Linsey van Oers completed her Master of Science in Financial Management at Nyenrode Business University five years ago. She is now an entrepreneur and has opened – within a short period of time – two locations of her Happiness restaurant concept: The Happiness Café and The Happiness Kitchen. What are her thoughts on her time at Nyenrode, and how has Nyenrode contributed to the success of her entrepreneurial drive?
“After finishing my Commercial Economics degree, I knew that I wanted to learn more about the world of business. I learned a lot about the theoretical side of the study program during my Bachelor’s but I wanted to gain more knowledge and truly experience what it’s like in a true business environment. Hence, when I was on the outlook for a university the Master of Science in Financial Management was a good option for me.” “But, Linsey continues: I always had the idea that Nyenrode was only for the elite.” But during the Business Game that was sponsored by Microsoft – games that are organized to learn about the program and enable potential students to win a scholarship-, she saw the diversity of people and backgrounds she was hoping for. When Linsey won the scholarship with her team she decided to go for it. “I knew that I wanted to start my own business one day and decided to I enroll at Nyenrode to pursue this dream.”
Following her studies at Nyenrode, Linsey moved to Amsterdam for a marketing job with a music record label after having spent a summer working for a high-end beach restaurant in Ibiza with one of her Nyenrode friends. “But after a year I realized that if I really wanted to start my own business, this was the time to do so” she says. “I’ve always been interested in the relationship between health and food and loved spending my free time cooking for friends and family, preferably with pure & natural ingredients. In Amsterdam there were a lot of places like this but in Eindhoven (where I am born and raised) there wasn’t a breakfast bar or lunch room like this. I wanted to create a happy place where everyone would feel welcome: a home away from home, where vegans and people on a sugar free or gluten free diet could also come to enjoy healthy and unprocessed products.” The positive atmosphere that Linsey describes is reflected throughout the entire concept, from the menu to the interior and the social media. “We want everyone to feel the positive energy.” And there’s potential for more Happiness: almost every week, Linsey and her team are asked for more Happiness locations in other cities. To further expand The Happiness, she is now investing in a franchise formula. “I decided that we want to keep growing, but not by opening more stand-alone locations – but with franchisees. The benefit of working with franchisees is that we share the same entrepreneur-DNA and that we thus can accelerate growth, compared to when we would grow organically with own locations which would take a lot of time and effort from our own team to manage.
“My time at Nyenrode has been extremely valuable. The practical experience during the program has contributed in many ways to my own personal development: I’m more resilient and flexible, and I can bounce back faster after a setback. I’ve learned (sometimes the hard way) that if you have a goal in mind and give it your all, you will succeed. The confidence I gained in myself as an entrepreneur gave me a clear focus on my goal.” The Nyenrode network has played an important role in Linsey’s success. “If you’re looking for a coach or want to exchange ideas with someone, there’s always someone in the Nyenrode network who would be happy to meet up with you for coffee.” When asked what has stuck with her the most from her time at Nyenrode, Linsey responds: “I’m a member of the women’s fraternity Artemis (a club of Nyenrodian women where every year 1-2 members are admitted after a selection period) and I still reap the benefits from that to this day. We are really close and share our business but most importantly personal struggles & successes. If I ever come across a difficult point in my (business) life I know that there is always someone I can reach out to and that there’s always someone who can advice me or simple listen and be there and share their own experiences. Our year (MSc21) was a small cohort with only 82 students living on campus and thus we were very close. We still meet up occasionally for diners, drinks or other fun activities and I’m grateful to have a social circle of likeminded people that you can fall back on, both personally and career-wise. During the Nyenrode years you build a foundation that is very solid and valuable.”
Just do it
As to whether there’s anything she'd like to tell future Nyenrode students, Linsey is resolute: “Take every opportunity during your Nyenrode time that comes your way. That BuZa business trip abroad? The Ski trip with students? The ROTC sailing journey? Just do it! It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and a great learning experience and I truly believe that it’s an added value to also invest in the social aspect next to studying and living on campus. After graduation is when real life starts, so it’s good to have a stable foundation.
During my time at Nyenrode I learned to never settle for less and set the standards high and I try to do the same in my business life. Being an entrepreneur, every day brings another challenge. I fall, learn and get back up. You know that every single day when you wake up, you’ll have to put on your battle suit and get out there in the arena, never knowing what the day will bring. I’ve learned that you’ll always have critics or people trying to advice you from the side of the arena, sitting comfortably in the first row seats while you’re fighting your battles, but the most valuable lesson I’ve learned from Brene Brown in the past years is that if people are not in the (same) arena getting their ass kicked, you don’t have to care about their opinion.”