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Interview Ruud Bijl

Written by Peter Heijen on 26 January 2021

Entrepreneur Ruud Bijl about sharing opportunities: “The local entrepreneur makes the impact”

Investing in entrepreneurs in developing countries as a Dutch entrepreneur? This can be very rewarding for both parties. “Sharing opportunities makes everything a lot more fun,” according to entrepreneur Ruud Bijl from Rotterdam.

In his own modest way, Ruud tells us why he provides financial aid to small entrepreneurs in developing countries. During his travels in Africa, the resilience of the people impressed him enormously. “I notice a strong drive to make everything into a positive. As an entrepreneur, I recognise that search for a solution to setbacks and hardship. I enjoy being able to offer the support to entrepreneurs, that gives them the opportunity to expand their businesses.
 

Entrepreneurial spirit

Entrepreneurship has always been part of Ruud’s life. “For the past thirty years, I have owned a PR-agency in Rotterdam. My father’s family consisted almost entirely of entrepreneurs, albeit in a totally different area. My father was, for instance. involved in the export of fruits and vegetables.”

His ample experience means Ruud knows better than anyone that an entrepreneur always needs to move with the times and respond to changes in his environment. In order to withstand hardships, help and advice from concerned people is always very welcome. “I received help from others multiple times, which I really appreciated. In turn, I like to share my experience with others too.”
 

Africa

“I like being in Africa, it is an amazing continent. My last trip to Kenya was cut short; the COVID-19 crisis made us have to rush back home. As the only guests in an ecological camp, we got to meet the Masai. Very intriguing. As an entrepreneur I am extremely interested in what motivates people. I, therefore, always make sure I talk to the local people. Why do you do this job? How long have you been doing it for? Where do you see the most opportunities and how do you get your employees? Are your employees motivated?

These are some of the questions Ruud would love to ask the entrepreneurs he supports, in person. For instance, to Humphrey, owner of Sereni Fries, a potato processing business in Kenya. “He looks like a nice man and I would love to have a chat with him. Financially, I could help him out a little, but he is the one who will make the impact to his direct environment and his country’s economy.”
 

Educational for both parties.

Ruud emphasises that his choice to support PlusPlus and other projects is personal in nature.  “The things I do through my company, are linked to me as a person. When I meet people, I am interested. This interest makes me want to help, whether through personal advice or financial help. On top of this, it is educational for both parties. Running a company in a developing country, you will of course face different challenges than here. We are used to planning everything, in Africa people generally live more day by day. I find it inspiring to see how they start afresh every day and try to make it a success.