What is the next hospitality concept to be set up by one of the finalists of the Dutch Hotel Awards?
Entrepreneurship is a story about many sleepless nights, the taste of achieving your dreams, and the determination to stand up after each fall. Along the way of founding and managing your own company, the problems that can occur range from reaching dead ends to losing hope at all. Nicky van Westenbrugge – van Boldrik is a Dutch alumna who graduated from Hotelschool The Hague in 2009, completed internships in Belgium and The UK, and chose the path of entrepreneurship. Stay tuned to discover her story!
What did you do after graduation?
After my graduation, I made the decision of staying with the company that I completed my second internship with Starwood Hotels & Resorts. I really enjoyed both my job in digital marketing and also the company itself. After that, I moved back to The Netherlands and started working in digital marketing outside the hospitality industry. However, I did not enjoy it as much anymore and I started thinking that I had lost the connection with anything that has to do with hospitality.
And all of a sudden I decided that I want to set up my own business in hospitality! So I quit my job as I wanted to plan everything ahead. After having prepared for over eight months to start up a business in Utrecht, the dream came true in a very unexpected way, by taking over a bankruptcy-struck hotel and restaurant in Eindhoven, together with my husband who is also an alumnus of Hotelschool The Hague. Throughout this journey, I have learned that the entrepreneur life entails much freedom but also many responsibilities.
Did you know what kind of business you would like to start up right after quitting your job?
This happened in 2011 when the healthier, organic, and fun daytime restaurant options were absent in Utrecht. Thus, after having researched on my own in big cities such as London, Berlin, and Antwerp, my concept was ready and I decided to start this business that was missing. However, our path took another turn when we decided to move to Eindhoven and take over Hotel Parkzicht and its 50 employees. This was a big step for us as we were only 26 years old at that time.
What is your biggest motivation behind what you are currently doing?
Well, I love working with people! The concept developed by us has people at its core. Maybe apart from other businesses, we believe that the employees are equally important to guests. I take very much joy in developing talent and seeing personal progress in employees! The learning curve is sometimes very visible as our concept involves craftsmanship and knowledge of our products. In short, my greatest satisfaction is when everybody has fun! My biggest source of joy and greatest challenge is developing new hospitality concepts and brands.
What aspect of hospitality did you miss when you used to work in marketing?
By working in both industries, I learned that people in the hospitality industry are more solution-oriented, pragmatic, and resourceful! What I have noticed in corporations is that people tend to complain and keep talking about problems rather than trying to find solutions for them. If I were to pick aside, I would definitely go with the hospitality mindset. I am a great enthusiast of its vibrant, dynamic, and action-based nature. Moreover, having your own business entails challenging yourself constantly to come up with new initiatives that would make the experience of your guests more enjoyable.
How did you implement the theme “Resilience & Connection” within Parkzicht?
Being asked “How did you implement this?” triggered a recollection of the decisions and actions that we have taken throughout the pandemic, giving us a great feeling. This thought made me realise what an outstanding team we are and how much we can accomplish together! From my point of view, the difference between us and other businesses lies in the approach that we decided to adopt. Instead of capitulating to the circumstances that we were in, we chose to do everything in our power to resist. Do not be mistaken, we did not know what to do from the beginning, but each step made the path clearer. In addition, the fact that we did not let go of team members reinforced the idea of connectivity.
Together we made plans and watched them succeed! For instance, our unique daily menu boxes or the stand that we set for people in the park so that they would still feel connected to the restaurant and other people. I gained this mindset of making every minute count from Hotelschool The Hague and I still have it to this day!
What is the biggest lesson that you have learned?
This period has taught me that people count much more than money. For instance, in the past, we used to close two days a year for employee parties and we thought that it is a grand gesture. However, we learned that such occasions matter more since they keep our people engaged and happy. Moreover, we learned how to do things differently. For instance, we will adapt our concept of a 3-course takeaway menu, which we developed during the lockdown, and keep it for special occasions. All in all, this period taught us to be more confident about new beginnings and changes. Rethinking and adapting represents the key to favorable results.
Do you have future plans?
In June we set up our new Italian restaurant: HOUT. It is Naples-inspired and focused on pizza. Despite having been opened just two months ago, it is successful. Our enthusiastic and determined people are more than happy to serve the guests coming in and discovering it. The concept and design were inspired by my love for Italy, the country where I got married and met my husband. It was our dream to start an Italian-based concept and since I had more free time during the past period, we were able to set it up and launch it together with two co-owners, the chefs of Thym by Parkzicht.
Another plan that I am very excited about is a future hospitality concept that we are going to launch! Two years ago, we bought a monastery built-in 1950 in Eindhoven and we are developing it into a hotel and restaurant. The plans were already submitted and we are waiting for other authorizations. It is going to be a 60-room luxury hotel with an impressive restaurant, and we hope to start renovating it next year!
What advice would you give to other hoteliers?
To begin with, each and every hotelier is different in terms of perspective. My advice is to keep looking for opportunities because they can lie within or outside your company. Keep in touch with people that inspire you or that you inspire. Work, learn, explore and most importantly, keep having fun! I think that Hotelschool The Hague is a great background and starting point as a hotelier. Besides the theoretical knowledge regarding marketing or finance, I think that one of the most valuable lessons in dealing and working with people.
What is your advice for students who just entered the hospitality industry?
Do not be the person who thinks that knows it all and has seen it all. Enter the industry, discover its various branches, gain experience and just after that, try to guide or lead others.