Students, alumni and companies search for their own why

The first breakfast session for BBA and MBA students, business relations and alumni was held at Nyenrode Business Universiteit on Tuesday, March 27. The theme of the morning was "creating impact through stewardship”, one of Nyenrode’s core values. During his presentation, keynote speaker Niels van Buren – a Nyenrode alumnus and director of Swink webservices – instructed listeners to set out in search of their own why.

Van Buren talked about his own journey. When he was diagnosed MS eight years ago, his whole world came crashing down. He went through a very tough time, but new doors opened as well: “If you have the courage to say in your heart that something is possible, even though it seems impossible from a rational standpoint, that’s when you’ll find your BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal).” In van Buren’s case, this goal was to climb Mount Everest with MS, despite never having climbed a mountain before. He took the participants back to the moment when he had nearly reached the summit and thought he couldn’t go any further: “In that moment my climbing buddy screamed at me: when you think you really can’t go on, you can still go twice as far!”


Van Buren now uses this phrase for his own goals in his work at Swink, a social enterprise. He has big plans for the future with the company, explaining that employees at Swink have autism but are not autistic. “These people have numerous talents that we are happy to put to use, such as their ability to work in a structured manner, their analytical skills, their eye for detail and their high level of concentration. The challenge is to always say ‘yes, and’ instead of ‘yes, but’. They shape the success of the company.” Van Buren’s BHAG is to become the largest in Europe, because people with autism have talents that should be utilized and they deserve fully-fledged jobs.


Van Buren instructed his listeners to discover what is important to them, to see new opportunities and to look for different ways to solve their problems. They used this as a basis for the assignments, in which they worked in groups to develop a business strategy for a social enterprise that wants to grow while making sure not to lose sight of the company’s added value. In this process, the why of the company was combined with the growth strategy.

The Nyenrode students presented their ideas, discussing themes such as mobilizing support and the balance between internal and external relations as well as between business strategy and sustainable added value. The conclusion and feedback from Niels van Buren was that the balance is always essential. “Only a financially sound company can hold its ground, create a sustainable future and stand up for its own why.”

The Nyenrode breakfast sessions are held every two months to connect students, companies and alumni with one another. If you are interested in attending or would like to know more about Nyenrode network events in Amsterdam, please send an e-mail to