(c) Johan Brouwer
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Corien Oenema, CEO and founder of Coobly was already focusing on online entrepreneurship with her company before the outbreak of the corona crisis. However, now perhaps more than ever she sees her (potential) clients struggling to make that step. Especially in order to be able to keep on providing services to existing customers or even acquire new ones, given all the physical limitations that this crisis brings with it. Through Coobly, Oenema is providing her clients, who are predominantly knowledge professionals, with an online platform that enables them to market their services in the absence of face-to-face contact. Oenema: “I think we will be active much more online in the future anyway. Through my company, I want to relieve people of their concerns as much as possible.”

Where did you get the idea to start Coobly?

“I come from a truly entrepreneurial family; parents, uncles, and aunts, everyone is in business. Entrepreneurship is in my blood, I was born into it. My first business was a media company that I set up with my husband in 2000. That was originally a traditional media company. We made brochures and other offline resources for our clients. At a certain point, the role of those brochures was taken over by websites. I really liked that online side as well. In the meantime, the company was also doing very well. Unfortunately, my relationship wasn’t working out as well. After the divorce, I thought, what next? What am I going to do now – as a single mother with four children? Because I had my background in online marketing and sales, I thought: this is the most obvious way to start earning my own money. So, that led to setting up Coobly.”

What is your product exactly?

“Initially, that was me. With my marketing and sales experience, I wanted to advise other entrepreneurs. Over time, however, I noticed that in addition to knowledge, my clients also needed technical know-how. Because you’re not there yet with just a website. That’s why Coobly offers complete all-in-one packages for companies that are ready to go online. That is to say, the website and related online elements. Such as blogs, a webshop as well as management training systems, which enables them to deliver their knowledge to their clients, plus their own online community.”

Who are your clients? And what use is your product to them?

“They are professionals, primarily knowledge experts. Such as designers, photographers, trainers, health coaches, and financial advisors. They are people who are all very good at what their work entails. They have a great product, but they often don’t really have a clue about how to reach their clients. That’s a real shame. So we help them with that, by helping them set up an online platform. The demand for this turned out to be so great that it eventually became our product.”

What did you find most difficult about starting your business?

“I was already an entrepreneur. Now entrepreneurship constantly revolves around ups and downs, trial and error. But what remains a challenge, especially for a budding entrepreneur: you have to keep stepping out of your comfort zone and do something new.

What I probably found most difficult: building up my own team. At a certain point, you can no longer do the work alone. And you have to employ people and form a team with them. You personally have ambitions as an entrepreneur. But how do you make sure you get your team on board with those? You have to be very clear about what your intention is, and translate your dreams to your team.”

How Corona-proof is your company?

“Because of the corona crisis, many entrepreneurs are struggling with the loss of their regular work and loss of clientele whom they cannot provide services in the way they were used to doing.

To give an example, we have a group coach as a client who would normally always visit companies to provide coaching sessions. This is not possible due to the corona crisis. While her clients, now that tension within such a group is perhaps even greater than when they were still together in an actual physical sense, are definitely in need of her services. Consequently, the question is: how can you offer these services online?

That’s why we developed a ‘Corona package’ with Coobly: a product that not only helps entrepreneurs now but also in the future when the crisis is behind us. This involves a 30-day trajectory wherein we not only guide them through digital entrepreneurship but also help them put together a digital product, such as an online training course. As well as developing a strategy for the present but also for the long term. That service turned out to be a real hit. Lots of people, who for a year or so have already had some reservations about the idea of doing business online, are now coming to us. At the moment we are busier than ever. Instead of a downturn, we are actually seeing a fourfold increase in our customer base.”