In collaboration with Amsterdam Capital House, we've made some new and inspiring Green Portraits, and to kick these series off, we are starting with ACH co-founder Simone Schoutens. Amsterdam Capital House is THE annual event surrounding Financial, Human & Social Capital, organized by Capital House. Together with business comrade Shahar Graf, they form the forefront of both ACH and Capital House - their mission; to create a closer ecosystem, actively supporting the growth of founders & entrepreneurs shaping the future. Read all about Simone's journey as an entrepreneur in the interview below!
Why did you start your company & what do you want to accomplish?
My career stemmed from a growing interest in entrepreneurship and the fact that you can build anything you can imagine. When I come across entrepreneurs who are making a difference and just DOING - without fear of questioning the status quo - it inspires me to do the same. I wanted to surround myself with these entrepreneurs and learn from them, which is why I started building communities & programs to grow my network and support founders.
In 2015, I co-founded Capital Tour XXL, where we informally connect startups and investors for one-on-one matchmaking. At the time, I didn't have my own network of investors and decided to just start talking to them - and to my surprise, they were more accessible than you'd expect. Over the years, Capital Tour has grown to a well-known matchmaking event in the startup scene in The Netherlands and we've helped 850+ startups to get in touch with potential investors. With over 85 funds and informal investors in our network - which I'm very proud of.
In 2019 I started a new challenge as Co-Director of the Amsterdam Capital Week Foundation. Together with my business partner Shahar Graf, we introduced the renewed brand and concept: Amsterdam Capital House (ACH). Shahar and I had a clear vision to bring in more the focus on impact and the human aspect of Capital. We saw a strong need for more intimate and curated events, which is why we pivoted the original concept (mainly focused on financial investment) to offering programs built on three pillars of Capital: financial Capital, human Capital, and social Capital. Every year, in co-creation with the start-up scene, we set up a full program around Capital for entrepreneurs. We actually just wrapped up our annual ACH event, which we hosted online with over 30 founder-focused sessions.
We also recently launched the Capital House Agency. Within the agency we build partnerships and collaborations with organizations that (want to) work with our community of entrepreneurs. Whether it's creating support programs for entrepreneurs or connecting larger organizations to the startup ecosystem, Capital House is there to support purpose-driven businesses.
I'm very excited to build further on the brands that we've created, and still have many ideas on how we can create a closer community and increase our impact. My mission is to demystify the world of Capital, making it more transparent so great ideas have better access to the right kind of Capital. Also, I hope our programs open up minds around the definition of 'capital', as the traditional meaning of it (money) is not the only indicator of success anymore. Within the agency we shifted our focus towards 'Conscious Capital'. Our aim is to make entrepreneurship more human again - redefining what 'capital' means.
What does sustainability mean to you? → How does it come across in your business?
To me, sustainability means that you live in a way where you contribute more, consume less. I believe it begins with awareness and appreciation for nature, and being conscious about what we produce. I grew up surrounded by farmland, with a family company dedicated to making offices greener. My sister and I used to play hide & seek in the warehouse, between enormous palm trees, and I learned (& was taught) to be kind to nature.
There are always ways to make your lifestyle more sustainable, and I try to do so by being more conscious of this. This comes across in business as well, whether it's building more purpose-driven programs or working with likeminded people and clients. You'll see this come across in our Capital House collaborations as well. Where we work together to create more impact!
For example, in our latest ACH event: participants were able to donate and help us plant an ACH forest with Dutch startup Corekees; we offered fair chain coffee with Moyee; and we launched a paperless notebook (made of rocks) together with Paper on the Rocks.
I love discovering these brands that turn something ordinary into a new and exciting product. The goal is to continue surprising people with sustainable alternatives which may be harder to find on your own. More on that soon ;)
What did you have to overcome to get to where you are now?
Being an entrepreneur, you always have a lot of challenges to overcome, and you can never have too many! It's hard to grow if you're not failing from time to time. This is an ongoing journey, where you need to keep trying until you succeed.
One of the most important things I learned along the way is to ask for help. You don't have to be good at everything on your own. Instead, it's good to surround yourself with the right people and involve them when needed. Have a skill gap? Bring them in.
I have always been a multi disciplinary person, and used to struggle with this because I didn't know exactly where I was headed & kept searching for that one clear purpose. Now I can see this as a strong point instead! My curiosity drives me, and I'm able to gain knowledge across the board. Instead of one point to work towards, I've learned to enjoy the process, keep creating & continue doing what I love. The end goal is always evolving..
What is your mindset when it comes to growing your business? What drives you?
Perfect is better than done! Do, do, do.
I believe in just starting, and working on the idea or project right from the start. Once I envision it, I talk about the idea with different people to bring it to life. The rest will follow.
Within the agency, we're currently working on a big (and exciting) project. The funny thing is, the moment we started speaking about it, it already felt closer and within reach! I see entrepreneurs around me that are afraid to share their ideas, because someone might steal it. An idea is just an idea, and it's likely that someone else has already thought of it. I would suggest focusing on the execution and outcome - only you can create it your way!
What advice would you give entrepreneurs who want to build a sustainable business?
Fix the world, but also make money.. If you're looking to start a sustainable business, also keep your profit in mind. To really make an impact, you need to build a sustainable business as a whole. Learn how you can succeed financially while also creating a purpose-driven business.
How are you going to sell your vision, so that you can also make a living and grow your impact? There are many examples of companies that are tackling global challenges while building a profitable business - these can be great inspiration to learn from.
Tell us about your green vision for your industry? → What is your green vision for the world?
Times are changing and there is much more room & opportunity for sustainable businesses. Honest products and impact entrepreneurs are becoming more mainstream - with companies like The Ocean Cleanup, Tony Chocolonely, and Yoni growing quickly. Personally I believe these companies are the future. It's not about materialism anymore, but about contributing to making a positive change. You see more and more corporations and organizations shifting their focus to impact, and there's always room for more. I believe that co-creation is needed to make 'impact' the core of all businesses. Let's make purpose-driven business the new mainstream..
Follow ACH on their instagram Amsterdam Capital House and explore the world of Human, Social & Financial Capital.
This interview was made in collaboration with Amsterdam Capital House.
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