreneurs can go with questions. Groenewoud is pleased to see that cooperation between the business portals is growing and that the knowledge and skills from the various provinces are being exchanged effectively. “That is good to see. For example, we here in Groningen have a lot of specialized knowledge about digitization and subjects such as the 5G network and smart mobile solutions which we are happy to share.”

Klapstoel Academy for more gender equality in the workplace

Klapstoel Academy, a company that supports women in gaining a position in the labor market, experienced positive development partly thanks to GroBusiness. CEO Johanna Spiller says: “GroBusiness helped us set up a network and connected us with several organizations that we now work with.” The young company gives advice to energy company Neptune Energy, among others, to create more diversity in the workplace.

Spiller is delighted with the help and explains why an initiative such as Klapstoel Academy is of great importance, even in modern times. “It’s 2021, but even nowadays there is no gender equality in the workplace. To cite just one example that women struggle with a lot: Women face conflicts during their careers that have to do with the relationship between work and pregnancy. The sooner we start the conversation with them about that, the better.” Among other things, the company distributes Klapstoel certificates to companies that focus on retaining young, female talent. Spiller hopes to make a positive contribution in this way. “I have a lot of hope for the future when it comes to equality in the workplace. The topic is often picked up by the media and I am confident that the workplace will look completely different in 25 years.”

Unafix: A hub for maritime service providers

A tech startup from Eemshaven that focuses on the maritime sector, Unafix, also got a push in the right direction from GroBusiness. “We are ready for our global launch and were able to spar with GroBusiness about a good market launch strategy,” says Jeroen Wolthuis, maritime lawyer and founder of Unafix. “GroBusiness turned out to have a lot of maritime knowledge and also offered us access to their extensive network within the sector.”

He further explains his company’s ambition. “Disputes within the maritime sector are often extremely expensive and time-consuming. Consider, for example, the recent case of the ship Ever Given, which blocked the Suez Canal for almost a week. Who pays the bill in such a case often depends on what was agreed in the lease agreement of the ship in question. Remarkably, these rental agreements are often full of errors and ambiguities.” Unafix is working hard to find a solution to this problem. Specifically, “We are working on an online tool that will allow lessees and lessors of cargo vessels to draft perfect rental agreements using an AI algorithm we developed. Our goal is to reduce the number of maritime disputes for our users by 80% within five years.”

Reaching even more entrepreneurs

In the near future, GroBusiness will focus on reaching even more entrepreneurs. “We have only been active for three months, but of course we want as many entrepreneurs as possible to find us. So in the near future, we will organize meetings so we can physically talk to entrepreneurs, become more visible in social media and connect the other programs of the Economic Board Groningen aimed at SMEs in the province of Groningen with GroBusiness.”

In addition to advice to entrepreneurs, advice to the government should not be left out. “Because we are in direct contact with large groups of entrepreneurs, we have access to a lot of data. We can therefore provide the government with increasingly better and more targeted advice on various developments that we see and on businesses in specific sectors such as manufacturing or tourism. We can see all around us that making policy is not easy and is often aimed at solving social issues. Plus, assumptions are sometimes made about sectors that are not always correct. We want to work on this even more in the upcoming months.”


This story is the result of a collaboration between Province of Groningen and our editorial team. Innovation Origins is an independent journalism platform that carefully chooses its partners and only cooperates with companies and institutions that share our mission: spreading the story of innovation. This way we can offer our readers valuable stories that are created according to journalistic guidelines. Want to know more about how Innovation Origins works with other companies? Click here